Tuesday, June 17, 2014


“Well, I don’t know, Mother,” said Alfred looking down at his new Zoot Ultra Kalani 3.0 running shoes. “I know I need to exercise, but when I get right down to it, it’s very hard to start.”

“A man, must do, what a man must do,” said Mother unsympathetically. “I’m going to Gloria’s Golden Spa instead. You won’t catch me wobbling around the streets.”

“You know, Mother,” replied Alfred, “My Pater was never much for exercising; I always addressed him as Pater, which as you know is Latin for Father. He always said, “If God intended man to exercise He’s have given man better knees.”

“Excuse me for saying it, Alfred,” said Mother, “but your Father wasn’t exactly the paragon of physical perfection.”

“That is really unkind, Mother,” said Alfred huffily.

“Well, it’s the truth,” said Mother. “Any man who thought that a cigar and shot of John Jamison a day would keep the doctor away, isn’t destined to be a model of athleticism.”

“Too true, Mother, too true,” said Alfred. “But I do wish he had lived longer. I remember his one foray into physical conditioning.  General Mountebank at the Officers Club had recommended the Royal Air Force Dynamic Tension Exercise System to him, not that General Mountebank ever exercised himself.  Pater wrote off for the booklet and began a program of exercise. It lasted for about a month, and Pater lost interest in it and it went by the wayside.”

Alfred stood up, stretched, attempted to touch his toes, then headed for the door. Twenty minutes passed. Mother took another sip of Earl Grey tea, and turned to the International Section of the morning paper, and muttered, “You would think that nothing happened in the world that was more important than the World Cup.”

The front door slammed. Alfred came in and stood by the front table, puffing and blowing. “Mother,” he said, “Pater had a point. Man’s knees aren’t made for running; nor for that matter, man’s lungs. I might have to give up smoking.”

Mother raised her eyebrows, but said nothing, which for Mother was an accomplishment.

Alfred, picked up a Special Reserve Churchill Cigar and regarded it wistfully, then put it back down unlit. “You know Mother,” said he, “my health might be more important than small pleasures. But it’s very difficult to come to the point. This morning as I was reading the Psalms and I received a bit of a jolt. “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty” [Psalm 90:10]. That is not something I usually like to think about.

Mother put the morning paper down and regarded Alfred thoughtfully. Finally she said, “Alfred, sometimes one needs to walk before one starts to run. Perhaps what you should do is get a physical trainer?”

“Now that’s an idea, Mother,” said Alfred, “But what about you?”

Mother quickly picked up the paper, opened it, and hid behind it, muttering. It was her morning for muttering. “Alfred,” said she, “I’m younger than you.”

“Yes, I know Mother; you have reminded me of that more than once, but after all what’s good for the gander is good for the goose.”

“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” [Hebrews 12:12-13].

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bloom Where You Are Planted

“It seems to me, Mother,” said Alfred, “that I had just no idea of the amount of turmoil there was in the Episcopal Church when we first joined St. Fiacre’s.”

“That’s the truth, Alfred,” said Mother, “nor had I expected the turmoil that has been caused by people like Ima Hatchett and Moana Crutchley. Gossip and backbiting is really tiresome. I might complain about them to you, but that’s safe. I’m not going to compound the problems by joining in the fracas.”

“Well, Mother,” said Alfred, “I don’t really find them easy to deal with either. The press and the internet just love to pick up negative stuff and run with it. Have you ever noticed the artificial excitement of news commentators when they are puffing up the next juicy tidbit?”

“Alfred,” said Mother, “It just goes to show: Never do anything wrong on a slow news day. Sure enough you will end up hitting the headlines.”

Alfred replied, “The complainers in the parish and the commentators on larger church affairs are all cut from the same bolt of cloth. It’s a power thing. Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are wrong; but whether right or wrong they just stir up fears and stress in those who listen to them.”

“What can we do, Alfred? What can we do?” said Mother.

