Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

The Voice Within: Part 2

My friend gave me a detailed account of how her boyfriend had convinced her into skipping work for a week, and how she had her friends loan her money to facilitate their getaway. Consequently, her boss had been calling enquiring about her whereabouts and she was afraid she was going to get fired.

Furthermore, pretty much everything the boyfriend had told her about himself since they met was hot air. He was not even remotely an eighth of the established man he had misrepresented himself to be. He was impecunious, and unemployed.

Owing to this, she did not know how she was going to pay back all the money she had borrowed from friends; and all this, she found out from her parents, who had decided to go digging for information when their daughter went missing.

Worse still, her parents were furious at her for sneaking off with her boyfriend, who in their opinion was as irresponsible as they came. In their opinion, no responsible guy would let a woman he loved get into trouble with all her loved ones, and her employer. It was all so messy, and I felt sorry for my friend, for being caught up in such a quandary. Love had put her in this mess.

For five long hours we just talked on the phone. She cried, poured her heart out, and I interjected occasionally, comforting her. Honestly, heart breaking as her situation was, I was relieved it was not something that would put her in conflict with the law.

Like I said before, I had a feeling the relationship was doomed to fail. There were red signs at every turn, and as such, the writings were very clear on the wall. I just hoped the pain would be bearable for my friend, when the split finally happened.

When she told me how she had broken up with the manipulative boyfriend after finding out about all the lies he’d fed her since they met, I told her I had prayed for God to guide her. I feared she was in danger and love had blinded her, so she could not see the abyss she was walking into. In light of that, I told her I was of the opinion everything that was unfolding was God’s way of guiding her.

One thing I’m gradually learning as I go along, is that God’s Holy Spirit usually talks to us. Nonetheless, most of us usually ignore that voice within. Pope Francis, in his Pentecost Sunday homily on 23rd May 2021, said, “The Paraclete (Holy Spirit) is also the Advocate. In Jesus’ day, advocates did not do what they do today: rather than speaking in the place of defendants, they simply stood next to them and suggested arguments they could use in their defence.

That is what the Paraclete does, for he is ‘the Spirit of truth’. He does not take our place, but defends us from the deceits of evil by inspiring thoughts and feelings. He does so discreetly, without forcing us; He proposes but does not impose. The spirit of deceit, the evil one, does the opposite: he tries to force us; he wants to make us think that we must always yield to the allure and the promptings of the vice”.

In life, we need to listen to the voice within. The red signs we see when dealing with other people, our gut feeling warning us of imminent danger… I believe that’s the Holy Spirit guiding us; because like the Pope said, the Spirit of truth does not impose, He only proposes. Thus, the onus to choose how to proceed in any given situation is on us.

The Voice Within: Part 1

About a fortnight ago, one of my friends called. I had missed her call when she had called earlier, so she texted, asking me to call her back soonest possible. By the time I was seeing her call it was close to eleven o’clock at night, and knowing her, I was pretty sure she was deep in slumber. Furthermore, I could tell from the sense of urgency that something was wrong. Ergo, I texted her apologising for not picking up when she called.

As I had expected, she did not reply my text, until the next morning. She said she was not ok, and in any case, she was barely holding on to her sanity and was afraid she was at the verge of a massive mental break down. Obviously I panicked because every time she calls sounding so frantic, it’s never good. Unfortunately, it was early Sunday morning and I had to prepare for mass, so I asked her if I could call her once mass ended and she agreed.

Our phone calls usually go on for hours and I knew if I got started I would miss out on mass. As agreed, I called her back and she was crying uncontrollably. “Everyone was right,” she sobbed. At that point, I knew what the issue was and I really pitied her. It was about her relationship with her boyfriend. For the longest time, I had warned her the guy she was dating was a walking time bomb.

Though I had never met him, I hated everything I had heard from my friend about him. He cheated on her, and every time he feared she would find out, he would bring up an issue questioning her faithfulness to him, just to try and deflect the blame. My friend was always walking on eggshells, afraid that something would detonate the ticking time bomb he was.

