Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Temptations of Christ

It was Friday once again and Father Ignatius was at school with the youngsters at Catechism class. They had just read the passage in the Bible about Jesus in the desert and the temptations by Satan.

“Very strange story this …” said a young boy, “why didn’t Jesus just punch the devil on the nose and send him flying through the air?”

The girls laughed and some of the boys joined in.

“Yeh …” said one, “Krunch … Kerpaw … just like Batman would do …”

“Jesus would have won for sure …” said another.

The priest tapped the ruler gently on the desk to attract their attention and restore order. Once they’d settled down he said quietly,

“Actually … what Tom asked was a very intelligent question.”

“Wooo …” said a girl.

“That makes a change,” said a boy, “Tom having intelligence …”

Father Ignatius waited a few seconds and then went on,

“When Jesus came to earth He came as a human to share humanity with us so that we can accept Him and learn from Him. He was born a human baby, grew up a human and shared every emotion we share as human beings.

“Imagine for a minute if He came like a God, which He was of course, and still is.

“Imagine if He suddenly appeared like a superman or a batman or such other fictional heroes.

“With obvious powers like flying, super strength and the ability to do all the things we see in the movies. The people of the time would have been in total awe of Him and would have obeyed and followed Him just out of fear or wonderment.

“His very presence would have commanded universal obedience, respect and fear.

“Hardly free choice - is it? People would have followed and obeyed Him because He frightened them into it.”

The priest stopped again to let this image sink into the children’s consciousness.

“But instead,” he continued, “Jesus came on earth as a human.

“He humbled Himself as a baby born in poverty in a stable. Grew up with the poor and the down and outs … not as a king.

“As a human He felt every emotion that we feel. Sadness at the death of Lazarus … pity for the ill and poor … hunger pains when He fasted in the desert … and every other emotion we go through ... including temptations.

”In the desert Satan tempted Him with human temptations … If you are God's Son as you claim you are jump from this temple. Turn these stones into bread. Why don't you worship me? I can offer you much in return.

“I suspect that if chocolate had been invented at the time … Satan would have tempted Him with this too.”

Everyone laughed.

“And Satan tempts us too …” continued Father Ignatius gently, “not just with chocolates and other worldly temptations … but with distractions aimed at leading us away from God.

“Are there not times when, like a bright light in our head, we ask … Is this all real? Is there really a God out there? Jesus? Life after death? And all the other things we’re taught at Catechism or read in the Bible?

“What if it is all a big lie … and there is no God at all … or an after life?

“Now I hope these temptations don’t cross your minds too often. But they certainly will at some stage or other in your lives.

“Satan is always there; ready to put these and other thoughts in our minds to lead us astray.

“And you know something … The closer we come to God the harder the devil will work to lead us away from Him.

“There is no point in him tempting someone who doesn’t believe in God … is there? So he turns his attention to us.

”And that’s why Christ had to be tried by Satan. So that He could share our experiences as a human … but, most important; to be an example to us all on how to fight back these temptations.

“Through prayer!”

The priest paused once again.

“Every time He was tempted Jesus prayed to His Father for help.

”He was tempted yet again before He was arrested. He asked Himself and His Father … Can all this pass me by?

“Then, in prayer, He obeyed God and said; Not my will, but Yours.

”What a great example for us all to emulate! Not my will, but Yours.”


Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Scapegoat

It's in the Bible.
 Aaron ...
shall put both his hands
on the goat's head
and confess over it all the evils,
sins, and rebellions of the people of Israel,
and so transfer them to the goat's head.
Then the goat is to be driven off
into the desert
by a man appointed to do it.
The goat will carry all their sins away with him
into some uninhabited land.
LEVITICUS 16:21-22.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Rocking on a Train

Why is it that wherever I am, on a bus, a train, walking the dog in the park, or wherever, people always stop and have a chat with me. Complete strangers start a conversation about any subject and before long they tell me their life story. Do I have a face that says: " I am interested in you. Tell me about you"? Usually, I think I carry a face that says, "I am not in the very least interested in you. Please leave me alone and mind your own business." But somehow, this does not seem to translate with the people I meet and they tend to think I am interested in them.

The other day, for instance, I was sitting in an old fashioned train with separate compartments. My compartment was empty and I hoped I'd have some time during this long journey to finish reading "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo. As you know, it is a big book requiring a lot of patience, total lack of interruptions, and a long train journey from here to nowhere just to spend the time alone reading. Another big book which I had planned to read once is "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy. I started it once or twice, but never managed it all the way through. Eventually, I saw the film on TV with the subtitles on; so effectively I can say I have read it.

Anyway, I had settled down on the train with "Les Miserables" and as the train pulled out of the station a man came into the compartment and sat opposite me. He wore blue jeans and a white T shirt. He had long hair, a beard, and I noticed on his neck he had a tattoo of a guitar. I glanced up to see him, then looked down into my book pretending not to have noticed him.

