Stories, Poems, Articles, Rosary Meditations and Prayers plus Extracts from Catholic Journals.
The following stories, articles, meditations, prayers and miscellaneous (some humorous) have been put together over the past twenty years. They are all items which interest me and I hope that some of them will interest others. This is a website to ‘dip into’ though an Index is being prepared. Anyone wanting Rosary Meditations will find them on items 93 and 94. Michael Blackburn. Oct. 2005.
Many of the stories are true but all contain messages which may assist with meditation.
1. A Padre Pio Story.
Mary needed a new document case to replace hers which was beyond repair. She saw one in a charity shop and decided to buy it. She was told that there was a problem because the case had security locks and the code had been forgotten. She bought the case for a nominal sum took it home and tried to find the code. Her efforts proved fruitless and she retired to bed leaving the case unopened. Just before she went to sleep she asked Padre Pio to give her the number of the combination. The number ‘410’ came into her head but she told herself to stop making up numbers and get off to sleep. The next day she was dealing with her housework when she remembered the number ‘410’. She said to herself “There is no harm in trying”. When she used the number ‘410’ the case opened. Padre Pio had given her the number and she hadn’t believed him!
2. A Medjugorje Story.
Michael had heard of the various ‘miracles’ which took place in Medjugorje. But when he was there he neither expected nor saw any such ‘miracles’. During the return journey one of the pilgrims found that the silver chain of his Rosary had become a light gold colour. This caused excitement amongst the pilgrims and Michael wasn’t alone in looking at his Rosary to find out whether it had changed. But no, it hadn’t. The plane carrying the pilgrims landed in England and Michael drove himself home. It was only when he arrived home that he next looked at his Rosary. The silver chain had now changed and was a light gold colour. (This is one of the phenomena which take place at Medjugorje.) Nothing happens without a reason and over the next five weeks Michael was to discover the reason.
Michael is a Eucharistic Minister and takes Holy Communion to Residential and Nursing Homes for the elderly. In one of the homes were husband & wife, Philip and Nellie. When Michael next visited he told them about his Rosary and showed it to them. Philip is blind so Nellie explained it to him and told him about the light gold colour of the chain. Philip is an exemplary Catholic, very devoted to Our Lady and to the Rosary. When, on the following week, Michael visited, Nellie showed him Philip’s Rosary. The silver chain had become bright gold as bright as brass.
There is a happy sequel to the above story. Philip and Nellie preferred not to receive Holy Communion from a lay person. So week after week they missed the chance of receiving the Eucharist. Following the change to his Rosary Philip and Nellie had second thoughts and decided that they would receive from Michael. Five weeks later Philip died fortified by the Rites of the Church. But on his death bed he was too ill to receive Holy Communion. The last time he received was a few days earlier when Michael had visited. It is not too difficult to understand that the change in Michael’s Rosary was Our Lady’s way of ensuring that Philip would receive the Eucharist before he died.
3. Another Medjugorje Story.
A Heavenly ‘put-down. In the early days of Our Lady’s appearances at Medjugorje one of the visionaries asked her ‘Why have you chosen us’. Our Lady smiled and replied ‘I don’t always choose the best people!’
4. Universal Truths on which to meditate:-
a) Life is what happens to you while you are planning your life.
b) We resent interruptions to our work until we realise that the interruptions are our real work.
c) Who is my neighbour? My neighbour is the person who is actually in my life while I am plotting to be in somebody else’s life.
d) Love is what you are experiencing while you are futilely searching for it beyond your own circle - and taking the circles around you for granted.
e) Joy is what catches you by surprise, blind sided, from a source that is quite other then where you are pursuing it.
(An extract from Ronald Rolheiser. Catholic Herald.)
5. Where is Christ?
Tom and his wife Mary were going into an exhibition of paintings by a promising young artist when they passed a beggar sitting on the steps.
Mary gave him a few pence but Tom scolded her, saying ‘I never give anything to his kind because they only go off and drink it’.
Inside, one painting greatly impressed the husband. It was painting of an old beggar. ‘It’s so realistic.’ exclaimed Tom. ‘Look at the patches on the beggar’s coat, the dirt on his hands, the sadness in his eyes. And best of all the indifference of the passerby. It’s so real. It’s beautiful’.
He bought it and paid £450 in cash for it.
We have no problem recognising Christ in church. But when we meet him out on the streets, where he is sometimes sunk in poverty and sorrow, we are reluctant to give him even a penny. Why? Because on the wretched pretext that it we feed him, we might feed his vices too.
Kind Jesus rid us of all our crazy constrictions.
(Not necessarily true. But close to the truth!)
6. Chance or Guidance?
Sean and Mary were travelling towards their home when they took a detour down a road where they had never been before. Neither of them knew why they had taken that detour it just seemed the right thing to do at the time. A short way down the road they come across some items on the pavement with a notice which said ‘Take what you want’. Amongst the items was a statue. It was in need of repair but not beyond it. They took it home, repaired it and painted it and they now have in their home a beautiful statue of St Dominic. What led them down that road? Was it chance or were they being guided?
7. Fleshing Out our Prayers.
Why aren’t sincere prayers always answered? Replies to this question often tell us that perhaps we weren’t praying for the right thing or maybe God gave us something better than what we asked for. But perhaps we weren’t praying properly. Once, during the course of a retreat an elderly nun came to the priest complaining that her prayer hadn’t been answered. She had been praying for a young novice who she thought would make an excellent member of the community. Other nuns, who didn’t agree with that, kept upsetting the novice who eventually became disenchanted and left the convent. The priest asked the elderly nun whether she had ever spoken to the novice and told her what an excellent nun she would make. ‘No’ said the elderly nun. ‘Well’ said the priest ‘then you didn’t pray properly.’ ‘You should have given some concrete flesh to your prayer. You should have encouraged her and helped God to answer your prayer. If your mother is sick, you don’t just pray for her - you drive her to see the doctor as well!’
(An extract from Ronald Rolheiser. Catholic Herald.)
8. A Present from Our Lady of Medjugorje. A present that you can pass on.
Our Lady of Medjugorje has, through the visionary Marija, given us a powerful means of achieving conversions - her Special Maternal Blessing.
During a visit to Birmingham Alabama USA Marija told the crowd that Our Lady, with arms outstretched, had blessed all present saying:
“I Bless with my Special Blessing even those who don’t believe. You can give them this blessing from the heart to help them in their conversion. Bless everyone you meet. I am giving you a special grace. I desire you to give this grace to others.”
About the Special Blessing:-
a. When someone receives the blessing it is as if Our Lady herself has bestowed it directly.
b. Once received it may be given to others.
c. It is as powerful as the faith you have in it and the prayer you offer. The more you pray from the heart the stronger it is.
d. To bless someone only a simple prayer is required, such as ‘I extend to you the blessing of Our Lady’. You may say more if you wish.
e. The more it is given the more powerful it becomes.
g. It may be passed on from person to person, but must be given individually. Marija says it is like giving someone a hug: you cannot hug a whole group at once.
h. This special blessing is Our Lady’s blessing. The blessing from a priest is Christ’s blessing. You should not therefore think of yourself as a priest, blessing as a priest does.
i. Use this blessing in a humble way and extend it even to those you pass in the street.
(Extract from ‘The Children of Medjugorje’.)
9. A Kind Remembrance.
During a Sunday Mass I heard the priest mention the anniversary of the death of my Uncle Bernard who had been a priest. I was both pleased and surprised as it was many year since my uncle’s death and I didn’t know that this priest even knew him. I spoke to the priest and thanked him for mentioning my uncle and told him how delighted I was to hear his name after so many years. The priest was equally overjoyed. Many years earlier he and my uncle had been in a parish together. My uncle had a first-class relic of St Bernard and he had left it in the safe-keeping of the priest but uncle died before returning to collect it. The priest wanted to fulfil his ‘safe-keeping’ by returning the relic to my uncle’s family.
The outcome was that I was able to put the priest in touch with my uncle’s brother and sister who both agreed that, as the priest’s current parish was ‘St Bernard’s’, the relic should stay there and belong to that parish. A very happy outcome; all due to the priest’s devoted remembrance of a deceased fellow priest.
10. Gift from a Stranger in White.
Jim Castle was tired when he boarded his plane in Cincinnati. The 45-year old management consultant had put on a week-long series of business workshops, and now he sank gratefully into his seat ready for the flight home to Kansas. As more passengers entered, the plane hummed with conversation. But suddenly people fell silent. Jim craned his head to see what was happening; his mouth dropped open. Walking up the aisle were two nuns clad in simple white habits bordered in blue. He recognized the familiar face of one at once, the wrinkled skin, the eyes warmly intent. The two nuns halted. The passenger in the next seat was going to be Mother Teresa.
As the last few passengers settled in, Mother Teresa and her companion pulled out rosaries. Jim noticed that each decade of the beads was a different colour. They represented the different areas of the world, Mother Teresa told him later ‘I pray for the poor on each continent’. The plane taxied to the runway and the two women began to pray, their voices a low murmur. Though Jim considered himself a Catholic who went to church mostly out of habit, he found himself joining in. By the time they murmured the final prayer, the plane had reached cruising speed.
Mother Teresa turned towards him. For the first time in his life Jim understood what people meant when they spoke of a person possessing an aura. ‘Do you say the rosary often, young man?’ she asked. ‘No, not really,’ he admitted. She took his hand, while her eyes probed his. Then she smiled. ‘Well, you will now.’ And she dropped her rosary into his palm.
An hour later Jim was met by his wife Ruth. ‘What on earth.....?’ Ruth asked when she noticed the rosary in his hand. On the way home Jim described his encounter. ‘I feel as if I met a true sister of God.’
That was the start of wonderful ‘miracles’ as the rosary was lent to friends who were ill. On one occasion they received a call from a total stranger whose mother was dying. She wanted to borrow the rosary, not to ask for miracle, but just to have with her at her Mother’s bedside.
Is there special power in those beads? Or is the power of the human spirit simply renewed in each person who borrows the rosary? Jim only knows that requests continue to come. But whenever he lends the rosary he asks for its return saying, ‘Someone else may need it’.
(Extract from Reader’s Digest.)
11. An Immediate Answer to Prayer!
Tomorrow she was going on holiday but there were so many jobs to do before then. Would she get them all done in time? As she came out of the bathroom her glasses fell off. When she picked them up she discovered that one of the small screws, notoriously difficult to find, was missing. Now this meant a visit to the optician. As if she hadn’t enough to do. She said a brief prayer to help her out of the situation. Into her head came the words ‘The corner of the bathroom carpet’. She ignored it and carried on with her many jobs. But the words kept coming back…....’the corner of the bathroom carpet’. So, reluctantly she went to look. There was the tiny screw exactly where she had been told it would be.
Her prayer of thanks went as follows:- ‘Thank you Lord for listening to my prayer. But what about my rheumatism? I’ve been praying to you for years about that and you haven’t done anything about it!’
Wayne Weible is famous for having been chosen by Our Lady to travel the world and tell everyone about Medjugorje. On an occasion when he was with one of the visionaries he confessed that when he fasted he waited till midnight then rushed to get something to eat. The visionary laughed and said ‘I do exactly the same!’.
13. A Coincidence?
Michael was on his way to the hospital with the Eucharist when he remembered that he had forgotten to ask Bill whether he wanted to receive. When he got to the hospital he went straight to see Bill who welcomed the opportunity of Holy Communion. But the nurses were busy making his bed so Michael said he would call back later. In the meantime he would find someone to share a host. Several wards away was Rose who was ready for Michael’s visit. Michael explained about sharing a host and mentioned Bill’s name. Rose’s response was; ‘Bill, he’s my cousin. We are very close and I’ve been worrying about him not knowing that I was in hospital!’. She was happy to share a host. When Bill was told about the shared host his reaction was the same ‘I’ve been worried about her not knowing I was in hospital’.
A coincidence or God’s way of helping Bill & Rose?
14. A Way to Die with Love.
How should we prepare to die? What should we do to make ourselves more ready for death? A young student was dying of cancer. In the final stages of the disease he went to see a priest who he had heard lecturing. ‘Father, you once told us something that has made it easier for me to die young. You said: ‘There are only two potential tragedies in life, and dying young isn’t one of them. These are the two real tragedies: If you go through life, and you don’t love.....and if you go through life and don’t tell those whom you love that you love them’. When the doctors told me that I didn’t have long to live, I realised how much I have been loved. I’ve been able to tell my family and others how much they mean to me. I’ve expressed love. We prepare ourselves for death by loving deeply and especially by expressing love, appreciation and gratitude to each other.
(An extract from Ronald Rolheiser. Catholic Herald.)
15. Our Lady Queen of Europe.
The man who had been given the task of designing the European flag was standing in front of the Basilica at Lisieux. He looked up and saw the Statue of Our Lady with its halo of twelve stars. ‘A blue background with a circle of twelve yellow stars’ he said to himself. He presented this design to the European Community, without telling them where his inspiration had come from, and they accepted it. Our Lady is therefore Queen of Europe!