The first time she broke up with him I told her it was for the best, and though she was hurting, she also concurred with me. Sadly, they got back together and I didn’t know what to tell her. She was voluntarily walking into a furnace, and I had no way of stopping her. She would burn, that was discernibly inevitable and much as I worried for her well-being, I could only sit back and pray for the best.

“What did he do?” I asked, dreading what she was going to tell me.

“It’s not what he did,” she sniffled. “But what he made me do”. My heart sank. That statement portended untold horror. Since I was already privy to what that guy was capable of, I took a deep breath, waiting for my friend to drop the bombshell. I knew it wouldn’t be good, but I also knew whatever the case, I would be there for her; because that’s what friends are for.

Women are their Own Worst Enemies

A couple of years ago I went for mass on a Saturday evening, and while I don’t remember much about that mass, two things stuck in my mind: the priest who celebrated that mass, and what he said. The reason I remember that priest, is because a few months after that Saturday, he got kicked out of priesthood by the Pope because of involving himself in some very shady business.

That notwithstanding, I remember the theme of his sermon that evening, because though his personal conduct said otherwise, his words made so much sense. “The Holy Spirit speaks to each one of us,” he’d said. “The only difference is, not all of us choose to listen”.

“Today is Saturday, yet you’re here, when you could be out there doing something else, like watching a game or relaxing after a busy week. Why did you come to church?” He’d asked.

He went on to explain how God talks to every one of us. “That nagging voice in your head telling you not to do something because it’s wrong…or the persistent voice telling you do to something because it’s the right thing, however hesitant you feel about it? That’s God talking to you, through your conscience. Difference is, some of us choose to ignore that voice”.

As he continued talking, I realized how right he was. I hear that voice too, and while sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t. Lately I have been thinking an awful lot about that. This rumination has been brought on by an unpleasant encounter my big sister has had with one of her former lecturers.

Three years ago, my sister graduated with a Masters degree, then this year she decided to further her studies and she went on to identify the university she wanted to do her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) studies in. One of the application requirements is that two referees submit letters of recommendation in her favour.

Given how active she was in school, it didn’t take her long to identify her two referees. She talked to both of them, and they were glad to write her the recommendation. As procedure demands, she went on to submit the names of her two referees, and the university sent them the submission links.

However, something interesting happened. Of the two lecturers, one of them ‘got cold feet’, and decided to bail on my sister. We’ve tried coming up with some rational explanations as to why she’d bail last minute, but we haven’t been able to come up with anything reasonable.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m attributing her hesitance to one unsightly reason; jealousy. See this lecturer is a doctor (PhD) herself, and up until recently, she was so fond of my sister. She even referred to her with very sweet endearments. She came off as motherly.

She always told my sister how smart she was, then this one time she found my sister in class reading and she was like, “I wish my children read as much as you do”. My sister was one of her favourite students. Then going by the date the other referee rung my sis confirming he’d received the link from the University, this one turned hostile.

Firstly, she never called to confirm she had received the link; and secondly, when my sis called to ask about it a few days later because the submission deadline was fast approaching, she said she had not received the link and she frostily asked my sis to stop nagging her.

My guess is, it had not occurred to her what university my sister was applying to, but when she received a link from the acclaimed prestigious university, it dawned on her that my sister wouldn’t just be getting her PhD from any local university, but from an internationally renowned institution. Like I said before, maybe I’m wrong, and it’s just my mind working overtime.

Frustrated, my sis sought further directions from the University and they said they don’t resend links, but they kindly gave her an alternative email address where the letter of recommendation can be sent. Subsequently, she texted the lecturer, asking if it was ok to call because she figured the lecturer could be having a class. Obviously, the lecturer did not reply.

Later in the evening, my sis called her, hoping she would pick up at least. She did. Nonetheless, she only shouted icily, “I’m in class!” And that was the end of it. Now my sis is stranded… Time’s ticking…every item on the application list has been checked, except that lecturer’s recommendation letter. Worse still, now we’re worried what kind of recommendation she would make, given how she seems to abhor my sister; for reasons best known to her.

