Christian Short Stories

Richard writes: "Richard resides in Hawkesbury, Ontario, Canada. He obtained a BA. Honors in English and a B. Ed. He taught high school for thirty years. He has published poems, short stories and a novel, "Hooked on Fish Tales".

My Lambs...Know Me!
By Richard David Briggs

Dedicated to: The Blessed Poor in Spirit

Holy Murphy! ... Do I’ve somethin’ sordid ta tell all ya gentle folks! ... Aye! ... Father Patrick nearly got disgracefully sent away from ar church due ta a sullied reputation after six years of faithful service and hard werk! ... I tell ya true, I do-o-o!            

Jus’ as Jesus had sent His Apostles as lambs amongst ravenous wolves ta spread the Word, ar own Father Paddy soon found himself attacked too-o-o by malicious mouths of certain church councilors ‘cus he’d invited me and a few of me homeless buddies ta attend mass so ar Savior culd save ar souls fer all Eternity! ... And let me tell ya, Evil attacks Christians in various walks of life! … I kid ya not! 

Ah! ... But the Devil met his match he did, ‘cus the Holy Spirit guided me patient Paddy through this terrible tribulation! ... Begorah (By God!) !the truth will be out in the light once and fer all! ... Justice will be done! ... Ar parish needed cleansin’ from this unsightly abomination!            

O-o-o! ... Me Brothers and Sisters! These same Satan’s helpers will tell ya that me personal account below is totally inaccurate! ... Would have ya believe this whole unfortunate calamity was due ta me wrongdoin’ fer misleadin’ Father Paddy! ... I beg ta differ! ... ’T is a boldface lie, I say-y-y!            

Bah! ... If any of ya rabble-rousers are readin’ me words, then go squabble amongst yerselves, fer the gremlins ya know yerselves ta be-e-e! ... Hmm! ... God as me witness knows the record of these events ta be undisputable fact indeed!

Father Paddy and me, born in the fine countryside surroundin’ Dublin, we were. From childhood learned ta speak the true Irish language called Gaelic that all ya strangers do na know-w-w! ... Aye! Brought up ta speak in ar grandfathers’ English too - not like the world-assimilated young folk of Ireland taday who foolishly speak slang and reject the old Irish way -y-y and everythin’ valuable ar ancestors had left ta them as their irreplaceable inheritance! ... Such be one of life’s little ironies regardless of culture! ... Hurts like a sharp-pointed dagger slipped inta me side, don’t ya know!            

Paddy, me real sham (friend), he was! On Saturdays after’ ar farm chores, hung out on Moore Street Market where we’d git inta some pretty guid fist fights. Paddy was a better slugger! ... Took many a jaw-breaking blow ta protect me he did!

Ah! ... And fairs from faraway fascinated many a crowd! Even ar local women got involved sellin’ their household wares, fruits, and vegetables. Charmin’ gypsies read ar fortunes and excitin’ exotic dancers enticed us young men inta their tents! Ta top it all off, hame-made pure Irish whiskey lured many a sex-starved maun ta buy as much as he culd carry away-y-y!           

’Twas here too-o-o where sharp wit knew no bounds, hard factual experience acquired, mistakes made, punishments suffered, teachin’ us about the real wayward warld, and tried ar fortitude ta the limit.            

Grew up fast we did! ... Me Da, ... a hard-headed mule he was! ... Begad (By God)! ... Knew the Holy Bible well! ... In spite of the fact Deuteronomy teaches parents not ta have family favorites, I swear by Saint Patrick, he sure did! .... Arrrh (Grrr!)  …    ’T wasn’t me! ... Me sweet Ma proved ta be me only refuge!          

Hah! ... Da told me a hundred times: “Carl, a maun without manual skills in this warld is as useless as two tits on a bull!” ... Forced me ta learn his plumbin’ trade by him sendin’ me ta vocational school, graduated I did, soon became his slave apprentice, then finally got me journeyman’s papers, started werk with him at a starvin’ wage! ... He? ... Happy!  ... But me-e-e? ... Sad as a lost leprechaun I was-s-s!            

Craved ta help me fella folk with their troublesome spiritual problems - like Paddy! ... So in the evenin’, I began takin’ courses in Theology at college taward becumin’ a deacon and completed me first year. Quit ‘cus Da’s angry disapproval knew no end!  Always cursin’ and harpin on how I wasn’ t a real maun!’ He’d often say-y-y: “Bejesus! (By Jesus!) Ye respect that useless cows shit, Father Patrick who begs fer alms and sponges off us beguiled parishioners, more than ye honor yer ole maun. At least I make an acceptable livin’ and put food on the table fer all! … Y’er an ingrate!”            

