Thursday, 4 March 2010
Father Ignatius was certainly the product of his up-bringing.
Raised in a poor family who had known real hardship; yet at the same time a family held together, despite all the turmoil that life threw at them, by a common bond of mutual love and basic Christian principles.
It’s because of his up-bringing, and because he grew up with very little materially, that he developed a habit of frugality and saving whatever he could rather than wasting it away.
He had taken a private vow of poverty when he became a priest, and since then he spent as little as possible on himself. He was not mean in the sense of avarice since anything he had, or whatever else came his way in terms of money or goods, he eagerly shared with the poor in his parish.
The little he kept for himself was usually either books or certain items he had collected over the years and kept for their sentimental value.
One Friday afternoon he decided to clear up the spare room of personal items he had not used for ages. He decided to donate them to the rummage sale in aid of the elderly.
As he was searching through a box full of books he found an old vinyl record; the old 45 rpm type record, black in color in a torn paper sleeve. He looked at the title of the song and sat down on a nearby chair.
Suddenly, the memories came flooding fast. He held the record in his shaking hand, as tears welled up in his eyes. He hadn’t seen nor played it for years, yet here it was, like a ghost from years long past, awakening distant memories so long forgotten.
He remembered how, as a child, he had saved all his pocket money, and went to the music store after school to buy this particular record as a birthday present for his dear father. Now departed.
The song was quite popular then.
He remembered his father’s reaction when he opened the brown paper bag and pulled out the shiny black vinyl record.
His parental eyes welled up too all those years ago, the same as Father Ignatius’ eyes are welling up right now.
His father placed the record on the table and said nothing. He just held little Ignatius tightly in his strong arms and kissed his head gently. Ignatius was held so tight that he could hear his father’s heart beating in his chest.
He could hear it beating right now, as he sat there holding the record in his shaking hand. And strangely as it may seem, the experience also brought to mind the sweet smell of cooking as they all gathered there as a family in the kitchen that cold winter evening.
His mother moved towards the table, leaving for a moment the food on the stove, and picked up the record.
“How lovely …” she said as she read the title.
She too then hugged little Ignatius as tightly as she could.
The priest remembered that that particular day was the first and only time he had seen his father cry. Silently, he had wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and quietly said: “Thank you … son”.
He was a big strong man, not given to much emotions or small talk. He had probably invented the British stiff upper lip and kept his feelings well hidden within himself. Usually silent at the best of times; mumbling the odd “yes dear …” whenever his wife asked him something. A gentle giant in every respect.
His father had known extreme poverty and hardship throughout his life, having lived through the depression and economic crisis.
Father Ignatius recalled how his father told him that many a time, when he was a child during the depression, he had gone to bed at night with nothing to eat; because there was simply no food in the house. Those were terrible times indeed, as his father often recalled.
He remembered that his father had worked the land from the age of eleven, leaving school with little or no education. It was the done thing in those days, to work hard at an early age to help the family beat off starvation.
And in later years, as young Ignatius was growing up, his father still continued to work hard on the farm to bring enough food to feed his family. His mother too, took on washing to earn a few pennies to supplement the family budget.
Yet despite their impoverished state Ignatius never had to go hungry, as his father did before him; and he was always well dressed and cared for by his parents.
He wondered about all the sacrifices his parents must have made, and how much they had gone without, to ensure that Ignatius lacked nothing as he grew up.
Father Ignatius then brought to mind the day when, as a young man, he built up the courage to tell his parents after the evening meal that he had decided he wished to become a priest.
How he had feared their reaction on hearing the news.
Although they were a good Christian family, he often suspected that his father wanted him to take over the small farm he had built up over the years. How would he react to the news that his son would not follow in his footsteps as a farmer?
“Mom … dad … I’ve been thinking and praying about this for a while. I want to become a priest …” were the opening words to an announcement that he dreaded making.
His father just smiled gently and said: “Son … I am proud of you.”
Father Ignatius could hear those words ringing in his ears, as clear as if they’d just been spoken; and he sobbed gently as he remembered his parents now both in Paradise. No doubt looking down on him, and hopefully still proud of him.
He said a silent prayer as he wiped his eyes with his handkerchief.
He then went to his room and put the record on the turntable and one more time let the lyrics come to life.