This had me thinking… it is true what people say, “Women are their own worst enemies”. The way I see it, this lecturer would have been so ready to write a letter of recommendation if it was not being addressed to some fancy institution. However, it appears she just can’t stand the thought of someone else going to possibly a better institution than she did, and to get a PhD, like her.

Furthermore, this has me wondering whether her conscience is ok with what she is doing. Is she suppressing that inner voice telling her what she’s doing to my sister is wrong? When my sister called, why didn’t she call back later if she knew she was genuinely held up? If she really is telling the truth about not having received the link, wouldn’t she be the one asking my sister for alternatives if she really wanted to help?

From a lawyer’s perspective, her actions are screaming, ‘Consciousness of guilt!’ That’s a concept in criminal law where, someone runs when they see police officers even if the officers are not necessarily after them because deep down they know they are doing something unlawful, so they might get arrested. It is tacit self-incrimination.

There’s that saying, “A candle does not lose its light by lighting another candle”. I couldn’t agree more. We don’t lose anything by helping others.

Lord Save me

Since Covid-19 became the most talked about phenomenon of year 2020, I’ve come across several covid-related memes; and, I thank God for humour because in the wake of this invisible monster, it’s one of the few things keeping people afloat.  This pandemic has made life relatively miserable…most of us thought we had problems, then covid came and proved to us that even when we feel things are bad, they could get worse in the blink of an eye.

As it is, we’re living in very precarious times. Even when making future plans, there’s that nagging thought at the back of one’s mind, that nothing’s certain anymore. I have across poignant stories about people who were ok before covid struck, then things went downhill too first…lost job… lost house, and before one could fathom what was happening, they were out on the streets…cold, with no place to call home.

This year has been very hard… Personally, I’ve been trying to find motivation from wherever I can, because what I have realised over time, is that if one has faith and hope, they can withstand, pretty much any predicament. In the same vein, if one has no faith, it becomes a matter of free-falling.

One such story is that Biblical story of Simon Peter, when he was out in the sea. One night, when he was in a boat with the rest of the disciples, they saw Jesus. Peter, asked Him to command him to walk on water, and Jesus did. However, after a while, Peter’s faith faltered and he started sinking.

Simon Peter walks on water

“Lord save me”, he cried out. More often than not, we forget God’s watching over us and the only prayer we need to say, is ‘Lord save me’, and He will come to our rescue. As seen during Elijah’s time when he was hiding in a cave, for fear that Queen Jezebel would have him killed, God appears to us discreetly. Chances us are He won’t come in a powerful wind, or earthquake…

As many may have noticed, He comes when someone’s about to give up. This means, we should not despair when things are not going the way we want… and we shouldn’t get tired of praying. Like I have said in previous posts, God may take time to answer when we call, but when He shows up eventually, He answers our prayers in style.

God, where are you?

When is today? Same day as yesterday…and the day before that, right? Nowadays it’s hard telling days apart. Even before this distressing pandemic befell us, when staying home wasn’t the new ‘normal’, I could tell Monday from Friday, because at the least, I had Sundays to break the monotony. Now that is not possible as well because churches have been banned as a way of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

In all my life, I have never experienced so much uncertainty as I am now. Each day passes by with every moment angst-filled. Once upon a time, watching TV was fun…but nowadays, there are the incessant live updates about the state of COVID. Nothing’s normal anymore…

I miss going out and not having to worry about touching things because they could be contaminated, or getting close to people…I miss walking into several stores in a day, and not having to rub different sanitizers on my hands before getting in each store…I miss walking outside, inhaling the fresh air, without the irritating inhibition of face masks…I miss walking into a mall, without being subjected to ‘hospital-like’ protocols, such as screening before going about with my business.

I miss waking up to the cheerful sound of children playing outside…I miss seeing jolly neighbours laughing at a barbecue, clinking bottles of beer on a warm Sunday afternoon…I miss hearing the occasional happy birthday songs when my neighbours’ kids are all gathered in one of their friend’s house cutting cake…or seeing them jumping on a bouncing castle… I miss…[sigh]… I miss…many things…I miss normal!