Oh! ... How he felt relieved when I met me beautiful Kathleen Mullin! ... Luved that golden gingered-haired woman with three green shamrock tucked’ in her curls! ... An absolute cherry-lipped angel she was-s-s! Father Pat himself, bein’ ar town priest an’ all, married us a year later! God luve his saintly soul! ... Da’s wishes were answered! Da drank himself happy drunk fer two days when Paddy applied and actually got accepted ta teach at some seminary school in yer North America. Said, “Finally free of foolishness, a paid vagrant, and a gossipmonger, who collected information from poor folk’s confessions, and who’d make us parishioners feel guilty ta git what he wanted!”            

Out of obligation, we lived with me parents fer a few years. Soon got tired of bickerin’ with Da and him makin Ma cry all the time. So Kathleen and meself scraped up enuf money ta cum o’er here on a huge transatlantic ship. A fair crossin’, if I do say so!            

Befer leavin’, we kissed  the Blarney Stone in Sydney Harbor. ’Twas hard ta say guid-bye ta Ma – but not ta me Da! Filled with high hopes and the Holy Spirit ta guide us, we two innocents came ta yer fine city hopin’ ya would accept us ta be yer own!            

Ah-h-h! ... At times, when I’m very still, can smell fair breezes blowin’ o’er the ocean from me emerald isle where life was guid! Yet hindsight bein’ always wiser, later kicked me in me burdocks! Should ne’er had left’ me dear Ireland with me bonnie bride!

By misfortune, or more likely by the mysterious Will of ar Heavenly Father, one year later me sweet Irish rose abandoned me early one mornin’ without tellin’ me why! ... Oh sure! ... Reported her missin’ ta yer local constabulary. Dung-heads! Ne’er found me Luve! ... Her senseless avaricious employer contacted me countless times fer her ta git back ta werk, then tired of it, finally fired her fer not showin’ up!                          

Ach! ... Scared beyond sanity, bawled like a bloudy babe! Did so fer months on end ‘til deep depression set in, fell inta a pool of self-pity, sank ta the very bottom, didna want ta eat much, soon reduced meself ta skin and bones, lost me job, went on stinkin’ unemployment benefits fer a while. Began ta think maybe me Da had been right!              

“Lad, she put this stupid idea of ye leavin Ireland inta yer head and fer betrayin us! Once ye laund, she’ll quit ye ta make her own life! She‘s jus’ usin’ ya! Ye ’ll see! Y’er an Irishmaun and ye belong in Ireland. Leave and I’ll cut ye out yer inheritance!”            

When easy money ran out, welcomed welfare ta take care of me. As more time passed, no longer qualified fer their plan, with no income, got kicked outta me rat-invested apartment, floundered around yer smelly alleys, met yer local bums, I did, ... involuntarily became one meself, had ta get me clothin’, food, and personal needs from yer city’s charities, rummaged through yer garbage cans too-o-o! Twas damn humilatin’! Anyhow enuf of me whinin’ and complainin’! ... Street gossip had it that the new priest, me Father Patrick O’ Neil, was holdin’ mass at yer city parish, and givin’ out food baskets ta the needy! Jumped fer joy! Ach! Too ashamed ta go see the maun I was-s-s!  Aye! ... But God Himself sent a sympathetic angel  ... On one of Paddy’s evenin’ strolls, me ole friend suddenly stumbles o’er me inebriated body on a sidewalk jus’ two weeks befer Christmas. From the curb crawled ta hide me shameful face in the pitch-dark alley! Recognized his ole boyhood chum, took me ta his home in a cab he did!    

Havin’ pity on me, convinced yer self-righteous holy church council ta hire me as an act of benevolence ta assume the respectable responsibilities of bein’ sole caretaker, gardener, and ta run yer various whimsical errands and frivolous favors of all sorts.            

Holy Saint Francis! ... Ya placed me in a haundy position ta be privy ta all yer friggin’ shenanigans! ... So many wrongs ya committed, ya didna deserve yer faithful parishioners’ trust! ... ‘Cus ya knew that I knew, got scared, ya hated me guts! ... Then, next Sunday came when Paddy introduced me ta yer whole regular congregation sayin’:            

“As yer parish priest, I wish ta thank ya all fer acceptin’ Carl O’ Conner as ar newest member, ...  and also as ar most recent employee! ... Carl is a guid maun! ... I’ve known him all me life back hame! ... A certified plumber by trade he is! I can tell ya his soul belongs ta Christ! So let us welcum him! ... As Luke 15 (4-7) reminds us:   ‘ What man among ye, havin’ an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? / And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicin’./ And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found the sheep I lost. Thus, I say unto you. / That likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-nine just persons, which need no repentance.’   Carl … ar dear Brother, through the promise of God Himself, ya have been duly reconciled by Jesus Christ as one of His children, and like us, are redeemed ta be a co-inheritor ta Heaven. Aye Lad! ... Stand up so all can make yer acquaintance!”

Stand up I do as the awful sinner I am!  Me tarnished soul bared ta them and ta the huge crucifix of Jesus Christ in front of me. Hah! ... Embarrassed beyond any words! Glance around me, see only half the church pews filled with yer pious Christians!