After a moment or two of silence he said, "Rock and Roll is not dead!"

I ignored him. But this did not satisfy him. He repeated, "I said Rock and Roll is not dead, mate. Did you hear me?"

I looked up and replied, "I did not know he was unwell. I'm glad to hear he has pulled through."

Obviously, he did not understand my sarcasm because he continued, "Long live Rock and Roll!"

I said, "Yes ... I agree."

He then asked me, "Who is your favourite Rock and Roll singer mate?"

For a start, I do not like being referred to as mate. I am no anyone's mate, or friend. Especially someone whom I have never met before and hope never to meet again.

It is like those people who phone you at home trying to sell you something; I think they are called telemarketer. They inevitably start by calling me by my first name and asking me how I am, have I had a good day.

My first instinct is to say, "Mind your own business about how I am; and it was a good day until now that you have interrupted my peace!" But my politeness comes to the fore and I mumble something or other inane; and before I know it the telemarketer is telling me his life story and how happy he is now since he has fitted the new triple-glazing windows to his house, (or whatever else he happens to be selling), and would I not like to be in similar ecstatic bliss by buying the same product.

I usually end the conversation short by saying it is not a good time to discuss purchases because I am totally distraught having just buried my pet wasp which I found dead early this morning.

Anyway, back to my train of thoughts which have been temporarily de-railed by my own interruptions. This guy in my compartment asked me who is my favourite Rock and Roll singer. My mind went blank and for some reason I said: "Bing Crosby."

He looked at me blankly and asked, "Is he solo or with a band?"

I was caught in my own tangled web, so I said, "He used to be with Bob Hope."

"Never heard of him. What song is he famous for?"

"He sang White Christmas with Danny Kaye!" I said unconvincingly hoping this conversation would end.

"Did they do Woodstock?" asked my rail companion. 

"Probably one of the supporting acts," I said with some authority.

"Great man," he said, "rocking all over the world!"

I looked down at my French book, "Les Miserables" and said, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!"

He said, "You what?"

I smiled and said, "Status Quo!"

"That's right mate," he replied, "Rocking all over the world!" as he got up and left the train which had reached his destination.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

On the psychiatrist's couch

Patient: Please doctor, you've got to help me out.

Psychiatrist: Certainly. Which way did you come in?

Patient: Through the door just here.

Psychiatrist: Would you like to get out through the window instead?

Patient: No doctor ... I am having these recurring dreams.

Psychiatrist: Here ... lie on the couch. Take your shoes off first; I've just had the couch cleaned. My ... oh my ... your socks smell! Now then ... tell me, what seems to be troubling you.

Patient: I'd like to ask you first ... are you a Freudian psychiatrist or a Jung?

Psychiatrist: Neither ... I learnt psychiatry by watching Frazier Crane on TV.

Patient: Oh ... OK ... I keep having this same dream night after night.

Psychiatrist: Is it about your mother?

Patient: No.

Psychiatrist: Pity. I am good at dreams about one's mother. Oedipus and all that. Reminds me of my own Mom. She was so kind and sweet. I liked her you know. I wish I had met her before my Dad did ...

Patient: No doctor. The dreams are not about my mother.

Psychiatrist: Are they about my mother then? Do you know my mother?

Patient: No ... they are not about anyone's mother.

Psychiatrist: What are they about then? Because I am not very good at other dreams.

Patient: They are about this woman ...

Psychiatrist: Ah ... now we're getting somewhere. Tell me more. Whose mother is she? Have you got her phone number?

Patient: No ... no phone number. She is young, very beautiful, blonde hair, sexy voice ... and she keeps calling my name softly.

Psychiatrist: Is your name Softly?

Patient: No it isn't.

Psychiatrist: I see. Why does she call you Softly then? What does she say?

Patient: She keeps calling ... Felix ... Felix ... Felix ...

Psychiatrist: Felix? Is that your name?

Patient: No ... it's my cat's name.

Psychiatrist: Why did your mother name you after a cat?

Patient: She didn't name me after a cat. She named the cat after a cat.

Psychiatrist: What did your mother name you?

Patient: Whiskers!

Psychiatrist: What happened next? In your dream?

Patient: Then I am running down the street chased by ...

Psychiatrist: Your mother?

Patient: No ...

Psychiatrist: My mother?

Patient: No ... by ...

Psychiatrist: Felix's mother?

Patient: No doctor! Why has it always to be someone's mother?

Psychiatrist: Well, you know how it is? If it is not one thing it's the mother!

Patient: Well it isn't this time. In fact every time I am running down the street I am chased by a ... zebra!

Psychiatrist: A zebra? Are you sure?