16. Sister Faustina the Job Finder.
She had completed her Polytechnic Business Studies, where she had concentrated on Personnel Management, and obtained an Honours Degree. Now came the task of finding a job. Interview followed interview with no success and only the possibility of a very small salary if she had been successful. Somebody offered to pray to Saint Faustina. The job hunting continued but things were made more difficult when she started having epileptic fits. This meant that she had to surrender her driving license thereby losing a skill which might be required by a prospective employer. She decided to tackle the task in a different way. She went to the local library and made a list of one hundred of the largest employers in her town. She wrote to them all and waited for replies. Ninety seven didn’t reply at all! Two replied saying that they had no vacancies. One asked her to attend for an interview! In the meantime the prayers to Sister Faustina continued.
The interview went well. The prospective employer was just about to advertise for a vacancy in their Personnel Department when her letter had arrived. She had to mention her new illness of epilepsy but the employer wasn’t put off by this. Yes, it would be helpful if she could drive but they would be prepared to wait until medication had brought things under control and her license would be returned. The interview resulted in her being offered the position. The salary was double that which had been mentioned at other interviews.
She has now been in the job for several years, her epilepsy is under control and her driving license has been returned. Saint Faustina is continually thanked for interceding so successfully on her behalf.
This must be an example of ‘fleshing out our prayers’ as in 7 above. Although the applicant knew that prayers were being said she didn’t just rely on those prayers but ‘fleshed them out’ and ‘helped them’ by putting in a lot of work to locate that one job which Saint Faustina had prepared.
17. Another Medjugorje Story.
One of the Medjugorje visionaries was listening to Our Lady when she heard her praise a certain lady in their village and mention her by name. The visionary was surprised and said ‘but Our Lady that person is a Moslem’.‘I know that’ said Our Lady ‘but she lives the life of a saint’.
Aren’t we all often guilty of wrongfully criticizing people who live far better lives than ourselves?
18. Immediate, Almost Miraculous, Answer to Prayer.
Following a pilgrimage to Padre Pio’s monastery at San Giovanni Rotundo we landed at Gatwick and I commenced the drive home. Within a few a minutes I was totally lost but felt that I was going in the right direction for the M25. Half an hour later I was more lost then ever! I had no idea where I was so put out a plea to Padre Pio ‘Please Good Padre find the M25 for me’. At that very moment a garage came into view so I pulled in and asked the way. ‘Turn around and in 100 yds you will find a slip road that leads you straight onto the M25’ I was told. And it did! ‘Thank you Padre Pio’, I prayed, ‘but I won’t always expect my prayers to be answered as quickly as that!’.
19. Here are some quotes that might prove helpful before approaching the cross to do reverence.
“I’m a Roman Soldier, a gambler, I size things up, I calculate my bets. I’m not sure what all this means or who exactly this guy is or was. A lot of people think that this death’s not ordinary, that this person’s God. There’s definitely something special about him, that I know, so many people can’t be stirred up about nothing. But is he God? Will this death save me? Should I hedge a bet on this? Should I reverence this cross? I don’t know, the dice seem to come out even. After all what have I got to lose by adoring? I’m not so convinced, but at these odds, free salvation, why not take a chance?.”
“I’m Simon of Cyrene. You’ve heard of me, the perennial chore-boy, always at the wrong place at the wrong time, forced to help carry the cross, virtue by conscription! I’m not sure whether or not this man is God; mostly I don’t care. It’s just that I’m yoked to his load and his suffering. It’s not something I choose. Should I adore? I don’t know. I don’t give it much thought one way or the other. I’m trying to make a living, to mind my own business. Sometimes this type of trouble falls on you. That’s the way life is.”
“I’m the Bad Thief. I got crucified with him, had the same suffering, endured the same humiliation and abuse. But I don’t agree with him. This isn’t useful, it’s just damned bad luck. There’s no God in heaven and there’s no love on earth either, just self-interest. In the end, nobody gives a damn. I suffered as much as he did. To hell with it.”
“I’m Peter. I believe this man is God. I know everything he said it true. But....I am always so scared, so timid. What I believe privately, I never live out in the world, I’ve neither the courage nor the strength. They call me ‘the rock’, what a joke! I’m taking a nap while he’s sweating blood, warming myself at a fire and denying him even as he looks at me with love. But that look on his face when he turned towards me......his face so soft, so understanding, not disappointed and hurt - and me having just denied him! I know what unconditional love means. My mother, my father, my wife, nobody ever accepted me like he just did. I’ll adore, even if I have to do it in secret.”
“I’m Mary” his mother. Would I could take his place, but even here I’m helpless, like everywhere else. The incredible pain and helplessness of watching this. I can’t change anything, say anything, or do anything to make this better... All I can do is wait, silently, here at the foot of the cross.”
“I’m the Good Thief. I’ve wasted my life, committed more than my share of sin. I wasn’t even looking for God and forgiveness. I was only looking out for myself, like I always have! I got lucky: he found me, just before I died. Everything forgiven, washed clean in a second! I still can’t believe it, but I’ll spend eternity celebrating it! Adore! Adore this man! There’s no great reckoning, no pound of punishment to be paid for each pound of sin. There’s only forgiveness, love. Give yourself over! Fall on the floor! Adore!
“I’m John his beloved apostle. I feel awful... his best friend, and yet, when he needs me the most, I run away, follow at a safe distance! Discipleship in safety - yes, that’s me! Not once did I speak up, challenge anyone, try to explain anything, or defend him. Timidity - always my downfall. I know I’m not worthy of his friendship and forgiveness, yet I know he loves me, even more than before. How incredible this godlessness, this hell, this black Friday, is showing even more how scandalously lavish are his love and forgiveness! Looking at his face, leaning on his breast, I always believed that light, love and peace would triumph. Now I understand how. How unbelievable! I can only throw myself at the foot of his cross! Adore! Adore!”
“I’m Judas. I betrayed him. Betrayed Christ! For me there can be no hope. Too late, nothing can undo what’s done! Nothing can help me ever again! I’m sorry, so sorry, but there can only be darkness! I can only run away from this cross!.”
These are not intended to be the separate comments of different biblical characters. No. They are feelings within different parts of each of us as we confront the drama of the cross.
(An extract from Ronald Rolheiser. Catholic Herald.)
20. A strange happening.
Mary was walking towards her home alongside the Uxbridge Road which was very busy with traffic when she got a strange feeling that she was going to find something. She thought she was seeing things when, on the road, she saw a plaque of Jesus with his arms raised up like at ‘The Ascension’. She managed to retrieve the plaque from the road and marveled that it had not been damaged by the traffic. She took it to be blessed and it now resides in the safety of her home.
This is same Mary as in No 6 Above. It would seem that the Good Lord is using Sean and Mary’s home as a safe repository for religious artifacts!
21. A Brief Medjugorje Story.
During conversations with the Medjugorje visionaries Our Lady has said that the problems of disunity between the Christian Churches are man’s doing and not her son’s.
22. ‘My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me’.
These traumatic words of Jesus offer an opportunity for much meditation. One line of thought suggests that at that moment God The Father broke the bond which had linked him to The Son from all eternity. Without that bond Jesus had the same feelings that we do when we have sinned, to be cut off from God, and He couldn’t bear it. Hence his agonizing cry.
We can also meditate that God The Father must also have suffered by being parted from The Son. And the Holy Spirit......? If the Holy Spirit emanates from the Father and The Son and is the love which emanates from Them, then Their being separated would cause The Holy Spirit to ‘die’ along with Jesus. An awesome thought. (The above is thought to be seriously flawed because ‘suffering’ is evil and God, who is perfect in every way, cannot have any evil within Him. As to the Holy Spirit.........?)
One interpretation of the words of the Creed ‘He descended into Hell’ suggest that the ‘Hell’ was the fact that the bond between Jesus and the Father had been broken.
(Personal thoughts for meditation.)
23. An Ordination in Dachau Concentration Camp.
The fact that truth is stranger than fiction is borne out by the story of Karl Leisner. He grew up in Hitler’s Germany. Like many other Germans he refused to condone the activities of the Nazis and was sent to Dachau concentration camp. There, eventually, terribly weakened by tuberculosis, he was secretly ordained a priest. All the normal permissions for this ordination had to be secretly requested and equally secretly received.
Prior to being sent to Dachau Karl had applied to enter a seminary. Not only was he accepted but his Bishop was so impressed with the young man that also made him Diocesan Youth Leader. Holding this position probably marked him as someone the Nazis would carefully watch. He was arrested in November 1939 and after spending time in various prisons was eventually sent to Dachau. The presence of a Bishop to carry out the ordination was brought about by the Allied Invasion in June 1944. This meant that the Germans had to move prisoners further back from the front line. One such prisoner was a Bishop who had been arrested for helping people to escape. In September 1944 the Bishop was moved to Dachau.
When it was suggested to the Bishop that he should ordain Karl he was ready to oblige but there were difficulties to overcome. First of all, no one can be ordained without the authorization of his bishop; how to contact Karl’s Bishop from a concentration camp? Then, for such a ceremony, it is necessary to have chrism and a book containing the text of the rite. In an extraordinary way all these were obtained through a secret network which had been established by the prisoners working in the gardens of the camp. The SS had created large market gardens near the camp; these sold produce to the local inhabitants. Among those coming to the garden shop was a young woman who was a postulant at a nearby convent. She used to cycle in to buy things for the nuns. One of the priests from Dachau worked in the packing department of the shop; once he discovered who the young woman was, he asked her if she would act as go-between. With the encouragement of her Superior, she undertook this dangerous task. She brought everything necessary for the ordination and it was smuggled into the camp.
Thus it was that on the 17th December 1944 Karl Leisner, in an intensely moving and unique ceremony, was finally ordained to the priesthood. He was very weak, for most of the Mass he was slumped on a prie-dieu and afterwards felt so unwell that he went straight back to the infirmary. It was eight days later, on the 26th December, before he was well enough to celebrate his first Mass. After the Mass the Lutheran ministers in the camp arranged entertainment as a way of celebrating the happy event. They had begged and borrowed cups and saucers and had somehow got coffee and cake; there were flowers on the table. It was a wonderful ecumenical gesture. Afterwards Father Karl crept back to his sickbed. His first Mass was also to be his last; he was never well enough to offer Mass again.
(Extract from a CTS pamphlet. Reference Number B449).
(Karl Leisner was beatified by the Holy Father in June 1996)
24. Why I Am A Roman Catholic.
An Ecumenical Church Committee were wanting to produce a booklet with brief details from each Church as to why we follow our particular Christian Faith. No-one was prepared to accept the job of preparing something for the RC’s so, in my usual haste at speaking before I think, I said that I would try! I sat in front of my word processor and didn’t know where to start. In need of guidance I prayed to the Holy Spirit to come and help me. Moments later the thought came to me that everything about my Faith is due to ‘love’. From there on the words just seemed to flow. The final result was as follows:-
An explanation of my faith in one word has to be ‘Love’. Love of The Mass which is a re-enactment of Calvary culminating in receiving the body and blood of Jesus as at the Last Supper. Love of the Sacrament of Reconciliation where, through the Priest, I tell God of my sorrow for my sins. Love of the Eucharist which, in that tabernacle, is ever awaiting my visits. Love for Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, for the Rosary and for the Holy Father. The combination of all these ‘Loves’ leads me to the main ‘Love’ that of my love for God the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit and the knowledge that I am loved by the Blessed Trinity much more than I can ever understand.’
(If the above words bear any description to my Faith as a Roman Catholic then it is thanks to the Holy Spirit who answered my prayer and used me as an instrument to type the words.)
25. Our Greatest Need.
If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us a teacher.
If our greatest need had been
God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been
God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been
God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was
So God sent us His only Son
From a Sermon at an Anglican Service.
26. Petitions at the Prayer Meeting.
We receive several petitions a week. These are either given verbally or left in a special box at the back of church. Whilst listening to the list being read out I made a mental note that I ought to cull some names from the long list. Two names, one who had died and the other his widow, came to mind as ones I could remove from the list. After all we had been praying for eight months, surely that was enough.
The very next morning’s post included a letter from the widow. She was still having difficulty in coming to terms with her situation. ‘Please keep praying for me’ she requested.
The lesson I learnt. Never stop praying.
27. Never Assume. Always Investigate.
At the time of the last General Election our local M.P. was definitely pro-
abortion. Letters in opposition to this were met with replies such as ‘a
woman has a right to do what she wants with her own body’.
So when the Euthanasia Bill was first put to the House of Commons everyone assumed that it was a waste of time writing in protest. One person did write and the reply was just the opposite of what was expected...
‘I will not be supporting this Bill. I am instinctively opposed to legalizing euthanasia; I am most concerned about possible misapplications and in fact doubt whether a safe, practicable law could be formulated.’
Lesson learnt. Never assume. Always investigate.
28. The Nun Who Loved the Poor.
There was a Seminar of Priests and Nuns near Bruges in Belgium. They had worked hard from Monday to Thursday so when they assembled in the Conference Hall on Friday morning it was to be told that they were to have a day off. ‘There is a bus waiting to take you into Bruges’ said the Seminar Director. ‘Go and do some shopping, have a drink and we have arranged a Hotel where you will be having meal’. Amongst the group was a Nun who was known for her special love of the poor. She followed some of the group around and watched them as they bought presents. She allowed a soft drink to be bought for her in a bar. But when they got to the hotel for the meal she was shocked by what she saw. The tables were set for a sumptuous meal. Each place setting had several wine glasses. The event was to be very special. The nun thought about the poor and turned around and went and spent the rest of the day sitting in the bus.