Recalled what Paddy had told me earlier about how the New Age Spiritualists, as they call themselves, shunned attendin’ service ‘cus’ they couldn’t admit they were sinners badly in need of hearin’ the Word, takin’ communion, and makin’ confession!  ’T was Christ Himself who’d founded the church and given the keys of Heaven ta Peter!            

Ha! ...Ya duped me well ya bunch of scornful banshees from hell ... My-y-y! ... But how yer religious steadfast faces shone with merry smiles! Clapped yer gleeful hands loudly! Holy Mary! … Ar church’s walls barely contained yer souls seemin’ ta be burstin’ with the Holy Spirit!’ ...’Twas so inspirational! I culd’ ve sworn on a stack of Holy Bibles, I heard God’s angels singin’ their sweet hearts out fer me in yer choir loft above:                                     

“A-a-a -maz -in-n-ng  gr-a-a-ce!
How swee--e-et  the sou-n-nd
That ... sav-v-ved a wretch-c-c-ch ... like me-e-e!                          
I-I-I ... onc-ce was los-s-st ... but now am-m found,                          
Was-s-s ... blind ... but now-w-w ... I ... see-e-e!”                         

Funny though after communion served, the Livin’ Body of Christ Himself, the last hymn sung with such devotion, and Father sayin’ his smilin’ Sunday guid-byes at the front door shakin’ yer haunds, not a one of ya Christ’s Lambs came ta shake mine! ... Not a solitary blessin’ slipped from yer holy lips! Yet me clothes nearly new, ... given ta me from Father Patrick, and me showered and smellin’ like the rose of Sharon too-o-o!  Pish-h-h-h! ... How yer cunnin’ murdered me maunly spirit! ... Bloudy rejection hurts! Cretins! ... So be it! ... Judge me as yer inferior! ... ’T is me own faith that ’ll determine who I am in Christ! ... Not a bunch of phonies like yerselves fer believin’ ya possess the power ta give me spiritual gifts from God Himself! ... Silly scatterbrains!            

Stayed ta tidy up the pews, mop the muddy floor, even picked up a crimped five-dollar bill and three quarters ta boot! ... Hid me petty loot deep in me right back pocket . Aye! I’d give it back in me next collection envelope at mass! ... Belongs ta Him anyhow!            

Hmm-m-m! ... And do ya know what else? ... Even though yer parish is quite strategically organized, as a guid church ought ta be, still many of yer sorry souls ignore the Holy Ghost screamin’ at yer stopped-up conscience ta be heard!           
Befer the closin’ of Advent on December twenty-third, Father Paddy had even made a special invitation fer us ta confess ar sins so we culd receive Christ with clean hearts! Only me, and three others from the streets, came! Where were all ya faithful?            

We gladly received absolution and promised ta be as obedient ta Almighty God as we possibly culd be despite ar frail fallen human nature! … Don’t ya know that it’s only through His daily fergiveness of ar sin that we can attain some measure of purity in this filthy warld? ... Preening proud stiff-necks, ya all are!            

Christmas Eve Mass arrived, I see so many of ya happy folks of all ages,  dressed up in yer finest clothes! Probably will ne’er see ya until next year too-o-o! Had ta add many chairs ta the aisles ta accommodate yer fast growin’ crowd of pretenders! The Nativity Pageant proceeded without a hitch. Obviously though, yer eyes were glued more on this parade performin’ spectacle than actually upon communin’ with Christ ar Savior who ‘d been born inta this warld so we culd all be reconciled with God!            

O’ how yer organist played such wonderful melodic Christmas carols and with much more gusto than usual, not ta overlook also how yer choir singers sung with such pomp and in perfect tune excitin’ all yer guests ta overflow with heightened joy causin’ yer generosity ta peak and throw big money inta yer baskets bein’ passed about while yer parish finance councillor, Bob Bender, grinned from ear ta ear! O-o-o-o-! ... Ya Pharisee profiteers jus’ like Jesus knew! .. ’T ’will do ya no guid in God’s eyes!            

And by all ar holy saints! ... We mustn’t ferget Christmas Morn either! ... Ha-aa! Political policy flowed so eloquently from yer council’s mouths speakin’ about all the important activities fer fund-raisin’ cumin’ up soon, includin’ yer Ladies’ Association pronouncin’ a long-winded speech about how parishioners’ future monetary gifts would greatly help the poor in foreign launds. Uh? Guess ar city’s derelicts are totally invisible!            

And of course, some of yer town stores managed ta get quite a few ads printed on the back of yer church bulletin promotin’ their commercial propaganda of ‘The Happy Holidays’ encouragin’ yer kids ta git after their parents ta buy the latest commuters with violent games, as well as a new TV with an extra wide screen! ... Hey! ... And what about a brand new shiny car, or a surprise trip down south! ... All in the name of Jesus!  Ya slimy crawlin’ vipers! ... Ya intentionally wore yer priest’s morale down, ya did! ... Uh? ... Between Christmas and New Year’s, Paddy looked noticeably fatigued! Sadly, his sermons lacked the true discernment on how prayer releases us from the bondage of sin by givin’ us clear direction and preventin’ us from makin’ disastrous decisions. He also seemed ta question the Lawrd’s power ta respond ta ar needs!            