Patient: Yes ... I got it in black and white ... etched on my mind. It's a zebra. It looks like a horse, but it is definitely a zebra.

Psychiatrist: You seem pretty sure.

Patient: So would you be if it chased you every night!

Psychiatrist: Why is this zebra chasing you every night?

Patient: I don't know. I thought you could help me interpret the dream.

Psychiatrist: I can't do that. I don't speak zebra. 

Patient: What does all this mean, doctor?

Psychiatrist: It means your time's up. See you next week. And bring your mother with you!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Did Hank done it this way?

I am not going to discuss the educational systems of today because every country has its own way of teaching and what works in one place may not work in another. Some countries have a vibrant home-schooling system whereas in others teaching is mostly at school, whether private or state run schools.

What I will mention is teaching in the good old days when I was but a young lad.

I remember back then, when I was a pupil in our school there was a pretty little girl whom I was very fond of. Her name was Mary and she had a little lamb. His fleece was white as snow. The lamb came to school with her every day. One slice at a time in her sandwich.

There was also a boy called Jack. He loved beans. Every day at school lunch he had beans. I used to wonder whether, if he ate a magic bean, it would grow into a stalk and come out of his bottom and raise him to the sky.

There was also a girl with long blonde hair. We used to watch it blow in the wind and we used to run and catch it before it got entangled in the bushes. We called her Goldilocks. Once she said that the school bench was too hard to sit on. The teacher told her to stop being pretentious.

Anyway ... as I was about to say before my thoughts interrupted me ... when I was a little boy at school I learnt to write. But sadly not to read. I just wrote and wrote because our teacher told us to.

We had to write all sort of stories every day. The teacher told us to write about things we did at home or on holidays. Things like what our parents do privately at home, what they say, their political allegiances, what they did for a living and so on.

I remember writing that mom entertained people for a living. She used to sell tickets at the local cinema.

I wrote that dad worked for a while in the museum. One day he took our dog to work with him and the dog ate the dinosaurs leg bone. It was a very old dinosaur skeleton. Two million years and six months and thirteen days. I knew the age precisely because when dad started working at the museum the dinosaur was two million years old. And dad had been there for six months and thirteen days. 

I wrote that one year for a holiday we went to Disneyland. Pluto did a wee on dad's leg. There were Mickey and Minnie Mouse there. I wondered if they were related because they had the same surname. I wrote that Donald Duck in the cartoons always wore a jacket and a hat but no trousers; but when he came out of the bath he had a towel round his waist. Very odd, I thought.

Anyway ... So it came to pass that with all this writing at school I got more and more interested in writing rather than reading. Eventually, many years later, I ended up writing books which to this day I have never read.

I think this is the most convoluted and long-winded way for me to advertise my books. But hey ... they are worth reading ... or so I am told!

You can find out more about them HERE. And HERE. And HERE.

Each HERE is different. Try them all. Just like Hank did.

Saturday, 10 February 2018



And yet
we managed
to discuss, debate and re-interpret
each of the 
Ten Commandments
to suit our
selfish interests.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Cocktail Queen catches up

There are times in life when whatever we have done in the past has a habit of catching up with us and come back to haunt us, or bite us on the backside, or give us a pleasant surprise even. And that’s what happened to Father Ignatius when the door bell at St Vincent Parish House rang one sunny afternoon.

There at the door was a pretty young lady of about 23 years of age with two toddlers, a girl aged about five and a little boy aged four.

“Hia … Father … Ignatius isn’t it?” she said with a smile, “I have a surprise for you!”

“Good afternoon …” he replied gently.

“May we come in?” she asked, “the little ones want to go to the toilet … and I have something to tell you …”

Father Ignatius led them into the downstairs waiting room and showed them where the toilets were. He then asked Mrs Davenport to prepare some tea and biscuits and orange juice for the children.

Moments later they were all in the waiting room as Mrs Davenport came in with the refreshments. As she left, closing the door behind her, Father Ignatius asked, “How can I help you?”

“You don’t remember me?” she asked.

“Well …” he mumbled embarrassingly, “I get to meet so many people over the years …”

“I’ll give you a clue …” she interrupted, “about five years ago … the age of this little girl; now that should jog your memory."

He looked at her blankly.

“I was the Cocktail Queen working at the Bitten Apple Night Club … I offered to let you in without paying … and you were too embarrassed to be seen there I think!

“I told you I was pregnant, having a baby … do you remember?”

Father Ignatius lifted his eyebrows as faded memories came rushing back from the deep recesses of his mind.

“Ah …” she said in exasperation, “you still don’t seem to remember me … that’s not very flattering to a pretty girl you know … and I thought I had made quite an impression on you!

“Well I do remember that you were none too happy when I told you I were pregnant … it made you quite mad I think …

“As I recall I came to see you and tell you all about it … you took me in your office upstairs.