I miss going about with my normal routine, and not having to constantly worry about the people close to me, who I cannot see every day; because Corona is like an armoured thief lurking in the dead of night, waiting to creep in when someone’s guard is down. It’s like being in the battlefield, and knowing any bullet fired could be the ‘one’…

I miss days when one could just cough or sneeze freely, without fear of being suspected of having corona. I miss days when COVID-19 updates were not the main focus on TV. It’s even more disturbing, thinking all those numbers denote actual lives… It feels like we’re in a twilight zone…

Million dollar question is, when this invisible monster is ravaging the world at a terrifyingly callous rate, where is God? Of the things I have learnt to appreciate during this imposed ‘quarantine’ period, is the fact that I can ‘travel’ to the Vatican any day I want and attend mass, celebrated by His Holiness, the Pope.

One of the memorable masses is Good Friday’s mass, where the homily was given by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. He said something that answered that million dollar question, which I believe so many people around the globe are asking, “God, where are you? If you’re real, why have you let this monster run loose?”

Fr. Cantalamessa said, “The pandemic of coronavirus has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to: the delusion of omnipotence. A Jewish rabbi has written that we have the opportunity to celebrate a very special paschal exodus this year, that “from the exile of consciousness”. It took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal, that military power and technology are not sufficient to save us…

While he was painting frescoes in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the artist James Thornhill became so excited at a certain point about his fresco that he stepped back to see it better and was unaware he was about to fall over the edge of the scaffolding. A horrified assistant understood that crying out to him would only have hastened the disaster. Without thinking twice, he dipped a brush in paint and hurled it at the middle of the fresco.

The master, appalled, sprang forward. His work was damaged, but he was saved. God does this with us sometimes: He disrupts our projects and our calm to save us from the abyss we don’t see. But we need to be careful not to be deceived. God is the not the one who hurled the brush at the sparkling fresco of our technological society. God is our ally, not the ally of the virus!

He Himself says in the Bible, “I have…plans for your welfare and not for woe” (Jer 29:11). If these scourges were punishments of God, it would not be explained why they strike equally good and bad, and why the poor usually bring the worst consequences of them. Are they more sinners than others? No!

The one who cried one day for Lazarus’ death cries today for the scourge that has fallen on humanity. Yes, God “suffers”, like every father and like every mother. When we will find out this one day, we will be ashamed of all accusations we made against Him in life.

God participates in our pain to overcome it. “Being supremely good”, wrote St. Augustine, God will not allow any evil in His works, unless in His omnipotence and goodness, he is able to bring forth good out of evil”’’.

The homily was relatively long, but in a nutshell, Fr. Cantalamessa assured listeners, that God does not bring about disasters. You know that concept of free will given to man by God? Nature was given that freedom to evolve as well. This is because when God created the world, He did not intend things to just function mechanically, in a manner that would be so predictable.

I know these words won’t do much to calm all the anguished hearts, but I pray, they will bring some slight comfort to all those who are afflicted and grieving over the loss of loved ones. This is not easy, but we will triumph over it, the same way Jesus triumphed over death. God is with us.

Here’s to… my first legal job: Part 2

Earlier that day, my boss had arrived at the court late, and somehow thought it would be wise to put the blame on me. This was despite the fact that I had found someone to hold brief for him, requesting for the case file to be set aside. I had even notified him about it, detailing what had transpired in court in his absence, and even texted him the exact time the matter would be coming up again.

However, previous incidents of me shouldering blame for faults that were not mine had made me realize I could not continue carrying myself as a martyr. I would only, own up to my mistakes. Furthermore, stoicism wasn’t working for me, because the anguish was ravaging me, from the inside.

That day, a fellow colleague and I were summoned to my boss’ office, to be reprimanded for being incompetent. The lady partner was also present, and all she was doing was fanning dying embers. That is when it became vividly clear, what her intentions were. She did not like me one bit and she would do whatever it took to make my time there miserable as hell.

