Monday, 8 August 2011
Friday afternoon was Catechism class with the youngsters from the local Catholic school. Father Ignatius duly attended every week to face the eager pupils who expected straight answers.
He knew that at that age he had to satisfy their curiosity as well as answer as honestly as possible their questions on church dogma and the mysteries of Christianity. He was blessed with a great sense of humour and certainly made liberal use of it to press his point home, or to alleviate any tense situation which might arise.
Today’s Catechism discussion was about the act of Confession.
“Did you ever have to hear a really naughty confession Father?” asked an inquisitive youngster.
“You know very well, a priest never tells what he hears in Confession.” replied Father Ignatius.
“Oh … come on Father … tell us … you don’t have to give names …” pleaded another pupil.
“What’s the worst sin you’ve ever heard?” added a third.
“Did anyone ever tell you they murdered somebody?” asked an inventive boy.
Their imaginations were running wild and the priest knew when he was beaten. He had to humour them in order to gain their attention. He gestured with his hands to beckon their silence. He then smiled and said:
“When I first came here to St Vincent Church I did not know anybody. I arrived on a Friday evening and the next morning at ten I had to hear Confessions.
“I entered the confessional and said a few prayers whilst waiting for the first people to come in. And sure enough they did, one by one as you know full well.
“One of the many people coming to confession that morning said to me: ‘I am not from this town Father; just passing through.’
’Really?’ I replied. ‘It doesn’t matter who you are. I don’t have to know your identity.’
‘Yeh … I’m with the traveling circus … we’re only here for a few days.’ said the voice on the other side of the confessional.
‘The circus,’ I said to the man kneeling there, ‘I’ve never been to the circus. Always wanted to as a child … What do you do in the circus?’
‘I’m an acrobat!’
“I was really excited to have an acrobat in my confessional. I’d always wanted to be an acrobat as a child, before becoming a priest, and I’d never seen a real one performing in the circus.
“So I decided to ask him something unusual.
‘Tell you what.’ I said to him, ‘Would you mind performing some of your act for me? I don’t have time to come and see you at the circus. The church is empty now, and as you’re the last one here, no one would know anyway. Would you mind doing some acrobatics in the side aisle and I’ll hide here behind the curtain and watch you.
“To my surprise and relief the circus performer said ‘Sure Father, it’ll be a pleasure. A bit unusual, but a pleasure all the same!’
“He then got out of the confessional and started his little show by standing upside down in the middle of the aisle. Then he balanced on one hand and hopped about a bit; and then he hopped on the other hand. He followed this with a few somersaults backward and a few forwards in mid-air. Then he balanced a chair on his nose whilst juggling with a few candles he picked up from a statue nearby. He finished with a few more somersaults and hand-stands on the back of the pews!”
“Gosh …” said a few youngsters in amazement. “That’s fantastic. What happened next?”
“What I didn’t realize,” continued the priest “is that watching from the back pews were two elderly ladies.
“I heard one say to the other ‘Let’s go home; this new priest is out of his mind. I’m not doing any acrobatics as a penance for my sins!’ ”