Saturday morning was the final Conference Meeting and The Director asked for anyone to come forward who felt that they had something to say, perhaps some felt that they had had a ‘conversion’ during the seminar. ’Come forward to the dais and share your thoughts’ said the Director. To everyone’s consternation the first person to rise and approach the dais was the nun who loved the poor. ‘Oh dear!’ everyone thought, ‘We’re in for a sermon on caring for the poor and making appropriate sacrifices’.
The nun told of the previous day’s events. She had watched presents being bought and thought how that money could be used to feed the poor. She had watched wads of notes been passed over the bar for drinks and had thought that money could be used to clothe the poor. But when she saw the place settings for the meal she couldn’t bear it any more. She felt cross, angry, frustrated. So she went and sat in the bus. “It was while I was sitting there that my conversion happened” she said. “I suddenly thought…......where would Jesus be now if He were here. Of course, He would be in the Hotel sharing the food and drink listening and teaching never missing an opportunity of guiding the minds and thoughts of those around Him”. The nun confessed that her decision to sacrifice the meal had been wrong. How much better if she had stayed, listened, put forward her thoughts, shared her love for the poor.
Alleluia that the good nun was able to accept her conversion and share it.
29. Mother Teresa’s ‘Lost Luggage.’
Mother Teresa had flown in and was waiting in the arrival lounge when worried Airport Official came to her. ‘Mother Teresa’ he said, ‘I’m very sorry but we can’t find your luggage. It must have been left behind’. ‘No’, said Mother Teresa. ‘I have my luggage here with me’ and she produced a plastic carrier-bag which had in it all she required. A change of habit and a tooth brush!
What a lesson for us all who never seem to complete our desires for more and more material things of the world
30. It was 1941 and a group of raw recruits assembled at the barracks to commence their initial training. They were late arriving so there was only time to have a quick meal and collect their kit before it was time to turn in for the night. As they got into their bunks they noticed one of their number kneel down at the side of his bunk and start to pray. There commenced the noisiest catcalling, whistling, laughing and buffoonery that one can imagine all aimed at belittling the one who was praying. He remained on his knees, completed his prayers, got into his bunk and things quietened down.
The next day was a tougher one than any of the new recruits had expected. Marching up and down the barrack square time after time, never getting it right to the satisfaction of the Sergeant Major who continually berated them for their laziness. When, at the end of the day, it was time to turn in they were wearier than they ever thought possible. As on the previous night the one recruit knelt to pray. But this time there was a difference. Not a sound was heard. Every recruit was probably quietly praying with him asking for whatever strength they would need to get them through this tough training period.
When the kneeling recruit finished praying he looked around the room and said ‘thanks lads’. From then on he was able to say his prayers in peace.
(This true story was told by one who was there).
31. CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME? Danger; Reading this can damage your peace of mind.
It is June 1991. I have just arrived at the municipal campsite in Tamanrasset, Southern Algeria. I will drive 50 miles to Mount Assekrem to the hermitage of Charles de Foucald. But first, today, I need bread. The camp office if closed, so I walk to a building 50 yards away hoping that it is the site shop. It turns out to be the toilet block. Approaching it is a tall, muscular African in his early thirties carrying a bucket. I ask him where I can buy bread. Her says he will take me. On the way he tells me that he is Jimmy Hiksy, from Ghana. He speaks eight languages, including English, French, German, Italian an Arabic, but has ended up as a lavatory cleaner in the middle of nowhere. I buy bread, we exchange addresses and he goes back to his bucket
Back home in England I sit at my deck scanning the day’s post to see which I should open first. I start with a letter from Niamey in Niger. It is from Jimmy Hiksy, the lavatory cleaner I met in Tamanrasset. He writes that he has been deported from Algeria, spent three days without food or money at the Niger border and then hitchhiked to Naimey the capital. He has borrowed a little money, but at the time of writing, it is almost run out. He might already be starving. He asks me for £100. This will repay the loan, by him food and get him back to his village in Ghana.
I scribble a note to him that I have not got £100. This is not strictly true and I have an uneasy conscience. I am not able to tell him that I put my holiday before his basic needs. I take a £10 note out of my wallet and enclose it with the letter.
The rest of the mail remains unopened. I scan the envelopes to see which to open next. I am helped by the two envelopes which say on the outside what is on the inside. One of them is from an animal rights organisation; the other is marked ‘Urgent, Crisis in Africa!’. I throw them unopened in the bin. My conscience niggles me. “Lord”, I say, “I’m always giving. I tithe my income and give a little besides.” The reply comes to me “You keep the Old Testament Law, but once you’ve given your ten per cent, you feel free of obligation. Live by grace, not by law!” I reply “If I lived by grace, I’d have nothing left. I’d rather increase my giving by a few percent and then I’d know where I stood.” The reply comes “You don’t get the point. You use the Law to protect your standard of living. You use it to safeguard your money, to keep yourself from being my disciple. Remind me to send you some dill and cumin seeds!” I ferret around in my desk drawer and take out a Charities’ Aid Foundation cheque. Jesus speaks to me again “You’re not going to send one of those cheques are you? That’s money you’ve already laid aside to be given away!”
I reply, in desperation, “that’s all I can afford! I’ve just sent Jimmy Hiksy £10 and that wasn’t part of my tithe!”
Extract from Geoffrey Howard’s book ‘Weep not for me’.
32. The story of a dream.
A few years ago now I had a dream, which was very vivid, and seems to have grown in importance to me over the passage of time: I saw in front of me the globe, and a lone man fighting with a black figure, a terrifying devil. They were locked in mortal combat, right on the rim of the world, and it seemed that the man fell off the edge of the world, out into the darkness, lost. But then I saw the figure of Our Lady watching, her arms outstretched, and she caught the man in the folds of her mantle and he was saved.
Since this dream, I have come to read about many references to Our Lady’s mantle, guarding and protecting us just as we seek protection in the shadow of the Holy Spirit’s wings. And then there are the words of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn Child, her promise to keep all those who fly to her “in the folds of her mantle, in the crossing of her arms”.
But, looking back on this dream now, I am struck by a further fact: that it was not until the man was absolutely helpless falling in space, apparently defeated, that he was rescued. And it is true, that when one feels most barren and abandoned in life, lacking in vision and brought low, that God often is hardest at work. It is as if He wants us to be completely dependent upon Him, so that He may be made great in our weakness. It is a sad fact that when everything in the garden is rosy, one has a tendency to forget God, and make one’s own plans without consulting Him. Every so often we need a reminder that God is in charge, and not be driven solely by human reason.
33.Making it to that appointment with God. Health Warning: Reading
articles on prayer can endanger our health if we don’t actually pray.
We enter the place we want to pray in, we compose ourselves, get quite still. We keep our eyes open and make ourselves as part of the scene, part of God’s creation, part of the vast throbbing world. Then we shut our eyes and take a deep breath.
Now we start withdrawing from the vast throbbing world, maybe by stages, first from say Halifax our town, then from the room or the church, finally from our own bodies. Perhaps it is like going down some deep prehistoric cave till you reach the secret sanctuary where no one has yet been. When we reach it, we are alone. So much for the first composition of place.
Next we need a composition of time. We look briefly at the past, whether remote or immediate, it doesn’t matter. We note that it is frozen, cannot be denied or changed. We have no power over it, so we shut the door on it.
When we look into the future, the only certain events we see are our own deaths and eventual resurrection. Nothing else is known, nor even exists except in the mind of God. So we shut the door on the future. The only moment that matters is now. Now I am in the right place at the right time to keep my appointment with God.
Philosophers say that God is ‘pure activity’. What is God doing now? He is doing our ‘being’. He is making us to ‘be’. But if He is ‘acting’ then there must be a goal. The goal is Himself and this is our goal too. ‘Lord, I do not know Thee, but I choose to love Thee’.
But choosing the goal is not enough because unfortunately enemies occupy the country that lies ahead and around us, through which we must advance to our goal. We must fight every inch of the way. The enemy we must engage never sleeps. Nor can it be bypassed, left behind to make trouble for me later.
We must identify it ‘know your enemy’. It is no use brilliantly attacking enemies that do not in fact lie in our paths. Conversations with confessors, spiritual mentors, friends, perceptive critics, give us sight lines to help us identify our enemy.
What a blessing, what an advantage, to know our enemy! Now we are employed, engaged, now we are where the action is! We are not tilting at windmills any more. We are where God is.
Our enemies provide us with targets we can practice on again and again and from different angles. We ought indeed to love our enemy! Perhaps our enemy is impatience, or resentment, or fear, or some wordly illusion, or vanity, or an inordinate sense of insecurity.
Whatever it is, it has some opposite virtue which we can develop by spiritual exercises. Virtue means moral power, or moral beauty. When we attack our main enemy, we develop all our moral powers, even the ones we are not directly concerned with. And thus we make progress towards our goal.
Now remember the health warning! Courage, to work at praying, and remember that we are not alone. God is with us.
From ‘Inner Life’ by Fr Charles Dilke. Catholic Herald.
34.The Need to Give Attention.
To really SEE someone, especially someone who looks up to you, is to give that person an important blessing. In a gaze of recognition, of understanding, in an appreciative look, there is a deep blessing. Often, it is not so important that we say much to those for whom we are significant, but it is very important that we see them.
Let me try to explain: a couple of years ago, a family that I know had a painful incident with their 13-year-old daughter. She was caught shoplifting. As things turned out, she was stealing things she neither deeded nor wanted. Moreover, in her case, her stealing was not, as often happens among teens, something intended to impress her peers, a little right of passage necessary for acceptance into a group of friends. No, without her saying so, she was stealing to get her father’s attention. Her father, struggling in his relationship to her mother, was not around a great deal and didn’t give a lot of attention to his daughter. So she forced his hand. It was he that she demanded come to the police station to pick her up and settle things with the police. In doing that he had to give his daughter his attention. He had to look at her. Her shoplifting was a way of forcing her father to see her.
There is a deep longing inside of us to be seen, to be recognized by those to whom we look up – our parents, our elders, our leaders, our teachers. our coaches, our pastors and our bosses.
We see this acted out ritually, for instance, when someone has an audience with the Pope. In such an audience, not a lot of meaningful words are exchanged. The idea is not so much to have a deep conversation with the Pope as it is to be seen by him. It is important that the Pope sees you that his appreciative gaze falls upon you.
Good Queens and Kings see their people; good parents see their kids; good teachers see their students; good executives see their employees; and in really good restaurants the owner comes round the tables and sees his or her customers – and the customers are – without being able to explain why, grateful that the owner took the time and trouble to see them. We are blessed by being seen.
At a primal level we see this need to be blessed by being seen acted out in every playground on earth. We are told that we should lay off and leave them to their own world. Nothing could be further from the truth. They desperately need, and badly want, the blessing that comes from our gazes and presence. They need for us to see them. In the end, more than that they want words, they want our gaze…..and so much of their acting out, the shoplifting, the drugs, the insolence and the absence…..are little more than an attempt to force our hand, to demand and beg: “Mummy, Daddy, someone significant and adult, watch me!”
Extract from Ronald Rolheiser. Catholic Herald.
35. Unto Us.
Somewhere, at some time, they committed themselves to me.
And so I was! Small, but I was.
Tiny in shape, lusting to live, I hung in my pulsing cave.
Soon they knew of me, my Mother - my Father.
I had no say in my being. I lived on trust and love.
Though’ I couldn’t think, each part of me was saying a silent “Wait for me, I will bring you love”.
I was taken, naked, defenceless,
by the hand of one whose
Good name was graven on a
plate in Wimpole Street
And dropped on the sterile floor of a foot-operated waste bucket.
There was no Queen’s Council to take my brief.
The cot I might have warmed stood in a shop window.
When my passing was told, my Father smiled.
No grief filled my empty space. My death was celebrated with two tickets to see Danny La Rue, Who was pretending to be a woman. Like my Mother was.
Spike Milligan. (Extract from ‘A Day With Mary’.)
36. And He Didn’t Even Know.
It was a cold winter morning. A recent snowfall covered the ground; an icy wind whipped across the wide boulevard, cutting the face of the man pacing back and forth on the sidewalk. He was engaged on his usual Saturday morning occupation, a rosary vigil at an abortion clinic.
This clinic, The Northeast (Philadelphia) Women’s Centre, was on the third floor of the small office building where it had begun operations, very quietly a year and a half previously. Since then, he had spent several hours every Saturday praying the rosary for the unborn babies being brought in to be killed. He prayed too for their mothers, usually frightened young girls. He had tried and tried to interest others in coming to the vigils. Sometimes he was successful and two, three, four people would join him, but all too often, as on this Saturday, he was alone.
The loneliness, and even more the apathy, the heartlessness of his fellow Catholics, his fellow Christians, was beginning to wear him down. As he walked back and forth, fingering his beads, frozen to the bone, he wondered if it was all worthwhile, if anybody cared, if his efforts really made a difference.
This morning in particular, an almost unbearable sense of defeat and depression weighed him down. Fighting it, he knelt in the snow on the lawn between the building and the sidewalk to say his next rosary. He hoped that somehow this added bit of hardship would help, and oddly enough it did. After finishing the rosary, he arose with a lighter heart. He completed his vigil that day and went on to continue them for many years thereafter.
What he didn’t know was that as he knelt there in the snow praying, a young woman watched from a window on the third floor. She was waiting to be brought into the procedure room for her abortion. Sad to relate, she did have that abortion that day. And, as is often the case, she found herself pregnant again a few months later.