Unbelieving, and unable to fathom what was happening right in front of me, I explained to my boss all the concerns I had; all of which he seemed to understand. For the first time in a while, I felt the weight on my chest ease. I laid everything bare, detailing the instances they had faulted me for their own mistakes.

Afterwards, my boss went back to how he was in January; calm, and soft-spoken. However, that was not meant to last, as I would later discover. Two weeks ago, my colleague and I expressed our concerns about going to work amid the coronavirus outbreak, seeing how fast it is spreading and our work entailed filing matters in court and serving. On a good day I would spend about two hours in the office. The rest I spent out, running office errands.

The boss’ reply was, if we skipped work without leave, we would not get paid. Given what was at stake, I opted to pass on the money, and so did my friend. We even agreed to quit because the office was becoming too toxic. As my friend had put it, even other colleagues had started showing their true colours.

One thing I’m not sure I like about the legal profession, is that there’s a hierarchy, where someone is regarded, based on when they were admitted to the bar-‘seniority’. In layman’s term, it is an equivalent to how in the society young people are supposed to respect their elders. In this case, an ‘elder’ could be a twenty six year old, who was lucky enough to join the profession early, lording it over a fifty year old, who decided to become a lawyer after completing a PhD in an entirely different field.

Therefore, due to this concept of seniority, the ones at the bottom of the chain such as my friend and I, who are merely pupils, might end up getting overworked or maltreated by the rest. That is something my boss’ partner was keen on implementing, because she told my boss succinctly, that pupils should be the ones doing the bulk of the work.

This is what made my friend and I opt to skip work, given that most of the work assigned to us was clerical work, which ordinarily would be assigned to the firm’s clerk, or a certified process server. Next thing I knew, I was reading a letter of summary dismissal. Honestly, the letter caught me by surprise because I had not done anything to warrant dismissal.

Here’s to… my first legal job: Part 1

Toast to 1

Last year December was not a very good time for me, reason being, I was so anxious about starting my pupillage. See, I went for my interview in mid-August when I was still in bar school. At the time I was still preparing for my bar exams. Ergo, the mere thought of starting on a tasking job was automatically out of topic.

My supposed pupil master seemed so eager to send me on errands, even before I formally started working. Due to this, I feared once I started working, he would overwork me. I had heard several ‘horror’ stories about other students’ horrible experience during their pupillage, so that made me very cautious. I prayed I would not have one of my own to give after my pupillage.

However, when I reported to work in January this year, everything I had worried about seemed like an unnecessary fear. The first few weeks felt like heaven. Every evening when I got home, I would go to bed eagerly awaiting to rouse early the next day, so I could go to work. My job, actually felt like a dream job.

In late January my good work relationship with my boss  turned sour abruptly, and my ‘dream job’ became the sole cause of my anguish. I dreaded going to work, and whenever I sensed my boss’ presence, I would get knots in my stomach. I hated being at work, because every encounter with my boss was awfully stressful.

I bet one would wonder what I did to damage my once good relationship with my boss? Saddest thing is, even if I went back in time, I wouldn’t be able to change a thing; because all of that was not because of anything I had done.

See during the first few weeks, my boss’ partner was still MIA. I had only met her once during an end of year party I had been invited to by my boss. Funny thing is, my instincts told me she and I would have trouble getting along. Interestingly, at the time she had not done anything specific; it was just my intuition.

When she finally started showing up at the office constantly, she and my immediate boss started having constant impromptu meetings. Coincidentally, every time they met up to discuss ‘God knows what’, my boss would become visibly hostile towards me. My guess is, she had admonished him about seeming too friendly. Consequently, he started nit-picking, invariably blaming me for everyone else’s faults, literally. Sometimes I even got the weird feeling he was getting a kick out of making me miserable.

I know this might sound like I’m trying to ward off blame, but truth is, my personal work ethic dictates that when I’m working on something, I should give it my best shot. For the longest time, that has been my guiding principle. Even at the office, everything was running smoothly, until that lady showed up. Every time I found myself at the verge of quitting, I would ask God for the grace to push on; because my completion of the pupillage was, and still is, a prerequisite to me getting admitted to the bar.