Even me friend’s personal attention taward me drifted off like a dyin’ breeze. I no longer felt spiritually renewed! Then again, no priest ever sent a Christian ta Heaven!

Only me hope in Christ’s promise that He would ne’er leave me, kept me faith alive. Prayed fer Paddy I did! God said He ne’er gives us more than we can bear! Selfishly, I peppered me chum with countless religious questions ta deepen and clarify me faith! Required answers, proofs, irrefutable arguments so I ‘d know I’d been saved and ta share me findings with me homeless spiritually starved friends!

At yer church’s annual supper on the Epiphany, not one of ya chose ta sit with me! Feelin’ scorned, left yer bloudy table, went out ta find me street fellas, managed ta convince five of them ta cum back with me ta the church hall!      

Ha! ... Each paid yer mandatory ten-dollar supper ticket! Gladly we sat in a far corner, ate, told jokes, laughed, chewed the rag with Father Paddy who blessed ar’ meal too-o-o!

Mid-January, while Father Pat was out fulfillin’ his sacred duties of visitin’ the terminally ill at City General Hospital by scrubbin’ their sin-stained souls preparin’ them ta enter Heaven’s Gates, I craftily move me whiskey still from behind Mark’s Butcher’s Shop ta me bedroom’s closet in the church basement. Aye! … A glarin’ transgression! … I know-w-w! ... But got a tip ’t was nearly stolen twice!

Now jus’ hold on folks! ... I’ve a generous heart I do-o-o! ... Gave all me freshly brewed supply ta me street gang who’d always loyally filled their pockets with the ingredients from ar’ local stores ta furnish me. Kept only two bottles fer me personal use, would start a new batch befer Father would return.            

Ne’er charged me comrades a cent fer me high quality 40% proof! Ta keep me secret, I’d have ta convince Father Paddy ta support me cause! ... Hey there! ... Do na tell me ya’ ve ne’er taken a nip!  ... Sh-h-h! ... There’s Father a-cumin’ in!

“Say Paddy me maun, would ya have a wee minute ta speak with yer ole friend about a very important personal matter that can benefit both of us?” “Carl, I had some tryrin’ day-y-y! ...Two women died befer me very eyes! Did me utmost best ta send them off ta God with unstained souls. Ah, Satan sure had  been busy in these women’s lives! Jesus, as their advocate, will have quite a task on His Haunds when He brings them ta meet God the Father fer their Final Judgment!  O’ how so many fergotten lay sick with every imaginable disease! ... Poor little innocent children too-o-o! ... Lives hangin’ in the very balance ’tween life and death! ... A shame I say-y--y! ... An awful sham-m-e! ... Such sufferin’ I tell ya-a-a Carl! ’T is unfair!            

In mass, I preach God’s Will is a mystery! ... That He’s in control of ar lives and ar deaths - the very universe itself! ... That He is a luvin’ and powerful God-d-d ready to help us in ar’ personal difficulties of life Ah, all those hurtin’ unfortunate people in the hospital seem ta be abandoned, not only by society’s cold selfishness, but also by God’s mercy fer them! ... ’T is cruel, is it not?  Fergive me Carl! ... Tanight,  I’m drowin in the peat bogs as ye can see-e-e! ... I’ll pray ta God ta give me more strength! Gotta sit here quietly by meself fer a moment or two. As ya know full well, we children of God’s church must rely solely upon faith and prayer! ... I believe ar Father will grant me sound wisdom ta eradicate me doubts! ... Scripture taught me that when I’m at me weakest, I’m at me strongest fer God is very near equippin’ me ta do His Will! ... I know His solution ta always be the best!”

“Lissen Paddy, I’ve got jus’ what ya need! ... Back befer a naughty leprechaun can blink his eye twice!”

Whether it had been a Heaven’s, cherubim, or a seraphim, or even a wicket imp from the manipulatin’ Evil One, I didna know-w-w but I had ta make me move now!

“Here Paddy me bauy! ... Some Dublin comfert! ... Ya know Paddy, ...  the secret recipe! ... Handed down by yer Grand Da! ... Drink her down straight! Here’s ta ar refill”            

“Nay-y-y Carl! ... Ya shouldna tempt yer very own priest!”            

Tempt ya? ... Nay-y-y Paddy! ... We’ve known each us since childhood, played tagether every day, shared many a whiskey bottle tagether in ar youth! ... So, down the hatch! ... Ar cares will soon be behind us!”             