Once more she faced an agonizing decision. The memory of that day at the clinic came back to her; she could not forget the sight of that lone man kneeling in the snow praying for her and the baby. She decided that if a stranger could care that much for her baby so could she. She would let the baby live.
That day. by his presence and the simple act of kneeling in prayer, he saved a child’s life.....and he didn’t even know.
(Twelve years later, the pro-life counsellor to whom this woman turned, told her half of this story to Joe Wall on a radio programme. He did not need to be told the man’s story - he was the man.)
Extract from ‘A Day With Mary’.
37. The Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Since I first heard of the Divine Mercy devotion some ten years ago, I have always believed in the power of prayer and shared my belief with my friends and encouraged other people to also say the prayers. However, when it came to putting my belief into practice as I sat beside my mother, who was dying at the age of 69, I must say I found it difficult to practice what I had preached. I very half-heartedly got out a Rosary. There was little prayer in my heart. I decided to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Sitting by a deathbed one is somehow part of it and one feels total numbness and utter helplessness. I started to pray ‘Eternal Father I offer you...’ The prayers only took about ten minutes and after I had said them I got up from my chair and walked to the nurses station. “Please could you send for a Catholic Priest to anoint my mother”, I heard myself saying to the pretty young nurse who smiled and said “Oh, how lovely”. Ten minutes later a young newly ordained priest arrived. He drew the curtains around the bed and opened up a little black leather case in which he had a Crucifix and a Pyx containing Holy Communion. He put on his stole and looking at me, he said “Would your mother like to receive Holy Communion”? I looked back slowly at him and said “No, I am afraid my mother cannot receive Communion”. He looked back even more closely and asked me why, I replied “Because she is not a Catholic.”. Then I heard myself say “But she has always wanted to be received into the Catholic Church”. Hardly daring to look at my mother, I heard her say “Yes, most certainly. I have brought my children up in the
faith of the Catholic Church and yes I would like to be received”. I was amazed to hear my mother say that because my mother had been somewhat rejecting of the Catholic Church and had never before stated openly her wish to join. My mother was always an intelligent woman and even though she was so ill her mind was still alert and she knew exactly what she was saying. The priest asked us if we could wait while he returned to the Presbytery because he had to collect the sacred oils which were used for confirmation. He said he would be back in ten minutes. In fact he arrived back quite breathless twenty minutes later. We started the ceremony which for my mother and me was full of depth and meaning, and I held mother’s hand and told her how happy I was and what a beautiful and royal occasion this was. I shall never forget how moved I was when the priest broke the Host in half and my mother and I received Holy Communion together for the first and last time. It was also a tremendous joy for me when I realized that it was Our Lady’s great feast day, The Immaculate Conception, the 8th December, that my mother received the wonderful grace of conversion. My mother was to suffer on for five more days which was really dreadful, but I was able to comfort her and tell her that I loved her and to thank her for giving me life. She had also seen all her grandchildren and died happy and reconciled with the whole family, and at peace in the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. On reflection I really do attribute this wonderful happening to the Divine Mercy Chaplet prayers and Our Lady’s motherly intercession.
Extract from “A Day With Mary”.
38. The man was finding his cross too difficult to carry so Jesus took him to a large warehouse full of thousands of crosses and told him to choose one which he would find comfortable. The first one he tried was too heavy. The second one wasgreasy/dirty. The third one was too rough. After a long time he found a cross which was suitable and continued carrying it on his journey through life. What he didn’t realise is that the cross he had chosen was the original one he had brought with him, the one he was used to carrying.
Told by Cecil Humphery-Smith at Pantasaph Retreat Nov ‘93.
39. Another Medjugorje Story.
One of the Medjugorje visionaries said to Our Lady “Look Gospa, the church is full of people and is overflowing with a large crowd outside, isn’t that wonderful”. Our Lady replied quietly, “Yes it is wonderful, but I can count on one hand the number who are actually praying”.
This story has come to me third-hand. Nevertheless, if I think of my own inability at praying, then I find the story very plausible but sad.
40. A Vision of The Incarnation.
When I was working, my journey to work took about twenty minutes. Just the right time to recite a Mystery of the Rosary. After a while I decided to have a change by meditating on the Mysteries rather than praying the Hail Mary’s. It was on one of those occasions that my ‘vision’ occurred. I was meditating on The Nativity when suddenly I was granted a clear vision of the wonder, beauty & magnificence of all that is meant by The Incarnation. It was very brief. As if a door in my mind had opened and a fraction of a second later had closed. I can recall that moment but I am unable to describe it in any clear way. I can’t even put it into words for myself to understand. I have heard of people being granted a vision of Heaven and afterwards saying that it is impossible to describe. I know what they mean. I have no idea why I was allowed this brief vision. But its memory will never leave me.
A Testimony by the Writer of this ‘Memory Report’.
41. A reading from the sermon of St Cyprian on mortality.
Putting aside the fear of death let us think about immortality.
We must remember that we ought to do what God wills, not what we will, in accordance with the prayer that the Lord ordered us to use daily. Since we pray that God’s will be done, how foolish and how perverse it is not to obey immediately the command of His will when He calls us and summons us from this world. We struggle and fight, and, like obstinate slaves, we are brought before the Lord grieving and sad, and we leave this world in the chains of necessity, rather than in willing obedience. We want to be honoured with the rewards of heaven by the God to whom we come against our will. Why then do we pray and ask that the kingdom of heaven should come, if captivity on earth delights us? Why do we pray, and pray continually, that the day of that kingdom should come quickly, if our longings and desires are stronger and greater for bondage to the devil here than for reigning with Christ? Since the world hates the Christian, why do you love that which hates you, and why do you not rather follow Christ who redeemed you and loved you? In his epistle John cries out and exhorts us not to pursue the lusts of the flesh and love of the world. ‘Do not love the world’, he says, ‘or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. And the world will pass away and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides for ever.
Rather, my dear brothers, let us be ready for all that God’s will may bring, with an undivided heart, firm faith and rugged strength. Let us shut out any fear of death, and keep our mind on the immortality that follows death. Let us show that this is what we believe. My dear brothers, we must consider and ponder again and again how we have renounced the world and now live here in the meantime as strangers and aliens. Let us welcome that day which allots to each man his final home, which snatches us from the world, frees us from bonds which bind us to this age, and restores us to paradise and to God’s kingdom. What man who lives in a foreign country would not hurry to return home? We reckon paradise to be our home. A great throng awaits us there of those dear to us, parents, brothers, sons. A packed and numerous throng longs for us, of those already free from anxiety for their own salvation, who are still concerned for our salvation. What joy they share with us when we come into their sight and embrace them! What pleasure there is there in the heavenly kingdom, with no fear of death, and what supreme happiness with the enjoyment of eternal life.
There is the glorious company of the apostles, there the fellowship of the prophets rejoicing. There is the innumerable army of martyrs, crowned for their glorious victory in their suffering and strife. There in triumphant procession are the virgins who have subdued the lusts of the flesh with the strength of chastity. There are the merciful who have received their reward, who performed works of righteousness with the gifts of food and alms to the poor, who obeyed the commands of the Lord and transferred to the treasure-house of heaven what they had inherited on earth. My dear Brothers and Sisters, let us hurry forward to meet these with eager longing. Let God see these thoughts in us, let Christ discern in us this intention of our mind and faith, Christ who will give greater rewards to those whose longing for Him has been greater.
(This sermon coincides completely with my thoughts on death. Death is ‘Alleluia’. When we mourn we think that we are mourning for those who have died. Not so! We are mourning for ourselves left to complete our lives here on earth.)
42. The Feast of The Immaculate Conception.
find this a most wonderful feast. I see it as one the four most important feasts in the Church’s calendar. The other three being The Annunciation Maundy Thursday (the first Mass) and The Resurrection. I realize I am missing The Nativity but I see that as a natural progression from The Annunciation. I am also missing Good Friday but, on its own, without The Resurrection, it would not have had any meaning. The Resurrection and death no longer having any hold over us is the ultimate completion of Christ’s Redemption.
‘The soul of her whose womb was to bear the Son of God had to be free from all sin.....including original sin. Nothing totally pure can proceed from something which has been impure. Hence the Immaculate Conception was necessary. She was also granted the most precious graces by which she was free from all inclination to pride and from all inordinate self-love. She was perfect in all virtues and that, combined with her pure and perfect love, transcended all evil.’ (Extract from Butler’s Lives of the Saints).
When friends suggest that I have a ‘blind faith’, I am able to quote The Immaculate Conception. I tell them the story of Saint Bernadette and Lourdes. Saint Bernadette’s Parish Priest didn’t know what to make of her supposed visions so he told her to ask the lady who she was. When Saint Bernadette asked the lady the reply she received was “I Am The Immaculate Conception”. These words meant nothing to the illiterate peasant girl. She had to keep repeating the words to herself as she ran to tell the Parish Priest. When she blurted out the words to him he immediately realized that, not only were the visions true, but that it was Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, who was appearing to the little girl. (At this point friends usually change the subject!)
O Mary conceived without sin pray for us who have recourse to thee.
43. The Story of a Hospital Visit.
Due to my stressed condition I have had to cut back on my hospital visits. I have to be selective. Instead of visiting twenty patients I find that visiting two or three is all I can manage. During one of my visits I noticed the name of a regular lady patient on the list, someone who has a long term condition and who I had come to know. I made a mental note to ensure that I should visit her. When I went to her Ward the curtains were round her bed so I visited another Ward to use up time until I could return to see her. Returning to her Ward I found the curtains still round the bed and it was in some frustration that I looked at my list to find another patient to visit. I noticed a man’s name on a Ward which I had not intended to visit and, more to waste time than anything else I made my way to that Ward. I introduced myself in the usual way “I’m Michael from the Catholic Church”. He looked at me for while and then said “I’ve been waiting for you”. I didn’t understand what he meant. How could he have been waiting for me when neither he nor I knew that I would be visiting him? The next few minutes answered my query. He and his wife had been away from the church for many years. He knew it was time to return but couldn’t make the first move. He needed someone to come to him for him to be able to open up his heart. I was the person granted that great privilege. The outcome was that, with his consent, I contacted a Priest who visited and brought him and his wife lovingly back to Holy Mother Church. My part in this bears no investigation. Had it not been for the curtains around the lady patient’s bed I would not have made the visit!
Holy Spirit, Thank you for your guidance.
44. The Scapular That Saved Two Lives
‘My battalion was just about to advance. We passed Eindhofen, our trucks and tanks went through Uden. In the evening we encamped on an old farm near Nijmegen. Behind the house there was an old wooden pump surrounded by bricks. This offered a fine opportunity for a soldier to wash away the sweat and dust of hours of fighting. You can well imagine that we made good use of this opportunity. I was one of the group and so I tossed my jacket on the ground and hung my scapular on the pump while I washed.
An hour later we received orders to proceed about a mile and a half further and occupy a trench there. We were looking forward to being able to get a peaceful night’s sleep in that trench.
I was about to lie down and was unbuttoning my collar when to my horror I realized that I no longer had my scapular. I had had it with me all during the war and now that we were approaching the lion’s den was I to be deprived of it?
To fetch it was unthinkable but after spending time tossing and turning I couldn’t rest whilst all around me my buddies were sleeping. Finally I was overcome with the desire to get the scapular. It wasn’t easy to pass the sentry but I managed it and ran back the way we had come. When I got to the pump my hands glided over it in the dark searching for the scapular but it was gone. I was just about to strike a match when there was a dreadful explosion. As fast as I could I ran back to the trench.
Near the trench I saw the engineers busily at work removing piles of dirt and barbed wire. At the very spot where I had been trying to sleep yawned a gigantic shell-hole. Before they had vacated the trench the enemy had placed a time-bomb in it and it had exploded during my absence. Nobody survived the explosion. If I had not set out to fetch my scapular I would have been buried under that rubble too.
On the following morning I went to the field kitchen and met a buddy who looked at me in astonishment. “I thought you were in that trench” he said. My friend continued. “I was lying in the trench, but before I went to sleep I went looking for you but I couldn’t find you. The corporal saw me hunting around and asked me what I wanted. I told him but he sent me to the Inn to get him a bottle of water. While I was on that errand the explosion took place.”
“Here is the reason I was trying to find you”, he said. And he handed me my Scapular which he had taken from the old pump.
Extract from ‘Apostolate of The Little Flower’. Taken from a German periodical.
45. Parent’s Creed
If a child lives with criticism. He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, He learns to be shy.
If a child lives in shame, He learns to be guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, He learns justice.
If a child lives with security, He learns to have faith,
If a child lives with approval, He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance, and friendship
HE LEARNS TO FIND LOVE IN THE WORLD
From ‘Apostolate of The Little Flower’.
46. Being afraid of Our Lady.
When I first read about Medjugorje in a paper I immediately felt the desire to go there. Yet despite this, I was worried about going to Our Lady, because in the Anglican tradition it is feared that she might take away the first place from Jesus. So finally in 1985 a friend accompanied me to Medjugorje where I remained for 15 days. I observed, participated in the various functions, and I prayed. Those days went by without any particular experience - neither negative nor positive. Before I departed, though, a thought came to my heart: “Well, you’ve been here for 15 days, in a Marian shrine, and you can see that Jesus was always the central part of everything: Holy Mass, adoration, confession, conversion, prayer, fasts. She takes us to Jesus. ”From that moment on I stopped being afraid of Our Lady. I found profound joy, like someone who doesn’t know his mother then suddenly sees her before him. My life has taken on a sense, my proposal to be a priest found confirmation.