After a careful deliberation, I decided to have a discussion with my boss. He had to know my perception of things, if we were to continue working together. Thankfully, I did not have to ask him to spare me a few minutes of his time; the opportunity presented itself in a very unprecedented manner.

Joy of Christmas

Every Christmas I find a Christmas carol which rings in my head the entire season. In most cases it’s a reflection of my feelings. It’s not something I do consciously; I just hear a song and depending on my mood, I’ll find myself singing it over and over again.

This Christmas, two songs have stood out: John T. Williams’ Home Alone 2 (movie) version of ‘Somewhere in my memories’ and Pentatonix’ ‘Where are you Christmas?’ The former fills me with nostalgia as I remember the happy feelings I always have on Christmas.

The latter on the other hand, is an expression of the turmoil in my head this season:

Where are you Christmas?

Why can’t I find you?

Why have you gone away?

Where is the laughter you used to bring me?

Why can’t I hear music play?

My world is changing

I’m rearranging

Does that mean Christmas changes too?

Yesterday was Christmas day…for some reason however, it did not feel quite like it. In the evening I looked at my phone, and obviously the date on the screen was 25th December. If I didn’t know better, I would say my phone was malfunctioning, because the day itself just felt ordinary. I was not bubbling over with my usual Christmas cheer…and neither were my family members.

Light-heartedly, I said, “My phone shows it’s 25th….and that’s Christmas day!”

“What?” My big sis, getting what I was insinuating feigned surprise. Mom however, did not get my drift so she said it was Christmas indeed.

“Of course it’s Christmas,” I affirmed. “It just doesn’t feel like it”. Christmas is usually a big deal to me. It is my favourite season of the year. To me, it represents hope. My sisters and I have this tradition of watching Hallmark Christmas movies. For anyone who’s into them like we are, you will notice they are relatively predictable.

Most are usually premised on a love story, where a lady and a guy meet. Over time they develop feelings for each other, but then they run into what feels like an insurmountable hurdle. With determination either from both parties or just one of them, they find a grand solution to the problem and they end up together. Sometimes there’s a dash of Christmas magic…

My sisters and I are big on happy endings. Therefore it’s not hard to understand why these movies are so appealing to us. In a way, they are a representation of hope: broken families are reunited; lonely hearts find love, people who had stopped believing in the Christmas magic find a reason to believe again…  The movies are simply inundated with hope, and that’s what Christmas is all about; the wonderful gift of hope.

This year though, I have been running low on the Christmas cheer. I know a huge contributor to that has been this awful fatigue that’s been making me feel so worn out. This year has been a very busy one for me. At the start of the year I got into bar school and I only managed to come up for air when I finished my bar exams in late November.

Seemingly, the fatigue has aggravated my anxiety so I’ve been feeling on edge these last couple of weeks. Everytime I try to shake off the angst but the general atmosphere at home hasn’t helped the situation. This, I think, is what has robbed me off my Christmas cheer this season.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like the song by Pentatonix voices out their emotion, and there are several reasons this could be attributed to: it could be a family feud that has members distancing themselves from each other; or it could be because one has been hoping by the time the year ends they will have found love but they haven’t yet.

It could also be because a couple was hoping to get a child this year but they haven’t; or someone was hoping to get an end of year promotion but it didn’t come. It could also be because one’s fallen behind on paying their debts now they are drowning in arrears…the list is endless.

During the third Sunday of Advent, that is last Sunday but one, the priest gave an uplifting sermon about the joy of Christmas…and yesterday in church he reiterated what he had said then: the reason for this Christmas season is Jesus Christ.

We often think that having everything in life will make us happy. However, that is a fallacy. I remember watching Alladin, where Will Smith, who plays the genie cautions Alladin against drinking from the cup of voracious power because, not even all the money in the world could ever feel enough. That is true. The more one gets, the more they want…

In reality, the things we think might bring us joy might just turn out to be the bane of our lives: the child a couple thought would bring them joy might be the one who brings them tears and immense sadness; the spouse one waited for, for so long might be one who causes them anguish.