“Think not Carl, we must remain obedient ta God’s laws - not follow the ways of this awful decrepit warld! ... Finish yer drink. One glass a day is guid fer yer physical health!  But take no more! ... Taday, we’ve no traditional occasion ta celebrate!  And Carl, what’s this ya say-y-y? ... Grand Da’s secret recipe? ... If ya be me true comrade ya can na implicate me in the sin of bootleggin’! Besides, I’ve a feelin’ that me werk here at this parish will be done soon enuf! ... Do na need an extra push!”            

“Ah-h-h Paddy! ... Ya’ll be here til’ Christ sends ya elsewhere!”            

“Carl, ar ya hidin’ somethin’ from me?’            

Fine Paddy, I’ll confess me sins officially! ... In the name of God, the Father Almighty, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, ...  I’ ve sinned against ya Lawrd, and against ya Paddy and I’m not worthy ta be fergiven! ... I humble meself and I’m truly contrite! ... Please be merciful ta me yer child!            

Ta begin Father, I’ve grown a distinct dislike fer two women council members of this parish! Their mean tongues lash out at ya like a cuttin’ whip!  Rejectin’ ya they do! They also make me feel lousy fer sayin’ that I do na belong here! Sorry, but I want revenge on those two old hags!”            

“Carl, I understand yer human reaction. Think! ...  Jesus taught us that we are ta luve ar enemies and any who wishes us harm - ta fergive them fer their spiritual blindness, ta help them ta turn from their sinful ways by usin’ situations exactly like these as opportunities ta show them how ta act like followers of Christ! Fer yer penance, ya ’ll go-o-o ta the first pew in front of God’s altar and say-y-y the Ten Commandments. Determine how each of them can help ya better serve Him!”

“I shall Father Paddy! … As fer me second offense, ... I ’ve a whiskey still in me bedroom closet I use fer givin’ alcoholic comfert ta me street lads. I ‘ve betrayed yer trust Paddy and understaund fully if ya ’ll no longer want me ta be yer friend!

I confess also that I take two ta four shots  of whiskey every day tryin’ ta drown me sorrow o’er me Kathleen fer havin’ left me! ... So befer ya tell me ta move out straight away in the morn and go back ta the streets, I want ya ta know that I luve the Lawrd jus’ the same and I’m glad ta have ya Paddy as me confidant and me priest!”

“What-t-t? … Lissen Carl! ... Ya ‘ll git rid of that whiskey-still immediately after yer confession! Demolish it, not simply transfer it ta some other location, be sure no one can find a piece of it, fer if anyone ever does, I’ll be sent ta a faraway monastery fer the rest of me days sworn ta silence. Or worse, lose me permit ta be a priest! … Clear, is it now?          

As fer ya deceivin’ me and puttin’ me service ta God in danger, I fergive ya befer ya even ask it ‘cus’ ya ’ve been honest! ... But, ne’er do so again! As Christians, we’re not victims of circumstances! We are part of what God is doin’ with us in the present. Ya ‘ve not been respectin’ God’s Divine Plan so ya ’ve been preventin’ Him from blessin’ ya!            

No doubt! He’s got yer attention ‘cus’ He wants ta sanctify yer life! ... Aye Carl! Ya ’ve been tested, ya ’ve confessed, now take responsibility fer yer spiritual growth! Let yer faith discipline ya by changin' yer actions ta please God and not yer selfish compulsions!            

Fer this immoral act, ya ‘ll pray: three ‘Ar Father’s’; then let yer heart tell Him how remorseful ya are! Thank Him fer all the many specific blessin’s He has bestowed upon ya! ...  Share yer concrete plans on how ya intend ta glorify Him ‘cus ya luve Him! Now remember Carl, God doesn’t need us but we need Him fer an eternity! He’ll ne’er give up on ya nor is He mad at ya either! ... Do ya have anythin’ else ta add?             

“Aye Paddy, I do-o-o! Since I’ve been here, I git awful lonely, ... culd I invite ...?”            

“Carl, I ferbid ya ta bring any loose woman here! ... Nay! Do na think of yerself as bein’ a widower and go-o-o a-fornicatin’ either! ... Y’ er still wearin yer gold weddin’ band! Even though Kathleen hasn’t returned yet, ya ’ll still consider yerself  ta bein’ married ta her in the eyes of God! .. ’T is adultery maun! Yer body is the temple of the Holy Spirit”            

“Ne’er crossed me mind fer a second Paddy! ... Nay, it’s only ta ask ya if a few street friends culd cum over so we could converse, watch a little TV.  Maybe I culd try and covert them by bringin’ them ta mass regularly! ... They’ll be well-dressed fer sure!”            

“Carl, I’d say, ya be a mighty fine maun indeed! God’s house is open ta all! That’s what Catholic means! ...  However, ...I can tell somethin’ else is definitely tormentin' ya!            

“True-e-e! ...  I’m ashamed ta ask ya though! ... How do I handle me temptation?”