Testimony of John Peterson. Formerly an Anglican Pastor now a Catholic Priest.
47. The Power of Prayer.
From my slight knowledge of prayer I have come to the conclusion that the success of prayer is proportional to the ‘faith’, the ‘belief’, of the person who prays. If we pray half-heartedly, not believing that our prayer will either be listened to or acted upon then the result will very likely be unsuccessful. But if we pray with a firm faith, then we know we will be heard and that God, or through the intercession of Our Lady or The Saints, will grant that which we are praying for.
The first occasion when I recall having my prayer answered was when I was at boarding school. I was fourteen years old and had a treasured possession of my first ever wrist watch. Disaster struck when I dropped the watch and it became badly damaged. There was a large dent in the casing and it was fairly obvious that it was permanently damaged and beyond repair. That night I knelt by my bed and poured my heart out over that watch. It sat there on my bedside chair with no movement coming from it, no comforting ‘tick, tick’. I don’t know how long I prayed but, looking back, it seemed a long time. I prayed with great fervour and with a feeling that I was being listened to. Eventually I got into bed and settled down to sleep.
The next morning the watch was ticking away as if it had never been broken! I can’t recall that I was very surprised…….....after all I had prayed and my prayer had been answered! Surely that is what prayer is all about! Obviously the answer to my prayer was meant as a lesson for me to hold onto for the future. That the watch was working was unimportant. What was important was that I had learned that prayer, even for things which might seem impossible, can be answered. I should be able to say that I still have the watch and it is still working......but I can’t. In fact I can’t remember what happened to it. It doesn’t matter. What mattered was the proof it gave me of ‘The Power of Prayer’.
Testimony of the writer of this Memory Report.
48. Thoughts on Eternity.
I have no difficulty in understanding ‘Eternity’ in relation to my immortal soul. So why do I have difficulty in understanding ‘Infinity’ in relation to my earthly body? My understanding of ‘creation’ leads me to believe that, prior to that immense occasion, there was absolutely ‘nothing’. What do I mean by ‘nothing’. The fact that I can see my computer screen as I type these words is because there is space between my eyes and the computer. That ‘space’ must be a created thing, it is ‘something’ and definitely not ‘nothing’. I can’t just assume that the space had always been there. To get back to a time before creation we must take away all the matter in the universe and then, finally, we must take away the space. Then we have ‘absolutely nothing’.
Our earthly minds can only think of ‘eternity’ in relation to time. Here on earth we are controlled by ‘time’. It is therefore impossible for us to come to terms with ‘eternity’ as we have no relation to it. So when people say that it will be ‘boring’ to praise God for all eternity they are saying that in relation to a basis of ‘time’. There is no such thing in heaven. ‘Time’ is an earthly constriction which has no place in eternity .Astronomical Mathematicians, such as Stephen Hawking, say that space is being continually created as the Universe expands. I haven’t the brains to start to disagree with them but I can’t understand that concept. If space is being continually created then what is at the ‘edge’ of space as it expands. How can ‘nothing’ be created into ‘space’? This doesn’t seem to concern the Mathematicians they just accept that it happens! I don’t find it so easy. My concept of ‘nothing’ is far removed from ‘space’ being able to create itself by expanding into the ‘nothing’ area! (Unless God wants it to happen that way!). I do not understand the Universe as being infinite. I suspect that when God created man he gave him a finite mind to match the finite Universe.
In the same way, I am unable to ‘understand’ God never having been created, but always having existed. I believe it but I don’t understand it. Our minds can only accept ‘beginnings’ and ‘ends’. This is as God intended us to be....a finite mind not able to understand the infinity of God Himself.
This is where our Faith comes in. We know that God created us and that He is infinite. We also know that one day, by God’s goodness, we will be with Him in heaven for all eternity. At that time all will become clear to us...infinity, space, the universe, will all appear so simple and clear that we may find it strange that our feeble, finite brains couldn’t understand it.
Our Faith enables us to come to terms with things which we cannot understand. Nor is it a blind Faith. God is extremely good to us in sending His Mother, Our Lady, to lead us to Him. Lourdes, Fatima, Garabandal and Medjugorje are just a few of the places where Our Lady has appeared as God’s Messenger. (It’s interesting to realize that prior to Our Lady’s Assumption it was always Archangels who were sent to carry messages from heaven to earth. Now it is always Our Lady.)
How difficult is must be for those who do not believe in God. They have to try and make the facts of space, universe etc. fit into their concept of there being no creator. If their finite minds are not in a constant turmoil then it must be due to God Himself who, in caring for them, allows their minds to have a ‘calm’ which only He can give.
St Augustine in his sermon 194,3-4 explains our inability to understand God’s permanent existence: ‘We are not yet able to contemplate the fact that He was begotten by the Father before dawn, but let our minds dwell on the fact that He was born of the Virgin during the hours of night. We do not grasp that His name endures before the sun, but let us acknowledge His tent placed in the sun. Though we do not behold the only Son abiding in His Father, let us remember the Bridegroom coming out from His bridal room. Though we are still unready for our Father’s banquet, let us acknowledge the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Thoughts of a rambling mind!
49. SPEAKING FOR ALL THE PEOPLE.
Michael Meade, the mythologist, is one of the truly gifted story tellers in America today. Maybe it’s his Irish chromosomes, but when he tells a story everyone, from young to old, sits spellbound. And there is a particular refrain that appears like a leitmotif in many of his stories. Michael will be recounting some incident when he will say “Then the people, that is “some” of the people, began to say this, and they began to say that....”. He is not fond of saying “the people” without immediately adding a significant little nuance, that is, “some of the people”.
I bring this up because today we live in a world where many people claim to be speaking for “the people”. In truth, all of us have that constant temptation, which we often publicly act out, of precisely thinking we are speaking for “the people” in some form or fashion. How frequent is the phrase: “The people are saying this! The people are angry! Youth feel this way! Women feel that way! Men are like that! The people don’t want that any more! The people are leaving the Church for this reason! Adults only learn by this method of education!” Very rarely, when we hear these phrases, or speak them, are they immediately qualified with the nuance: “that is, some of the people are learning in this fashion, and some of the people are feeling like that”.
Recently at a Church conference I was attending, there was an open forum. Anyone could go up to a microphone and, for three minutes, give a little editorial on some issue that she or he felt some passion on. There wasn’t a Michael Meade in the bunch! Speaker after speaker left no doubt that he or she was speaking for “the people”. One speaker told us that youth (by her insinuation, all of them) felt that the Church today had sold itself out to the secular world and that it was because of this that youth were disillusioned with it. By contrast, another person went to the microphone and told us that youth (again, supposedly all of them) were totally disillusioned with the Church’s stance on sex outside marriage and, until the Church woke up to this and responded more positively, youth would not be much in sympathy or attendance. And so the editorials went on.
I kept hearing Michael Meade as each one spoke his or her piece, however sincere, and every time someone said, “youth feel this way, people think that way, adults learn this way”, I inwardly added to myself: “yes, some youth think this way; and yes, some people think that way; and yes, some adults learn that way”.
Perhaps this example is unfair, but I use it because it is so typical. All of us - conservatives, liberals, feminists, anti-feminists, social justice advocates, adult educators and - especially if we have a passion for truth, tend to give the impression that we, and we alone, are truly feeling what the people are feeling; are truly hearing what the people are saying, are truly understanding what the people are struggling with; and are truly speaking for the people. But that is a fault both in modesty and truth.
Simply put, there is not one thing in the whole world that all of the people feel and think the same about and it is self-righteous, self-deceptive, and highly irritating to everyone around us when we do not make real allowances for that in our language and judgements.
I recall a psychologist who once taught me telling our class: “Never, never, presume that anyone feels or thinks exactly as you do! That is a cardinal mistake and you will begin to be much more helpful to people y/’;when you learn that.” Had he taken the microphone that night, at the open forum, I suspect that his editorial would have constantly qualified itself with the phrase: “And the people, that is some of the people, feel this, and they say that, and they learn in this fashion”.
So this is my little editorial, and I suspect that when it appears the people, that is some of the people, will think it says something of importance.
Conversely, I suspect, the people, that is some of the people, will consider it a piece of self-contradictory and self-righteous tripe. Hence I ask you, the people, that is ‘some’ of the people, to bear with me and forgive me this little affront.
After all, this is what people today are feeling.
(Ronald Rolheiser. Catholic Herald.)
We can’t move forward until we find out what Grace is. The Dictionary explanation, when concerned with God, is:- ‘the undeserved mercy of God’; ‘divine influence’; ‘eternal life or salvation’. The word ‘Grace’ can also be used to introduce a prayer such as ‘Grace before Meals’. This is not the ‘Grace’ for which I am trying to find an explanation.
The Old Catechism of Christian Doctrine tells us that ‘Mortal Sin kills the soul by depriving it of ‘sanctifying grace’, which is the supernatural life of the soul’. My understanding of this is that as man would die without being able breath oxygen, so the soul dies without access to Grace.
Question 138 in the Catechism (which is dealing with Hope)
tells us that ‘We can do no good works of ourselves towards
our salvation; we need the help of ‘God’s grace’. It splits ‘Grace’ into three parts:-
1. Sanctifying or Habitual Grace. Which is that state of the soul possessed by the Holy Spirit. e.g. the soul of a child after Baptism.
2. Actual Grace. A passing grace which inclines our will to avoid evil
and do good.
3. Sacramental Grace. A special grace given by each Sacrament.
Question 139 asks; ‘What is Grace? The answer states ‘Grace is a supernatural gift of God, freely bestowed upon us for our sanctification’. This coincides with the Dictionary explanation.
Question 140 asks; ‘How must we obtain God’s grace? The answer; ‘We must obtain God’s grace chiefly by prayer and the holy Sacraments’.
Let’s examine these two ways of obtaining God’s grace.
Prayer. ‘Prayer is the raising up of the mind and heart to God’. When we pray we are ‘indirectly’ requesting God’s grace upon us. How much better will be our prayer if we make a direct appeal to God for His grace to be bestowed on us. It seems that for all our lives we have been receiving God’s grace without ever having appreciated it or, even more important, without ever having said ‘thank you’. For instance whenever we say the Our Father and pray the words ‘Lead us not into temptation’ we are asking for God’s grace to help us to resist anything which may lead us into sin.
The Sacraments. Each Sacrament gives its own grace to us. Catechism question No. 249 asks ‘What is a Sacrament?’ The answer says ‘A Sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace, ordained by Jesus Christ, by which grace is given to our souls’.
The Outward Signs for each Sacrament are:- Water for Baptism;
Sorrow & Absolution for Confession;
Giving of each other to each other for Matrimony;
Bread and Wine for Holy Communion;
Anointing for Confirmation & Extreme Unction.
Laying on of Bishop’s hands for Holy Orders.
Each Sacrament also gives its own Grace to us. That Grace enables us to fulfill the obligation of that Sacrament. So the Grace received at Confession will help us to resist sin and remain faithful to our promise ‘not to sin again’. The Graces of other Sacraments offer similar aid to strengthen our resolve.
I question whether there exist other opportunities for receiving Grace. For instance when a Mother brings new life into the world. It is not too difficult to believe that, at the moment the baby is born, graces are imparted to the Mother (and even perhaps to the Father!). Perhaps, also, Graces are earned when carrying out works of Charity. There may be many similar opportunities for receiving Grace.
Grace is frequently mentioned in the Bible. My Concordance has at least one hundred references to Grace. Here are a few references:-
Romans 3:23 ...for all have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God, and are justified freely by his
grace through the redemption that came by
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not be your master, because you
are not under law, but under grace.
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God....
Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
1 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy my true son in faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Peter 5:5 .....”God opposes the proud but gives grace to
2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory
both now and for ever. Amen.
(I’ve just returned from Mass where, for the first time for nearly sixty two years I have been able to thank Jesus for the Graces I have received and especially for the Grace of that Holy Communion. It was a wonderful experience! I can recommend it!)
(More writings of a rambling mind!)
51. THE BIRDIES.
Throughout our lives we are blessed with spiritual experiences, some of which are very sacred and confidential, and others, although sacred are meant to be shared. Last summer my family had a spiritual experience that had a lasting and profound impact on us, one we feel must be shared. It’s a message of love. It’s a message of regaining perspective, and restoring proper balance and renewing priorities. In humility, I pray that I might, in relating this story, give you a gift that my little son Brian gave our family one summer day last year. On July 22nd I was on a route to Washington DC for a business trip. It was all so very ordinary, until we landed in Denver for a plane change. As I collected my belongings from the overhead bin, an announcement was made for Mr Lloyd Glen to see the United Customer Service Representative immediately. I thought nothing of it until I reached the door to leave the plane and I heard a gentleman asking every male if they were Mr Glenn. At this point I knew something was wrong and my heart sank. When I got off the plane a solemn-faced young man came towards me and said. “Mr Glen there is an emergency at your home. I do not know what the emergency is or who is involved, but I will take you to the phone so you can call the hospital”. My heart was now pounding, but the will to be calm took over. Woodenly, I followed this stranger to the distant telephone where I called the number he gave me for the Mission Hospital. My call was put through to the trauma centre where I learned that my three-year old son and been trapped underneath the automatic garage door for several minutes and that when my wife had found him he was dead.