“And that’s when I told you I were pregnant and I wanted to have an abortion and get rid of it.

“You got very upset with me and you advised me against it. I thought what right have you to tell me what to do? You said it was a living human being and it was wrong to kill it … and that I would always regret it.

“As I said at the time, I was working at the Night Club … the Cocktail Queen I was … very popular with the clientele I were!

“I couldn’t keep the baby could I? It would have interfered with my job. Who has ever heard of the Pregnant Cocktail Queen? You can’t wear those skimpy outfits with a big bump upfront can you?

“Anyhow … I left you and I was proper upset with you I was … telling me to keep the baby!

“Months later we met again at the supermarket and I told you that I had the baby after all …

“It’s this little girl here; you never met her. I called her Ignatia after you. Well it’s her middle name really … Ignatia is rather an odd name don’t you think? But I had to name her after you. Her first name is Hilary.”

The priest smiled feebly.

“So when I had Hilary I gave up working at the Night Club and took on a job at the supermarket where we met.

“I was living with Hilary’s father at the time … When I told him what you’d said to me he agreed that I should not have the abortion … even though he was keen on it at first …

“His name is Alec. We later married you know … not in a church like, but at the Registry Office. A year later we had Mark here … he’s about four years old!”

“Yes … I remember,” said Father Ignatius, “I’m so glad you and your husband decided not to proceed with the abortion … she’s such a pretty girl. I’m sure you love both your children.”

“Oh yes … we do love them very much, my husband and I. We’re ever so happy. If it were not for you I would not have my precious Hilary!

“I still work at the supermarket … part-time like … I have to look after the kids and all! You don’t go to that supermarket anymore … ‘cos I haven’t seen you for ages!” she said, “My husband Alec works at the bus depot you know … he asked me to come and see you … since you helped us the last time when I were pregnant with Hilary … Alec said perhaps you can help us again!”

“I’ll do my best …” he said gently.

“Well, it’s about Hilary here … I took her to the Catholic school down the road and they wouldn’t let her in … the Head Mistress there was a proper snooty fancy pants she was … She said she couldn’t accept Hilary because she didn’t have a Baptismal Certificate. So Alec, my husband, suggested I come to you for a Baptismal Certificate. And could we have one for Mark as well while we’re at it … I hope they don’t cost much! ”

“It’s not that simple …” said Father Ignatius, “I take it the children have not been baptized!”

“No … I don’t think so. I was brought up a Catholic on my mother’s side … she taught me the Hail Mary and showed me a little chain with beads … but I don’t think I got baptized … it was too expensive in them days … is it expensive now?”

“No … you don’t have to pay” he replied gently, “what the Head Mistress at the school meant is that before your children are accepted at the school she has to give priority to Catholic families and their children. I’m sure you understand that.”

“Yes I do … I’d like to come to church with my husband and the kids and learn about God and all that … only I was put off by a woman I work with.

“She said the Catholics are expensive … they have two money collections and sometimes more on Sunday and even on weekdays if you go to church to pray. She said you have to pay to get a Baptismal Certificate … which is what the Head Mistress asked for.

“This friend … Diane is her name … well she said you also talk in a foreign language in church … Italian was it? No … no … Latin. That was it. Only we don’t know Latin Alec and me … I left school at fifteen and can just speak proper English … never mind Latin.

“She also said Catholics have to eat fish every Friday … well we can’t do with that … It’s expensive for a start and Alec is allergic to shell-fish … brings him out in spots it does!”

“There appears to have been a lot of misconceptions about the Catholic Faith …” said Father Ignatius, “what I mean is that you’ve misunderstood about the Catholic Church … never mind. Many people make the same mistakes.

“Can I suggest perhaps that you and Alec come to a few meetings when we can talk about God and Jesus and the Catholic Faith? You said you were willing to learn.

“It’ll be just you and Alec and me, or Father Donald if I’m not here. You can bring the children too and I’ll ask Mrs Davenport, whom you’ve just met, to look after them.

“It’s just once a week, in the evening or at weekends … and in time, if you wish, you can have the children baptized and you and Alec too … if you wish.

“And it will be in English … not one word of Latin will be spoken, I promise.”

She smiled broadly and asked “How much will it cost?”

“There’s no charge at all …” he replied smiling back, “the Love of Christ is priceless but you don’t have to pay … He already has!”

“And what about the fish?”

He held back the urge to laugh and said “Don’t worry about that … you don’t have to eat fish or anything else you don’t want to eat … on Fridays or any other days!”

And that’s how it was that the Cocktail Queen and her husband Alec attended Catholic teachings at St Vincent and in time, the two of them and their children were baptized at a private ceremony attended by both priests and Mrs Davenport.

Hilary now attends the Catholic school and Mark has been registered to attend the following year.

The family is now part of Father Ignatius’ flock!

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