In light of this, we need to realize that all the joy we need can only be found in Jesus Christ. When one finds the joy of Christ, they can be happy even when they’re sick, childless, hungry…etc. That’s the joy we’re reminded to find this season. Speaking from experience, I know that’s easier said than done…but when we find that joy, everything will feel right…

I sort of got stuck on the first part of Pentatonix’ song, but towards the end, lies the answer:

Christmas is here… everywhere

If you care

If there is love in your heart and your mind

You will feel like Christmas all the time.

As we’re nearing the end of year 2019, I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous Year 2020!

Why do you believe?

Why do you believe in God? If you heard, say through social media, that your religious leader/spiritual guide was involved in some very shady dealings, would you stop believing in God? Would you stop going to your place of worship? I know it is very easy for people to get discouraged, when they are made privy to unsettling stories about their religious leaders. Question is, should that cripple our faith in God?

A couple of years ago, I shared a post about a priest in my church who got involved in some very murky affairs, and all in the quest to have the parish priest removed from office, so he could be the parish priest.

At the time the story caught me by surprise because the parish priest at the time was a very jovial and kind man of God. He was humble and even in his interaction with people, it was difficult to fault him for any malice, hypocrisy, or anything of the sort. His kind personality notwithstanding, some devious congregants conspired with the assistant priest and came up with very serious allegations that had our parish priest suspended.

The cardinal set up a team, which set out to investigate these defamatory allegations; which included womanising and practising black magic. A couple of months later, a report was sent to our church revealing the findings of the investigation. By then, neither of the two priests was in our church.

Worse still, the entire missionary society had pulled out from our church so now we had new priests. The parish priest read the report to us and just as I had thought, the former parish priest had been found innocent. None of the sixteen allegations against him were confirmed.

On the other hand, we were informed that the conniving assistant priest had been dismissed from priesthood by the Pope. Reason being, he was found guilty of various offences, which were a violation of the sanctity of priesthood, in the strict sense; since ideally a priest is meant to be a representative of Christ on earth.

That announcement made me question many things about the church. I knew there were priests out there who molested children, or even sired children with women, yet a Catholic priest is required to be celibate…Now to add to the list, there was a priest practising black magic.

I thought about my personal interactions, with that assistant priest –for instance during confession- and I felt scared, because I wondered where he drew the line between serving God and practising black magic.

I questioned the effect of him celebrating mass, and worst of all consecrating the bread and wine to turn them into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Had any of that been real given his already tainted soul? To some extent I felt duped.

There I was, dedicating my whole soul to God, yet the person who was meant to be loosely put, ‘holier than me’ was there invoking powers from the underworld. Speaking from experience, it can be really disheartening.

Now fast-forward to the present, I have read online about this disturbing story of a priest who was found dead and it is alleged he was killed by a fellow priest. How do we trust murderers to guide us to heaven? It really is disheartening.

Then following further investigations, there’s been a twist…it is alleged, this priest was in a gay relationship and his supposed lover is the one who killed him. Technically, a priest should not even be getting involved in romantic relationships with women, leave alone men; which part of society still frowns upon. So that raises a lot of concerns, especially where believers imagine, priests are very holy people.

From where I’m sitted, I feel it is very easy to lose faith in God, if it’s premised on the holiness – or lack of it thereof- of our spiritual shepherds. I remember when I was in boarding school, there was this priest who used to come to church with blood-shot eyes, courtesy of alcoholism, and in my infantile mind I found everything wrong with that. As I was growing up however, I realised alcoholism was only the least of a priest’s shortcomings.

So with all these occurrences, how does one still ignore everything and continue attending mass, with the nagging thought at the back of the mind that the priest celebrating mass could be getting apprehended for murder, rape…etc. sooner than later?