CPR had been performed by a neighbour, who is a doctor, and the paramedics had continued the treatment as Brian was transported to the hospital. By the time of my call Brian was revived and they believed he would live, but they did not know how much damage had been done to his brain or to his heart. They explained that the door had completely closed on his little sternum right over his heart. He had been severely crushed. After speaking with the medical staff, my wife sounded worried but not hysterical, and I took comfort in her calmness. The return flight seemed to last forever, but finally I arrived at the hospital six hours after the garage door had come down.
When I walked into the intensive care unit, nothing could have prepared me to see my little son laying so still on a great big bed with tubes and monitors everywhere. He was on a respirator. I glanced at my wife who stood and tried to give me a reassuring smile. It all seemed like a terrible dream. I was filled in with the details and given a guarded prognosis. Brian was going to live, and the preliminary test indicated that his heart was OK, two miracles, in and of themselves. But only time would tell if his brain had received any damage. Throughout the seemingly endless hours, my wife was calm. She felt that Brian would eventually be all right. I hung on to her words and faith like a lifeline. All that night and the next day Brian remained unconscious.
It seemed like forever since I had left for my business trip the day before. Finally at two o’clock that afternoon our son regained consciousness and sat up uttering the most beautiful words I have ever heard spoken. He said “Daddy hold me,” and he reached for me with his little arms. By the next day he was pronounced as having no neurological or physical deficits, and the story of his miraculous survival spread throughout the hospital. You cannot imagine our gratitude and joy. As we took Brian home we felt a unique reverence for the life and love of our Heavenly Father that comes to those who brush death so closely. In the days that followed there was a special spirit about our home.
Our two older children were much closer to their little brother. My wife and I were much closer to each other, and all of us were very close as a whole family. Life took on a less stressful pace. Perspective seemed to be more focused and much easier to gain and maintain. We felt deeply blessed. Our gratitude was truly profound.
Almost a month later to the day of the accident, Brian awoke from his afternoon nap and said, “Sit down Mommy, I have something to tell you”. At this time in his life, Brian usually spoke in small phrases, so to say a large sentence surprised my wife. She sat down with him on his bed and he began his remarkable story. “Do you remember when I got stuck under the garage door? Well it was so heavy and it hurt really bad. I called to you, but you couldn’t hear me. I started to cry, but then it hurt me too bad. And then the ‘birdies’ came.” “The birdies?” my wife asked puzzled. “Yes,” he replied. “The birdies made a whooshing sound and flew into the garage. They took care of me.” “They did?” “Yes”, he said. One of the birdies came and got you. She came to tell you I got stuck under the door.” A sweet reverent feeling filled the room. The spirit was so strong and yet lighter than air. My wife realized that a three year-old had no concept of death and spirits, so he was referring to the beings who came to him from beyond as ‘birdies’ because they were up in the air like birds that fly. “What did the birdies look like?” she asked. Brian answered. “They were so beautiful. They were dressed in white all white. Some of them had green and white. But some of them had on just white.” “Did they say anything?” “Yes,” he answered. “They told me the baby would be alright.” “The baby?” my wife asked confused. And Brian answered “The baby laying on the garage floor.” He went on “You came out and opened the garage door and ran to the baby. You told the baby to stay and not leave.” My wife nearly collapsed on hearing this, for she had indeed gone and knelt beside Brian’s body and seeing his crushed chest and unrecognizable features, knowing he was already dead, she looked around her and whispered “Don’t leave us Brian, please stay if you can.”
As she listened to Brian telling her the words she had spoken, she realized that the spirit had left his body and was looking down from above on this little lifeless form. “Then what happened?” she asked. “We went on a trip.” he said, “far, far away.” He grew agitated trying to say the things he didn’t seem to have the words for. My wife tried to calm and comfort him, and let him know it would okay. He struggled with wanting to tell something that was obviously very important to him, but finding the words was difficult. “We flew so fast up in the air.” “They’re so pretty Mommy” he added, “And there is lots and lots of birdies.”
My wife was stunned. Into her mind the sweet comforting spirit enveloped her more soundly, but with an urgency she had never before known. Brian went on to tell her that the ‘birdies’ had told him that he had to come back and tell everyone about the ‘birdies’. He said they brought him back to the house and that a big fire truck and an ambulance were there. A man was bringing the baby out on a white bed and he tried to tell the man the baby would be okay, but the man couldn’t hear him. He said, “birdies told him he had to go with the ambulance, but they would be near him.” He said, they were so pretty and so peaceful, and he didn’t want to come back. And then the bright light came. He said that the light was so bright and so warm, and he loved the bright light so much. Someone was in the bright light and put their arms around him and told him, “I love you but you have to go back. You have to play baseball, and tell everyone about the birdies.” Then the person in the bright light kissed him and waved bye-bye.
Then whoosh, the big sound came and they went into the clouds. The story went on for an hour. He taught us that ‘birdies’ were always with us, but we don’t see them because we look with our eyes and we don’t hear them because we listen with our ears. But they are always there, you can only see them in here (he put his hand over his heart). They whisper the things to help us that do what is right because they love us so much. Brian continued stating, “I have a plan Mommy.
You have a plan. Daddy has a plan. Everyone has a plan. We must all live our plan and keep our promises. The birdies help us to do that ‘cause they love us so much.” In the weeks that followed, he often came to us and told all, or part of it again and again. Always the story remained the same. The details were never changed or out of order. A few times he added further bits of information and clarified the message he had already delivered. It never ceased to amaze us how he could tell such detail and speak beyond his ability when he spoke of his ‘birdies’.
Everywhere he went, he told strangers about the ‘birdies’. Surprisingly, no-one ever looked at him strangely when he did this. Rather they always got a softened look on their face and smiled. Needless to say, we have not been the same since that day, and I pray we never will be.
(The above story appeared in the Nov/Dec 1998 Issue of The Children of Medjugorje Newsletter. It occurred in America in 1994.)
52. Christ the Good Shepherd.
Some years ago, in a class I was teaching, a woman shared with us this story. She had been raised in a religious home and had been a pious and regular churchgoer. During her years at university, however, her interest and practice in religion had progressively slipped so that by the time she graduated she no longer attended church or prayed. This indifference to prayer and churchgoing continued for several years after her graduation. The story she told us focused on how all that changed.
One day, some four years after having given up all practice of prayer and church, she flew to Colorado to spend some time with her sister and do some skiing. She arrived on a Saturday evening and the next morning, Sunday, her sister invited her to go to Mass with her. She politely refused and went skiing instead. On her first run down the ski-slopes she hit a tree and broke a leg. Sporting a huge cast, she was released from hospital the following Saturday. The next morning, her sister again invited her to come to Mass. This time (‘there wasn’t anything else to do’) she accepted the invitation.
As luck would have it, it was Good Shepherd Sunday. As chance would have it, there happened to be a priest visiting from Israel. He could not see her, complete with cast, sitting in the pews and yet he began his homily in this way.
‘There is a custom among shepherds in Israel that existed at the time of Jesus and is still practiced today that needs to be understood in order to appreciate this text. Sometimes very early on in the life of a lamb, a shepherd senses that it is going to be a congenital stray, one forever drifting away from the herd. What the shepherd does then is to take the lamb and deliberately break its leg so that he has to carry it until its leg is healed. By that time the lamb has become so attached to the shepherd that it never strays again.’
‘I may be dense!’ concluded the woman, ‘but given my broken leg and this chance coincidence, hearing this woke up something inside me. Fifteen years have passed since then and I have prayed and gone to church regularly ever since!’
Extract from Ronald Rolheiser’s book The Shattered Lantern.
When Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb: and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thou womb (Luke 1.41)
“It isn’t a child” said the Council, “No, it isn’t a child”, said the king.
“It’s got two arms and it’s got two legs. But it’s really only a thing.
“It’s heart may appear to be beating.
It awakes with its mother at five, It stirs to the sound of her singing, But the thing isn’t really alive.”
Archbishops and agony aunties mythologists joined in the song, “Remember our qualifications, How dare you suggest we are wrong?”
“We all agree: we all agree,” They chanted out in time, “We’ve been to the Court for a judgement:
To kill a thing isn’t a crime. The Professor of Logic asserted The Assembly of nations, and all The Press, and the College of Surgeons agreed.
“Besides, it’s remarkably small.” “It’s got no cash, it’s got no vote
it’s hardly anything. If you’ll just look away for a moment,
we promise it won’t feel a thing.”
And millions of people applauded the millions of things torn apart,
but Mary saluted her cousin, And pondered each thing in her heart.
David Poole Q C Chairman, Association of Lawyers in Defense of the
Unborn. May 1989.
54. The Miracle Of the Red Jewelry Case.
She had been widowed twice so this was the second time she was removing from the marital home into something smaller. As on the first occasion she was leaving behind so many memories.
The day after the removal she tried to find a small red jewelry case which held some earrings; not expensive but with a sentimental value. Although she looked high and low she could not find the case.
She went back to the old home to check that it hadn’t been left behind. She even checked the dustbins in case it had been accidentally thrown away. But there was no sign of the missing red case.
Back at her new home she had given up hope of finding the earrings. As she walked from the lounge into the hall she noticed the bedroom light was on; she couldn’t remember leaving it on. On entering the bedroom she saw a wardrobe door open; she couldn’t remember having left it open. Inside the wardrobe were some drawers and one of them was pulled out; she couldn’t recall having left it like that. As she went to close the drawer she noticed a piece of tissue paper with something underneath is; and the thing underneath........the red jewelry box complete with contents of the earrings.
As she wept with joy she tried hard to remember having put the red box into that drawer. No such memory came to her and she is certain that the whole event was a miracle. Why should such a miracle take place? Perhaps to reassure her that her move to this new home was a good move...the right thing to do.
Whatever; it took her till the next morning for her to stop crying.....tears of joy, and thanking whoever had chosen her to have the miracle performed.
55. (The story below is true. Told by a teacher who was there at the time. It was at a Catholic High School.)
A new young priest had been appointed as chaplain to a large Catholic High School. The whole school assembled for his first Mass. Instead of a homily he spoke to them about Holy Communion and told them that he wanted to see everyone come to receive the Body of Christ. “If you have something on your conscience which worries you” he said, “then make a good act of contrition and come and receive.” He told them that after Mass he would be hearing confessions and the morning’s lessons would be adjusted accordingly. These words, from this new priest, caused a buzz of excitement among his congregation. But there was more excitement to come.
When the time came for the ‘sign of peace’ the priest spoke to them again. “Now is the time for the sign of peace”, he told them. “But I don’t want you to just turn to the person next to you. I want you to search out that person who you most need to make peace with whether it be a fellow pupil or a teacher”. For a while no-one moved as the enormity of what they were being asked to do sank into their minds and their hearts. Then slowly one or two started to move around the hall making their way to those who they were not at peace with. The one or two became ten or twenty and more and more until everyone was on the move. There was much crying followed by joyful happiness as old wounds were healed. Those students learned more about peace, forgiveness and love at that Mass than in any of the Masses they had ever previously attended. Alleluia for that young priest and may the Lord give us many more like him.
56. PLAYING THE RIGHT ROLE
“All the world’s a stage and the men and women merely players each playing their part”. Whether that’s ‘As You Like It’ or not, that’s how it is! Nobody wants to see themselves as they really are, let alone have others see what they can’t face for themselves. So we pass through life playing a chosen part and posturing to make ourselves acceptable to those we feel wouldn’t otherwise accept us.
Nobody must be allowed to see what is below the surface, what is under the stage, the trap-door to the grim and grimy underworld must be kept closed at all times. The truth of the matter is that despite all our play-acting we are in fact determined by what we try at all times to keep locked away below stage in our unconsciousness.
Sometimes what’s called a Freudian slip takes place when something is revealed that we had been trying to keep hidden away, not only from others but even from ourselves. Then the real cause of what had been dressed up as rational human behaviour suddenly springs out from below stage, from the unconscious, before we have time to put our foot on the trapdoor. In an instant we stand exposed for what we are before the audience we were trying to impress the moment before.
It happened to me in the late sixties. When my brother told me and my parents that the was going to marry a black African, a Zulu, who he had met at one of the mission stations, they were shattered and said so. You can imagine all that they said on the spur of the moment, the racism that they had no knowledge of before came pouring out. The atmosphere in the room was electric. I sat there as the still and silent centre amidst all the turmoil and I said not a word. But I was horrified at what was happening within me. Everything that my parents were saying out loud I was saying to myself. Everything happened so quickly that I had no time to put my foot on the trap-door. The racism that I had never dreamt was in me came up and flooded my mind. I managed to close it quickly before anything more could come out, and managed to close my mouth too, so that nobody would know that what was in my parents was also in me.
I didn’t sleep that night. I’d been shattered to the roots of my being - there’d been an evil spiritual cancer within me for years and I didn’t even know it.
I’d been the president of the anti-apartheid league at college. I’d spoken out and written about the pernicious disease of racism. I’d demonstrated time and time again in Trafalgar Square in front of the South African embassy, and all the time I’d been one of them myself. But that wasn’t all that kept me awake that night - it was the thought of all the other prejudices that were harboured deep down within me determining for the worse the man I thought I’d known so well, but who had suddenly become a stranger to me.