“Ha, ha Carl!  Most people do na know!! .... Ignorance is ne’er an excuse !... Me bauy, temptation begins with a thought. In yer case, a glass of Irish whiskey! Then ya focus on the pleasure ya’ll git from it! ... Oh! Ya ’ll fantasize this same image o’er and o’er until yer mind reasons that the whiskey is guid fer ya! ... Ya’ ll even decide ta ignore the consequences! ... Befer ya realize what is really happenin’, yer Will consents fully ta yer desire! ... And Carl, avoid self-pity at all costs or ya’ll be caught in Satan’s trap!

The worst thing is, that with every time ya’ ll perform this same act, ya’ ll develop a habit that will permit ya ta bypass all the prior steps resultin’ in a lust after the bottle! Others around ya will soon learn yer way of dealin’ with yer personal misery. Dangerous! Yer spiritual disease culd spread ta them! Soon ya ’ll suffer guilt from yer disobedience ta God. Next, ya ’ll blame someone else - like Kathleen! ... So I advise ya ta change yer bad thought  ta a guid one when ya feel temptation! … Strive always ta be God’s presence! …  Ask Him what ya should do!”            

“Thank ya Paddy! ... I promise I’ll do the best I can!”            

“Carl, ya’ ll fall down many times! Remember Saint Peter when He said He would ne’er deny Christ? ... He did three times as Christ had prophesied! ... But at Pentecost Peter received the Holy Spirit that strengthened Him, the other apostles too, and all of God‘s followers includin’ us! Gettin’ back up ta fight the guid fight is what counts! Yer sins have been paid fer by Christ on the cross! ... Yer spiritual comferter gives ya peace!”            

Now me Lad, amend yer over-drinkin’! Ask the Father ta help ya find positive solutions other than whiskey! ... Enjoy a wee glass once and awhile when ya are happy!            

So, in the Name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, yer sins are absolved!” “But Father Paddy, I can na do me penance rit now. I drank too much whiskey!”

“I’m sure God ’ll overlook one half glass! ... Be on yer way now!”            

‘’Not so-o-o-o! When I went ta git the whiskey fer ya, ... well I downed two befer!’’

"Holy Mary, Mother of God! Carl, whatever will I do with ya?” ... Alright, say yer prayers of penance later on when ya are truly sober. If not, ya might as well slap Christ across the face! ... Watch out me bauy! ... Passive listenin’ leads ta spiritual death!” Since Monday was Paddy’s day off, I urged him ta visit Bums’ Alley. A half an hour later, me fersaken friends had caught his deep-seated interest! Moved by Christ Himself, Paddy soon made it a habit of hearin’ confessions weekly, and even set up a makeshift altar where he’d say a short mass. Most of society’s throwaways rapidly grew ta like him, trusted him too, felt inspired by the way he preached the Word of God!                       

If only ya culd ‘ve seen them! Their faith quickened, grew like mustard seeds! Father Paddy himself saw the walkin’ dead come alive again! ... Regrettably, amidst such joy, sometimes life can turn a person’s warld upside down! ... Poor Stephen, me closest pal, and latest convert, had come down with a fiendish fever.            

“Paddy, ar’ Brother here, is he gonna’ die-e-e?”            

“Nay Carl ... Not if I can help it! ... Let’s get him inta me car.”            

“Where are we takin’ him Paddy?’            

“Ta City General Hospital! ... Suspect he’s got pneumonia!”            

Me? .. Shocked beyond all words! Paddy pushes the petal ta the metal, weaves through traffic like an experienced captain in Galway Bay Harbor full of sailin’ ships. Red lights come and go, stop signs too, blarin’ his horn, ducks fender-benders, endures harsh insults too-o-o, we arrive at the emergency room all primed up!

“Hello! ... My name is Jane Walters. How may I help you?”

“I’m Father Patrick O’ Neil! ...  I want ta register this very sick maun fer long-term hospitalization! ... He’s in real rough shape! Breath is shallow! He’s wheezin’! ... Look!”

"Sir, I’m neither a nurse nor a doctor! ... His medical insurance plan please!”    

“Carl, give me Stephen’s wallet!’            

“Father, people such as Stephen and me, do na carry wallets! We do na exist as far as society is concerned! We ‘re nothin’ but rejects scroungin’ off the streets!”

“Ahem-m-m! ... Sorry! ... Father is it? Do you have a charity to help with the bills?

“I do na believe so Lass!”            

“Well Father in that case, we can’t admit him. He has no visible means to pay!”

“What? ... He’s a human bein’!  ...  A decorated war veteran he is! ... A hero!”  

“Then, maybe the Legion  or War Vet’s Clinic? ...  No?  I see! ... Hmmm! ... Next!”

“Wait! ... Fer the luve of God Miss Walters! ... He culd die -e-e … and soon! Surely yer Christian faith like Christ should drive ya ta have compassion fer this poor maun!

“Sir if you don’t step aside, I’ll be obliged to call hospital security!”          