“Put things in perspective, Mother,” said Alfred. First, as for those on the parish level, whatever we do, we can’t give them credence. If we don’t like what they are saying we can choose to ignore it, or when the time is right just say ‘I don’t feel that way about it.’ If we play the game with them, they win, and we only end up being upset.

“There’s really nothing new under the sun,” said Alfred, picking up a book from his desk. “I was reading Alfred Plummer’s, The Church of England in the Eighteenth Century, the other day. Listen to what he has to say, In 1771 some clergy petitioned Parliament in England because they wanted to abolish the traditional teaching of the Church. Edmund Burke, a member of Parliament replied,

“These gentlemen complain of hardships: … They want to be preferred clergymen of the Church of England …; but their consciences will not suffer them to conform to the doctrines and practices of that Church.  … They want to be teachers in a Church to which they do not belong; and it is an odd sort of hardship.  They want to be paid for teaching one set of doctrines, whilst they are teaching another.”

“Our parish is named after St. Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners,” said Alfred, “Instead of pulling up our roots to go look for better soil, we should work on cultivating our own spiritual garden and bloom where we are planted. There has always been stress in the Church because the Church is made up of people. But the poet John Donne put things in the right perspective when he said,’ The Scriptures are God’s voyce; the Church is His eccho.’ The denial of the authority of Holy Scripture leads to confusion and spiritual despair.

“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built” [Luke 6:47-48]. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Murder Will Out

           “You know, Alfred,” said Mother, “I really love reading English Mystery stories, certainly Agatha Christie and her stories about Hercule Poirot, and the inimitable Miss Marple. On a more erudite level I enjoy reading the Lord Peter Wimsey stories by Dorothy Sayers. Lately I have discovered P. D. James and her detective Adam Dalgleish.

The odd thing is that the Church of England forms the background for each of these writers. Not only that, but they breath the very air of England. But there is something about each of these mystery writers and their stories that leaves me a little unsettled.”

“Why is that, Mother,” asked Alfred?

“Well, Alfred, it’s this. Often you can tell just who is going to be murdered. You might not know who the murderer is, but to borrow a word from one of these mysteries, you can tell who the “murderee” is going to be, you know, the one who is about to be murdered. I find myself thinking, ‘That person is so nasty and troublesome they really deserve to be killed; and sure enough they are.”

“I know what you mean, Mother,” said Alfred, “but that raises a moral question. Is it right to say Mr. X is such a bad fellow that he ought to be done away with? But then, on the other hand, Mr. X really is a bad fellow who is destroying the lives of others and making everybody else miserable.”

“That is exactly my point, Alfred,” said Mother. “I’ve been reading ‘A Certain Justice,” by P. D. James. The murderee is a brash obnoxious woman who is just nasty to everyone. When she is murdered I think, “Well, she won’t cause any more trouble, and there is no end of people who have a motive to murder her. On the other hand I’m aware that someone will have to pay for murdering her. It’s odd. It seems to be an act of justice that she is killed, but at the same time someone will have to be hanged for it.”

“One of the benefits of these stories, Mother,” said Alfred, “is that each of these writers has a strong sense of moral accountability that not only affirms that there is right and wrong, but that justice ought to be done. I might point out Mother, that accountability is not very popular today. We have quite a few people who are of the opinion that a savage murderer ought to be treated with mercy, and perhaps even be paroled back into society.”

Alfred continued, “Jesus, Himself, embraces the law and at the same time makes us look deeper at its meaning.”

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire Matthew 5:21-22].

“Ouch!” said Mother. I guess that means that I had better lighten up on the antics of that magic mouth Moana Crutchley! Murdering her with my mouth really only makes me upset. ”

Alfred sighed, “You are probably right Mother. When she starts her stuff, I suppose that the appropriate thing to do is ignore it, or tell her forthrightly, but kindly, that we disagree with her.

“Not only that, Alfred,” said Mother, “but I think I had better add her to my prayer list instead of getting angry.”