I knew then and I knew for sure that I had been prejudiced against black Africans. I knew it must have shown in the raucous way I’d demonstrated for them, and in the patronizing way I’d treated them. And yet I hadn’t seen it, I hadn’t even dreamt it could be possible, and I would have reacted violently to anyone who would have suggested otherwise.
Just how many other prejudices lurked deep down within me - that was the question I asked myself as I tossed and turned my way through the night. How much of the behaviour of the man I thought I knew was determined by another man, what St Paul called the “old man” who had homed himself deep down within me. Then I thought of the enormous pride that had blinded me to the truth. I’d not only managed to deceive others but I’d deceived myself about the real quality of the man who had the audacity to think he was above racism just because he had religious pretensions that were probably born of some pride or prejudice of which he had no knowledge.
That night was the moment of truth in my life. Now I could see as never before that the man who’d been playing the “moral crusader” on his own little stage to his chosen audience was a fraud, a fake, a phony.
He was ruled from deep down within by the pride and prejudice of the “old man” - he was his creature though he hadn’t known it. I think the worst realization of all was that even though I could see so clearly what I’d never been able to see before there was nothing I could do about it.
I realized that I was in exactly the same position as St Paul when he experienced what a wretched man he was, how he was imprisoned by his own sinfulness, and it seemed he couldn’t do anything about it. But when I re-read his letter to the Romans I found new hope in my helplessness as he had done in his. I saw as he had seen that there is Someone who can help, and that Someone is always there and willing to do so.
Learning in helplessness is a hard and painful way to learn - but it’s the only way, and that’s what St Paul found, and so did those who followed him. It might not be ‘As You Like It’, but that’s how it is.
From the Catholic Herald ‘Inner Life’ By Rayner Torkington.
57. HOW CAN WE LOVE OUR ENEMIES?
(How can we try to conquer the deepest hatred of all?)
I’ve never had any difficulty in loving my friends. I’ve even been able to love my neighbour on occasions, especially when they’ve been in real need and I’ve been in one of my more expansive moods. But I’ve never been able to love my enemies. I’ve never been able to do it, even though the Gospels make it quite clear that we must if we are going to be genuine Christians. I’ve never known how to begin; that is until I heard this remarkable story that was told me by an African Sister who I met some years ago when I was working in Uganda.
It all began with a horrifying experience that she had to endure while on home leave with her family.
A band of marauding cattle rustlers from a neighbouring tribe came across the border from Kenya, and brutally attacked her family. Her father was hacked to death with machetes before her eyes, and then she had to watch as her four brothers were used as target practice by the invaders until they were all speared to death.
Her mother fled into the bush where she simply went out of her mind. She’s now being looked after in a missionary hospital, but there is nothing that can be done for her. She has reverted to the days of he early motherhood and spends her time nursing her four imaginary sons who she will never see again.
Two years ago, after the terrible killings took place, the sister was walking through a ward in the hospital where she had been assigned. Suddenly she saw, in one of the beds, the leader of the gang who had massacred her family. She told me that she didn’t know how she managed to continue walking; it was as if some awful paralysis took hold of her and all but prevented her from moving. The sister in the ward said that the man was dying of stab wounds inflicted upon him by cattle thieves who attacked his home. He couldn’t speak properly because a spear had pierced his neck.
For six days the man lingered on in terrible pain, and each day the sister had to walk through that ward on the way to her own. She said that despite the wounds and the terrible pain he was obviously undergoing, she could feel nothing but hatred for the man.
She even took a sadistic delight in knowing that at last he was getting his just deserts. But as the days went by her conscience began to prick her until one morning the man suddenly recognized her.
From then on he tried to cry out to her each day as she passed the end of his bed. She knew what he wanted, but she said forgiveness was the one thing she couldn’t give him, not after what he had done to her family. Then one night she tossed and turned in bed until dawn without getting a wink of sleep. She knew she ought to love her enemies, for the Gospel was quite clear about it; but she simply could not. In no way could she forgive that man.
Then she suddenly realized that she was living a lie, dressed up as a disciple of the Man whose life and example she could not follow. At odd moments she did pray for strength to do what she knew she ought to do, but she felt it was hopeless.
As she entered the man’s ward the next day, he saw her the moment she came in and started to make pathetic noises to attract her attention as he couldn’t speak. She looked straight ahead and pretended not to notice him, but when she came to the bottom of his bed she felt that she had to do something. “I couldn’t love him, that’s for sure” she said to herself. “No way can I forgive that man, but I must do what I can. My heart is like a heavy stone and it is quite immovable. I simply can’t move it no matter what, but at least I can move my hand”. And so she walked over and stood by his bed. Mechanically she raised her hand and put it into his. Then, she said, as her hand was being placed into his, something happened inside of her; something happened to soften her heart of stone, for she suddenly experienced a deep, loving, compassion welling up from within, reaching out to that dying man. Then, before she knew what was happening, she bent over and kissed him on the forehead. It was a kiss of genuine Christ-like love. It was a kiss of real and heartfelt forgiveness, and one that she knew she was quite incapable of performing by herself.
She said she had no illusions about what happened. She didn’t love him, she didn’t forgive him, it was Another Being working through her that gave her the gift she so desperately desired, but which she alone was quite incapable of performing.
The story made a deep impression on me. I admit it didn’t change me. It didn’t enable me to love my enemies overnight, but at least it did show me how to start doing what only God can finish. It’s all in trying, trying to ask God to give us the strength to do what we really don’t want to do, trying to make a genuine move to do our part that will enable God to do His. Only then can everything become possible, even the impossible - even loving our enemies.
From the Catholic Herald. Inner Life. by Rayner Torkington.
58. A Padre Pio Story. Nothing should be taken for granted.
The man’s mother had been very holy. Mass every day and spending much time in church during the day. She died, and everyone safely assumed that she had gone to heaven and life carried on.
Fourteen years later his father died. He hadn’t been a bad man but nothing like as holy as his wife. The son was concerned as to whether his Father had got to heaven so he went to Padre Pio to ask him. The good Padre answered. “Yes, your father is in heaven, and your mother will be following him soon!”
59. The story of a cure at the intervention of Padre Pio.
Told by Sean Mulrine at Maryvale 3Oth October 1994
Sean had come to Maryvale from Derry, Northern Ireland. His story commenced thirteen years ago when his wife, Annie, collapsed and was quickly taken into hospital. The doctors told Sean that his wife had suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and was clinically dead. As she was pregnant they suggested keeping her on a life-support machine so that the pregnancy could go its full time and the baby be born. Sean signed a form to allow this to happen. At the time he and his wife were only in their thirties and this whole situation, with no forewarning, came as a great shock to Sean. He told us that he had been a normal Catholic, attending Mass on a Sunday, but not doing much else. A relative gave him a prayer card of Padre Pio and he started to say the prayers. He also started to pray the Rosary and his whole prayer-life became meaningful and no longer a chore as it had been in the past. Despite all the prayers his wife’s condition didn’t alter and the doctors continued their diagnosis of her being ‘clinically dead’, ‘no more than a cabbage’.
As well as his prayer-life changing he also became devoted to Our Lady and daily took Red Roses and put them in front of her statue at his local church.
Sean’s prayers continued and he became certain that they would be heard. On one occasion while he was sitting by his wife’s bed and holding her hand he asked Padre Pio to send him a sign. At that moment he felt his wife squeeze his hand. When he told the doctors they just didn’t believe him and told him not to build up his hopes. On the basis of her condition it was impossible that she could have squeezed his hand. He was kidding himself. Nevertheless he felt her hand squeeze again and knew that Padre Pio was at work.
The doctors decided to move his wife to a larger hospital. When they got her there Sean found them cutting off all her hair. He asked them why and was told that they were going to take her to the theatre for a thorough examination. (Sean told us that he made a promise to bury her hair at Padre Pio’s grave. Which, as he told us, showed how little he knew about Padre Pio’s tomb! Later he buried the hair behind the Fifth Station of the Cross at San Giovanni.) After the examination the doctors spoke to Sean again. His wife had seven ruptured blood vessels in her head. The centre of her brain was clotted with blood which it was impossible to remove. There was no hope.
Sean continued with his prayers and realized that the time was coming nearer when the baby would be born and the life-support machine would be turned off. One particular night he paced up and down the corridor outside his wife’s room continually asking Padre Pio for help. At that same time a local man who was a devotee of Padre Pio and had one of the Padre’s mittens was woken by a telephone call from a lady asking him to go the hospital and ask for Sean and Annie Mulrine. It was 2.00a.m. in the middle of the night when he received the call and initially he supposed it was a hoax and got back into bed. But then he had second thoughts and made his way to the hospital.
Sean remembers seeing a man walking towards him and saying ‘You are looking for me’. He didn’t know how he knew that or why he said it. But it was right. Sean told the Padre Pio devotee about his wife and together they went to her bedside. The mitten was placed on her forehead at which she raised her right arm and made the sign of the cross. The mitten was then put on her tummy, over the unborn child, and once again Annie made the sign of the cross. Apart from the squeezing of Sean’s hand this was the first movement she had made and it was witnessed by nurses who immediately called the doctors. They were stunned. What was happening was impossible. Shortly afterwards Annie sat up and then started to speak. The impossible became more and more impossible.
Due to Annie’s return to health she was transferred back to the original hospital. News of the miracle had spread and as she was wheeled in all the doctors and nurses came out into the corridors and gave her a standing ovation. Shortly afterwards she gave birth to twin boys.
At the end of his talk Sean introduced us to his wife Annie. She is lovely, with beautiful red hair and looking the picture of health. I can assure all who read this that there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Alleluia and thank you Padre Pio. (But who made the telephone call to the Padre Pio Devotee? Could it have been Our Lady? We are unlikely to know the answer to that this side of the grave.)
60. THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS REVEALED.
I believe in the communion of saints! This is a dogma of our creed upon which we too seldom reflect. What does it mean to believe in a communion of saints? Simply stated, it means that, as Christians, we believe that we are still in communion with those who have died. Among other things this means that we can relate to them, speak to them, and be spoken to by them. The bond of love and family still exists between those who have died and ourselves, and we can still be present to each other and influence each other’s lives.
That sounds like fantasy and wishful thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true? Well, it is true. It’s an article of faith. Sadly, today, we rarely live our lives in face of that, and we are poorer for it. There is a rich mysticism, not to mention an immense fountain of grace and consolation, lying untapped here. Allow me to illustrate this with just one example.
Last winter, I attended a large Religious Education Conference in Los Angeles. Its theme was the Resurrection, its logo was the rainbow, and its closing liturgy brought together about 6,000people. At that Eucharist, after communion, when all the hymns had been sung and everything was quiet, a young couple walked up to the altar and picked up the microphone. They looked up at the gathering of 6,000 and told this story: About a year before, their 12 year-old-son had died of cancer. He had died after a long struggle. They were, naturally, devastated. Nothing prepares parents for the death of a child and nothing, on this side of eternity, can soften its blow. Nature itself is set up in reverse: children are equipped to bury their parents, tough as this is, but not the other way around.
The morning after their son’s death they were sitting with friends in the living room of their home, drinking coffee and attempting to console each other when their phone rang. It was a neighbour. “Quickly, go look out of your front door!” he exhorted, “You’ll see something unique.” They rushed to look and there, before them, was a rainbow the like of which they had never seen before, in terms of its spectacular colour as well as its scope (it extended perfectly without a flaw from the edge of one horizon to the edge of the other). They were, of course, taken by its beauty and by its symbolism (rainbows are a symbol of hope, God’s promises, and the resurrection), but they were even more taken by the clear, unmistakable, intuition that it was their son who was doing these particular fireworks for their benefit. As they watched in awe and in faith, the mother heard her son say to her gently: “Mum, this is for you! And because it is hard for you to believe it, I will do it again, the same way, for you tomorrow at this same time!”
All doubts that they had that this was some trick of their imaginations or merely wishful thinking induced by fatigue, sorrow and longing, were erased the next day when, at the same time, the identical rainbow re-appeared. Their son was speaking to them and they will now forever know what it means to believe in the Communion of Saints. I believe their story, not just because they appeared to be very sane and balanced persons, but because what they shared is not something weird, exotic, new age, or even all that extraordinary. The story they shared is what the dogma of the communion of saints means when it is taken out of the creedal formulae, theology text and put into our actual lives. There is a rich mysticism here, a rich grace, a deep consolation. We must take this item of our creed far more seriously.
Extract from Ronald Rolheiser Catholic Herald.
61. A Padre Pio Story.
He had lost his credit cards and was in a hurry to set off on a two hundred and fifty mile sales trip. The usual hunt through pockets, through his bedroom, through the car etc. produced nothing. He was at the end of his tether and didn’t know what to do next. Someone suggested a prayer to Padre Pio. He believed in God and sometimes prayed. But he was very skeptical about the saints and such like people. Nevertheless, not knowing where else to turn he asked for Padre Pio’s help. Fifteen seconds later he suddenly remembered where he had put the cards. But he knew that it wasn’t just a matter of ‘remembering’, he had been trying that for the last half hour and is hadn’t worked. He knew that Padre Pio had come to his help. After coming into contact with Padre Pio life can never be the same again. There will always be the knowledge that the good Padre can be called on when our weak human frailty leaves us in despair.
62. THE CIRCLE.
War begets Poverty,
Peace begets Plenty,
Then Riches increase;
Riches bring Pride,
And Pride is War’s ground;
War begets Poverty,
So goes the round.
From a 1923 book of Prose and Recitations. Anonymous.