“Nay-y-y! As one of Christ’s priests, I will not! Ya ’ll admit this man immediately!”

“No! Hospital Administration demands proof the patient can meet the costs!”    

“Ya and yer staff are slaves ta this warld! ... Fine! ’ll pay ya the  bloudy expense!”            

“In that case, fill out this form, give it back to me, sit him over there in one of those blue seats and the emergency doctor will call his name according to priority.”            

Two hours, then four hours dribble by. Paddy panics!            

“Miss Walters, how much longer is this gonna take? Stephen needs attention rit away, he does! ... Do somethin’ befer it’s too -o-o late!

“Like everyone else, he’ll have to wait his turn according to the rules! If we make an exception for one that would be unfair to others, now wouldn’t it? Go and sit down!”            

Six hours! ... Then seven!            

‘Stephen Flanders?’            

“Doctor, here’s the maun! ... Can ya admit him fer a fair stay-y-y-y-?”            

“Good evening, I’m Doctor Saunders. And, ... you are family?            

“Nay-y-y! ... ‘I m’ Reverend Patrick O’ Neil! ... Tryin’ ta save this old soldier’s life!”

“Hmm-m ... Let me see! ... Well Stephen, after examining you ole boy, both your lungs are infected with pneumonia. I’ll fix you up soon!  Go back and sit in the blue seat.            

“Doctor! ... Ya can save his life by puttin’ him in an oxygen tent!”            

“Listen Father, this man’s illness has advanced too far! Maybe ... a high dose of morphine pills might be in order to ease his suffering? ... And no, I cannot  admit him! ... Special equipment and beds are reserved for those who stand a good chance of full recovery. Your friend Stephen will pass away within the next twenty-four hours!            

So whether you like it or not, hospitals run on strict budgets just like any other business. Take these prescriptions, one is for antibiotics, the other is for morphine! ... I’ve got other patients to see! ... Be reasonable! ... Do what is best for your friend!

“Doctor, ya condemn this maun ta die-e-e on the street! ... Examine yer soul!”                   “This man condemned himself when he made his choice to live there!”            

“But ’t is against the Catholic faith ta induce death! ... We all must die naturally!”  

“Don’t hand me that! ... We have Catholics, Protestants - patients of all faiths, who come in here. Yes, and devoted priests just like yourself, as well as nuns! Sooner or later when their suffering becomes unbearable, they either gladly consent to take the morphine, or some family member, or some close friend signs for it on their behalf!                       

You talk of compassion and yet you want this man to suffer? ... You’d do more for a dog! ... Keep your preaching for your parishioners! ... Welcome to harsh reality! ... You choose! ... Besides not everyone believes in God you know! ... Sir, I have other patients!”                       

“Doctor if it were yer mother, wife, or child were in the same condition, would ya turn them away too-o-o? Y’er a liar if ya tell me ya would! I’m a chaplain here and I see patients dyin’ every day! … Nay, y’er sendin' Stephen away simply ‘cus he’s a vagrant!”            

And folks, we left! ... Filled the prescription only for the antibiotics, took him ta yer City Mission. Bruce McKinley at front desk checked him in, installed him a single room with a nice warm bed.

Near four o’clock in the morn, Stephen heard his death bell chimin’, confesses his sins ta Father, afterwards baptizes him as a precaution so his name would be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, then quietly beckons ta Bruce and me ta gather around. Stephen gazes gratefully inta ar eyes, took his last long wheezin’ gasp and passed on ta Paradise!

Cremated, no funeral service, a commemorative mass in the alley with his street buddies amongst garbage cans, dump-bins, traffic’s screamin’ sirens, and bonkin’ horns. 

Paddy also paid fer the cemetery lot, tombstone, and lettering. Me? ... Felt so awful useless, ashamed, … devastated!  With sorrowful tears, said me sincere prayers, swore ta God, that with His help, I’d turn me life around. Be a blessin’ ta everyone!

The next following Sunday I brought ten converted buddies ta mass. Aye! ... Their clothes freshly cleaned but baggy and out of fashion!

Nevertheless, we downtrodden, filled with the glory of God, walk straight up ta the first two pews. Aye we did! As usual, ya reluctant regulars sat from the middle ta the back. Overheard disapprovin’ whispers floatin’ around the room. Some disgruntled shifted as far away from us as they could! Didna matter! We, immersed in Christ’s presence, sang hymns, said ar prayers with joy, havin’ great expectation of them bein’ answered.

We should ‘ve been first in line fer communion befer all ya other guid Christians who rushed ahead of us ta receive the Body of Christ. Ah! I smile, wait patiently thinkin’: Those who cum first, will cum last, and those who cum last will cum first!’ 

After the service me friends returned ta the street, I go downstairs ta clean the furnace filter ‘cus spring was on the wing. Through the ducts, hear two familiar angry women’s voices verbally abusin’ Paddy! 