In my humble opinion, one should nurture their faith in God, in a way that it won’t come crumbling down the minute news of a priest’s/religious leader’s flaws start spreading on social media. Normally, I discourage those around me from ‘getting prayed for’ by others. This is because, I believe praying is a gift God has given us all for free, so we don’t need ‘middle men’.

Attending mass, from a Catholic’s perspective is highly encouraged. However, one should not just be attending mass for the sake of it. One’s faith should be so strong, such that even when we hear our beloved priests committed a felony, we won’t get easily discouraged. I like to remind myself that all these spiritual shepherds are also human.

The implication of this is that, they are prone to sin like the rest of us. Therefore, one shouldn’t base all their faith in them, but in God, who has commissioned them to spread His Holy word. That way, it won’t matter what our religious guides do backstage when they are not ministering. We should always remember that when all this is over, we will stand before God, individually. It won’t matter if our spiritual guides were murderers, paedophiles, home wreckers…etc.; of importance will be, what we did with our lives…

Humble yourself and God will lift you up

Imagine you got invited to a high-end party…and when you arrive at the venue, you find seats are organized in such a way that all the VIPs have their own special area reserved, as it usually is in most cases. Therefore when you get there, you quietly (without any drama) take a seat at some table meant for the rest of the hoi polloi.

However, when the host sees you, they happily walk over to you and tell you that you’re sitted at a wrong table. Furthermore, they respectfully walk you to a seat reserved just for you at the VIP section. How amazing would that feel? I know I would be stoked.

Then, consider a contrary situation where you’re already sitted at the VIP section, then some ‘big shot’ makes their way to your table, in the company of their entourage. Judging by their flashy clothes and accessories, you surmise they are very, very important persons. In their presence you feel very small.

When almost everyone is in attendance, the host walks to the ‘big shot’ sitted at your table, and whispers something in their ear. You just watch as they rise to their feet, their face awash with palpable rage and shame. Albeit you didn’t overhear what the host whispered to them, you gather from the rest of the VIPs at your table that the person was sitted at the wrong table and should have been at the ‘commoner’s’ area; moreover, the particular seat is reserved for some other VIP.

This hypothetical scenario is based on this past Sunday’s readings in church (Luke 14: 1 – 14). Jesus was invited to the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees. There, on noting the sitting arrangements, He told a parable to the guests in attendance. “When you are invited by anyone to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honour, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him.

And he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man’, and then you will begin with shame, to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’. Then, you will be honoured in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.

Jesus also went ahead to caution the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite friends or your brothers, or your kinsmen or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just”.

Jesus’ teachings encourage us to be humble. If we don’t go around blowing our own trumpets and seeking praise from others, God will Himself uplift us. In the parable, He would be the host who invites the humble guest to sit at the high table.

Most of us thrive on publicity, and as result we end up doing things that might be deemed despicable. Case in point is Farrah Abraham’s recent ‘wardrobe malfunction’ at the Venice Film Festival. While the jury is still out on whether the ‘malfunction’ was accidental or choreographed, I’m of the humble opinion her reaction was too blasé for it to be considered inadvertent. Methinks it’s just another case of ‘Bad publicity is better than no publicity’.

Based on what I’ve gathered over time, some people gain popularity without even trying. I know some people who are so successful in life, but you wouldn’t know unless you deliberately set out on a quest to find information about them.

There are these verses of the Bible I love:

Matthew 6: 3-4: “When you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. Then it will be a private matter. And your Father who sees what you do will reward you”.

Matthew 6:6: “But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. And your Father who sees what you do in private will reward you openly”.

These verses encourage us to carry on with our affairs in confidence. Looking at it from Jesus’ perspective, one needs to be very humble for them not to go telling every one of their achievements. It really takes so much strength to keep good things to ourselves.

Sometimes we go ‘rubbing’ our achievements in people’s faces, partly out of excitement, and partly as a way of showing off. I suppose what Jesus is discouraging is pride. As the saying goes, “Pride comes before a fall”. Logically, one cannot be proud and humble at the same time. So it’s always a matter of personal choice.