63. OUR LADY’S PENSION SCHEME
During a conversation with Ishbel McGillivray-McGregor of The Children of Medjugorje I commented on how much Our Lady must love her for all the wonderful practical work she does. She replied “The pay is terrible but the Pension Rights are Heavenly.”
So if we get tired when we are working for Our Lady just remember the Pension Rights!
64. All that glitters.
There is a story told about St Lawrence, perhaps only a legend, which merits retelling.
Lawrence, so the story goes, was the deacon in a small community during the third century, a time when Christians were being persecuted and martyred. One day, word came from the local civic authority that the government was going to confiscate Church properties and that it was coming round to collect anything that Lawrence’s small community had which was of value. An edict was given to Lawrence stating that, on a certain day designated, he was to have all the “treasurers of the Church” readied so that the soldiers could come and pick them up.
When the day arrived, the local authorities, complete with their military support, arrived at the door of Lawrence’s house. Lawrence, however, had read their decree in a way quite other than they had anticipated. He had assembled there, by his house, all the poor, the lame, the sick, the blind, the weak, the aged, the children, and the outcasts. The Commandant announced: “We are here to pick up the treasures of the Church! We command you: Hand them over!”
Lawrence on his part, calmly pointed to the group he had assembled and said: “Here they are! Take them! These are the treasures of the Church!” The Commandant was neither amused or understanding: “We are not here to play games. We have come to pick up the treasures of the Church! Hand them over under the pain of death!”
Lawrence again pointed to the group he had gathered and said: “You asked for the treasures of the Church. These are our true treasures. Lying on the ground here is an old gunnysack filled with vessels and candlesticks. Some of these are made of silver, gold and bronze. These you can gladly have. They are not of much use to us. But they are not what you asked for. The decree you sent to me said that you wanted to collect our treasures so I assembled these people here for you.”
Extract from Ronald Rolheiser. Catholic Herald.
65. On the last day of a Holy Land pilgrimage the leader received a letter written in Arabic. It translated as follows:-
Dear Reverend Sir,
It isn’t fair.
I had camels stationed everywhere,
Foal and mare,
A lovely pair
Sweating in the sun’s harsh glare.
Alas, they didn’t stir.
Sir, they don’t live on air And my clothes are thread-bare
I dare to send a bill, a aver. For their unused camel Fare.
66. A Miracle of the Sun at Monte St Angelo Italy
A recent Padre Pio Pilgrimage had visited the Shrine of Saint Michael at Monte St Angelo and were returning by coach to San Giovanni.
For fifteen minutes they were given the great privilege of the miracle of the sun rotating in the sky surrounded by halos of colour. A host was seen to come out of the sun and one disabled pilgrim was given a special vision of seeing the host bleeding into a chalice.
As far as is known such miracles have previously only happened at Fatima or Medjugorje. Alleluia that the Good Lord allowed the pilgrims this beautiful miracle.
67. Postscript to V J Day.
It is worth considering that in 1945 when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a small community of 8 Jesuit fathers only eight blocks from the epicentre remained unharmed (both the people and the buildings) while everyone else within a radius of 1.5 km from the centre was killed.
One of the community, Fr Schiffer, told the Eucharistic Congress of Philadelphia in 1976, when all eight Members were still alive and well, that 200 scientists had carried out investigations for several years in search of a scientific explanation. He told them that there was only one thing that made their house different from the others: they recited the Rosary together every day. Let us pray that the peoples of the world will heed Our Lady’s message of peace and reconciliation so that never
again will a catastrophe of such a nature occur.
68. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Prayer
Trust the Church of God implicitly even when your natural judgement would take a different course from hers and would induce you to question her prudence or correctness. Recollect what a hard task she has; how she is sure to be criticized and spoken against whatever she does; recollect how much she needs your loyal and tender devotion; recollect too, how long is the experience gained in 18OO years (now 2OOO), and what a right she has to claim your assent to principles which have had so extended and triumphant a trial. Thank her that she has kept the faith safe for so many generations and do your part in helping her to transmit it to generations after you.
69.. An All Embracing Prayer
God the Father Creator of the Universe, I adore and I love you.
God the Son Redeemer of the World, I adore you and I love you.
God the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father & the Son, I adore you
& I love you.
Holy Trinity One God, I adore you and I love you.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, I honour you and I love you.
All the angels and saints in heaven, I honour you and I love you.
All the souls in purgatory, I plead for you and I love you.
The Holy Father, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, The Clergy and all Religious, I pray for you and I love you.
The Refugees, the starving; those experiencing earths natural disasters; the Persecuted the abused, I pray for you and I love you.
My family, relatives, friends, neighbours, the sick, the dying and any who think of themselves as my enemies, I pray for you and love you.
My Guardian Angel, I honour you and I love you.
70. Joe Snydale.
I can’t stand Joe Snydale. Just because he runs a big car he thinks he can run everything else as well. He’s been a member of the parish for only five years (that’s two less than me, mind you) but he’s been chosen as a Lay Reader, on the Church Council, Eucharistic Minister and currently he’s in charge of fund raising. A very greedy man I think. What annoys me about the latter job is that everyone thinks he’s doing a good job just because there’s plenty of money coming in. I mean there’s more to it than that, surely. Anyway why should Joe Snydale get all these jobs? Two more parishioners like him and we wouldn’t need anyone else. It’s not that I’m jealous, of course. I mean with the best will in the world there’s a limit to what one man can do and I’ve been pretty full up since I got on the dominoes team at The Lion. But still it would have been nice to have been asked.
You know in the first few years after moving to the Parish (two years before Joe Snydale) I was often asked to take on jobs. I had to turn them down, of course (a man in my position can’t afford to get too tied down in detail and I’ve always believed in delegation) but at least I was asked. I must have turned down nearly every job in the Parish in my time. But since Joe Snydale started hogging all the jobs I haven’t even been asked. Anyone would think the Parish didn’t want me in a job. I’m just waiting for Joe Snydale to be chosen as Parish Council Chairman, then I’ll have something to say. I was on the Parish Council for a time, you know, and I attended pretty regularly, well as regularly as I could considering my other commitments. It was at the time that I took up darts on medical advice (my doctor told me I should get out more) and that kept me pretty busy. (We have to play away matches, you know. And once you’ve joined a team you can’t afford to let them down.) When I happened to miss an odd meeting (it might have been one or two, I didn’t count) Joe Snydale phones and says he’ll pick me up, as he has to pass my place, and take me to the meeting. Sarcasm, I called it. I told him I was quite capable of finding my own way to the Wednesday meeting. All I got was more sarcasm. Meetings hadn’t been on Wednesdays for two years, he said. Now, to crown it all, he’s set himself up as Bulletin Editor. Fat chance anyone else would get of being Bulletin Editor when Joe Snydale has the job lined up for himself. And do you know what he had the cheek to ask me? He’d be honoured, he said, if I’d write a piece for him to put in the Bulletin. I enjoyed my dignified refusal. No good buttering up to me after years of insults. Write your own blooming Bulletin and show yourself up for the ignoramus you are, I told him. Of course, I didn’t tell him to his face, but I made sure everyone in the Parish knew. I can’t stand Joe Snydale.
71. A Good Wedding Cake
4 lbs of Love
1 lb butter of youth
½ lb of good looks
1 lb of sweet temper
1 lb blindness of faults
1 lb of self forgetfulness
1 lb of pounded wit
1 lb of good humour
l tablespoon of sweet argument
1 pint rippling laughter
1 wine glass common sense
1 oz of modesty.
Put the love, good looks and sweet temper into a well-furnished house. Beat the butter of youth to a cream, and mix well together with the blindness of faults. Stir the pounded wit and good humour into the sweet argument, then add the rippling laughter, common sense and modesty. Work the whole together until everything is well mixed and bake gently for ever.
72. A story I brought back from Center Parcs. February 1996.
While there it was my sixty-fourth birthday. We celebrated by having evening Dinner in the French Restaurant. I had mentioned to the waiter that it was my birthday and that next year we would be bringing all the family (all thirteen of us the last time we counted!) when I would be sixty-five. We noticed that a table close to us also seemed to be celebrating as they had balloons (the ones which float up) and paper streamers on the table. They were a Mother, Father and four Teenagers, three girls and a boy. Soon after we sat down the pianist arrived and commenced by playing ‘happy birthday to you’ to one of the young girls at the party table. I can’t remember her name but I think it was Julie. It was her sixteenth birthday. When that chorus was finished the pianist continued with ‘Happy Birthday to Mr. Blackburn’, having been advised by the waiter (not what I had in mind!). The family party joined in and seemed pleased that one of their family was sharing a birth date.
Then came a magical moment. The daughter whose birthday it was came across and gave me one of the balloons. What a thoughtful and kind thing to do. I was emotionally touched by this kindness and, as the meal progressed, I knew that I must give her something in return. But what could that be? I was totally unprepared. I started to go through the things I had on me. The usual family photograph (not of any interest to a young person), other sundry pieces of paper, the sort of things which one gathers and holds onto ‘just in case’. Then I came across it! I had been carrying it with me for many years as I found it so beautiful and inspirational. But did I want to part with it? The answer had to be “yes”. Perhaps I had been carrying it with the one purpose of giving it away on this special occasion. I went across to their table showed it to the Father and asked permission to give it to his daughter.
Permission received I gave it to her saying that I had carried it for years but now wanted her to have it in return for the balloon. I returned to my table and thought no more about it except that I felt sure that I had done the right thing. They finished their meal before Christine and I and as they walked towards the door the young girl came to me. “I will always treasure this” she said and she bent down and gave me a kiss! The kiss was a great surprise but what she had said was the more important. And what had I given her? A prayer card quoting from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Love is patient and kind: it is not jealous or conceited or proud;
Love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable.
Love does not keep a record of wrongs;
Love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.
Love never gives up; and its faith, hope and patience never fails.
Sometimes we are inspired into doing the right thing at the right time. Thank heavens I was thus inspired!
73. No Time.
I knelt to pray, but not for long,
I had too much to do,
Must hurry off and get to work,
For bills would soon be due.
And as I said a hurried prayer,
Jumped up from off my knees,
My Christian duty now was done,
My soul could be at ease.
All through the day I had no time,
To speak a word of cheer,
No time to speak of Christ to friend,
They’d laugh at me I feared.
No time, no time, too much to do,
That was my constant cry,
At last it was time to die.
And when before the Lord I came,
I stood with downcast eyes,
Within his hand He held a book,
It was the Book of Life.
He looked into the book and said,
“Your name I cannot find,
I once was going to write it down,
But never found the time.”
74. Rights and Responsibilities.
Everyone demand their rights.
With every ‘right’ there is a ‘responsibility’.
Just for once will someone demand their responsibility.
75. Fancy Meeting You.
I dreamt a dream the other
night and heaven’s gate swung wide
With kindly grace an angel came
and ushered me inside;
And there to my astonishment
stood folks I’d known on earth,
Some I had judged as quite unfit
or of but little worth;
Indignant words rose to my lips
but never were set free,
For every face showed stunned
surprise - NO ONE EXPECTED ME!
76. Tell them you love them.
I had a friend called Walter. We often used to chat and he would tell me about his daughter and son and his grandchildren. He was obviously very proud of them and when his daughter or son got promotion or when the grandchildren passed exams he would give me updates.
Walter died and I wrote to his daughter offering my condolences and telling her how proud he was of her, her brother and all the grandchildren. I mentioned our conversations and the many updates I received from him and that, as well as being proud of them, it was obvious that he loved them all very much.
The daughter’s reply was one of total incredulity. Walter had never appeared to take any interest in any of them. He never mentioned his pride in them and, most sadly of all, he never told them he loved them.
Happily my letter was able to repair the damage done by Walter’s silence. They could now see Walter in a different light. How happy they were to know that, despite his silence, he was proud of them and loved them.
I thanked the Holy Spirit that I had been the agent used to convey Walter’s true feelings to his family.
But I also learnt a lesson. If you love someone then tell them you love them. Tomorrow it may be too late. Now, whenever I speak to my aged Mother, I always finish the conversation with “I love you” and she replies the same to me. When, eventually, the good Lord takes her to her reward I will know that she knew of my love and it was one of the last things I will have said to her.
(True story by the writer of this memory report).
77. I am trying to help a Catholic who doesn’t believe in the real presence. He was baptized into the RC church but didn’t start to follow his faith till close to middle age. So he hasn’t had our teaching in the faith. In order to help him I asked the priest who led the Padre Pio Retreat if he could give me some advice. He told me that soon after his ordination he had doubts and asked Jesus for a sign. Some time later he was offering Mass in a convent and had to take the Eucharist to a nun who was poorly in bed. The Ciborium was full which makes it very easy to spill hosts (As a Eucharistic Minister I know that to be the case. Hosts are very light and one has to be very careful not to spill them’) Everything went well till he was coming back down the stairs from the nuns bedroom. He tripped over the chasuble which was too long for him, and fell down the stairs! When he got to the bottom his one concern was for the sacred hosts. He discovered that he was holding the Ciborium high above his head in his right hand. The lid had come off the Ciborium and was lying on the floor. The Ciborium was bent, I must have had a heavy knock. But where were the Sacred Hosts? The priest looked around the floor expecting to find it covered in hosts. But none were to be found. They were all safely in the damaged Ciborium!. A miracle! The priest took that as the sign he had asked for. From that time he has never doubted.