“Father Patrick, as chairperson of the parish council, there is no way we can tolerate Carl and his filthy riffraff to attend mass in our church anymore! You seem to take a delight encouraging the vices of this kind by keeping that thing here to do odd jobs!"

“Mrs. Cooper, ya had all agreed! ... ’T is are Christian duty ta help the marginal! God is everywhere! ... We are all disciples of Jesus! ... Ar business is savin’ souls and not discrininatin’ who should or shouldna cum ta mass! ... Ya can’t sit in judgment!

Christ Himself said: ‘Beloved, let us luve one another fer luve is of God: and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.’ ... We all belong ta Him! ... He knows His Lambs! ... His lambs know Him!’ ... So why the sudden change of heart?

I’m shakin’ me fist in the air at the gowl (nuisance) and rootin’ fer me Paddy ta really give it ta her!

O’ how this incident reminded me of an article I’d read about on Abraham Lincoln while havin’ a pint of draft at Daby-Darby’s Pub back in Ireland that read: ‘Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power!’...  As far as Paddy was concerned, he’d always shown mercy! ... These fiends showed none!

Do ya know she actually criticized the head choirmaster, Mrs. Campbell, so severely ‘til she quit and then took her place? Afterwards, she turns around and did the same ta Jane Hoffman who was in charge of organizing the ushers, altar servers, and the Eucharistic ministers! ...  And if that didna top it all off, she, somehow got ta be head of Liturgy! ... A real control freak she be!

“Father, I ‘d never agreed to Carl being here! ... Due to your influence upon the parish members, the council gave in to guilt and went against reason! ... But now we regained our senses even if you haven’t! That dirty baggage is to be gone by Saturday!”

“Please Mrs. Cooper! Yer cold reasonin’ reveals evil prejudice mixed with negative emotionalism that goes directly against God’s Will! ... ’T is false doctrine! ... Yer hateful immorality leads ta yer own spiritual suicide! Satan is usin’ yer mind as His battleground!

Yer conscience must know this ta be true from readin’ the Scripture up front nearly at every mass! ... Ya know obedience ta God compels us ta give up the warld’s values and ta follow His! ... The Holy Bible abounds in accounts that prove how God uses such insignificant individuals like Carl and his street people ta do His Work ta dumbfound the so-called wise like yerself! ... Nay-y-y ... I say-y-! ... They’re here ta stay-y-y!” 

“Now you hold on for a minute Father Patrick and to your Irish temper! ...That also is not appreciated in our country! ... Here, we depend upon logic - not blatant stupidity!

"And .. Mrs. Kennedy! ...  Not ya too-o-o!”

“Yes-s-s Father! ... I support Mrs. Cooper more now than ever! ... As you know, I am in charge of the Ladies’ Association ... and not you! ... The parish council with our organization have met of late and have already taken decision on this situation!  

We stand united and believe you must rid this parish of these unwanted street hoodlums on your own accord, ... or ...  we’ ill be justifiably obliged to write a report about this indecent matter and send it promptly to the attention of Bishop Richards!”

“Nay-y-y again Mrs. Cooper!  We must be humble and have a servant’s spirit!  … Jesus taught us: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers fer they are called the children of God.’

Even ar Savoir kept company with thieves, tax collectors, beggars, prostitutes, and even murders! Ar Lawrd came ta earth ta save all of us sinners! He asks us ta be helpin’ Him - not rejectin’ the oppressed like the ancient Pharisees and Sadducees did! ... We must Luve ar neighbor as arself!”... Christ’s commands us! ... His Laws ar irrefutable!”

“What Father Patrick? ...  Hurl ridiculous demands and insults at me will you! ... If you insist on this hard line, then we will have no other alternative than to request in our report that you should be sent to another parish! We don’t want a priest like you who is going to accept stinking bums in here off the streets so our children can be exposed to their diseases and vice! Maybe that’s the way it’s done in Ireland but certainly not here!

Oh! And, while I’m at it!  We, and many parish members, are sick and tired of hearing how great it was over in your homeland! ... Sir-r-r, we have are own culture! It is for you to adapt to our country! Stop assimilating us into your Dublin country way of life!

Even your grammar and vocabulary can be downright annoying and hard to understand at times! We speak proper English here - not some quaint Irish dialect! ... And, if you were happier in Ireland, …  then maybe you should go back there to live!

“And ya Mrs. Kennedy? I can see that ya still haven’t finished with me yet either!’

Absolutely true Father O’Neil! ...  I can’t for the life of me understand how you can be on your computer for hours on end! ... You should be calling on the sick and going about God’s business! ... What do you find so stimulating that causes you to be addicted to a machine whiling away your time on some obscene website or goodness knows what!

Wait Father! ... Wait, there’s something else! ... Why are you always loitering around public places like our post office and fast food restaurants, gabbing away to anyone who is gullible enough to listen to your homeland stories! You ’re neither a prophet nor the pope! ... Anything you want to add Mrs. Cooper?

Click Here to read Part 2.

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