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Forgive me Father
By Ravi Lobo - New Jersey

April 25, 2008

All major religious traditions carry basically the same message that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.
- His Holiness The Dalai Lama

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
- Mother Teresa

Finally a Christian

Normally, people can not remember events before age 5; but with authors, poets and semi talented writers (like me) it is a different matter. They can remember events much before age 5, or at least imagine what would have happened.

When I was about to be baptized I clearly remember the priest asking – “I am sorry, what’s the name again?”

“It is - Ravi Lobo - father” my parents replied in unison.

“What kind of a totally uncreative, moronic, non-catholic name is this?” he muttered, and reluctantly added, “Do you guys need a 5 minutes time out to come up with a better name?”

“No father, we are kind of finalized on this one” my parents replied.

That’s how the name stuck to me, even though my parents had a second chance to think about it.

Never the less the priest said some more prayers, and sprinkled cold water on me! What kind of person sprinkles cold water on a baby less than 2 months old? But I guess that is the only authentic way of becoming a "real" catholic.

This childhood incident subconsciously created a kind of bond between me and priests I would come across in future.


A soldier of Christ

Father Bernard was probably one of the toughest priests I had ever come across. He was really big, physically as well as matters of the heart. Students were scared of him. There were rumors that he had a gun! Hence in a sense, he was kind of true soldier of Christ!

What ever it is - there is no doubt that his intentions always were good for his people and students. In short he was like coconut – tough outside, nice inside!

One time he noticed, few people attending mass standing outside, even though the church was practically empty. Some of them were smoking. Bernard stopped the mass, went to the guys standing outside, "you guys either go home or come inside," he hollered. They really wanted to go home. But none of them had the courage, quietly they entered the church.

Another time, for some silly reason students went on strike. The whole college was on the road, classes were empty. Teachers were in the canteen not knowing what to do. There was a kind of tension in the atmosphere. When Bernard came to know about this, he went directly into the mob.

“Who ever wants to go on strike step forward, rest go to their class” he said, standing among the huge student crowd. Being a literal person I was about to step forward. “Are you crazy? He will kill you” my friends stopped me. No one stepped forward; everyone went back to their class.

Another time a bus driver made a mistake – he either hit a student or did something wrong. The next day evening, students were playing in the ground “Boys,” Bernard shouted, “Follow me, we need to stop a bus”. I was reluctant this time, but he was real.

An enormous student crowd lead by Bernard stopped the bus from its evening trip. Bernard gave a small lecture to the driver on student safety – “careful with my students” he warned the driver, “Okay boys back to school!”

Some students felt sad, they wanted some action. But Bernard won’t give them any action, when there is really no need for action! The whole thing resolved peacefully.

Old man

Often, in a rectory there will be only three people, parish priest, assistant parish priest and an important member of the trio – The butler. In my childhood there were wild and imaginary anecdotes about this threesome.  I will talk about those things, may be another time in leisure.

All parish priests are almost similar. They are old, hence mature. They have seen life; hence nothing can really surprise them. After all these years they just want a simple life, no controversies, and no complications of any sort. They quietly want to finish the business of this world and depart to the one which is supposed to be even better.

There used to be an old priest during my time, a real nice guy, an ascetic to the core. Auto drivers won't take money from him. “No, please take the money,” he would force, “You little devils, you guys are tempting me for these luxuries!”

He was not the kind of person who would make a grand entry at a gathering. Often he was unseen in a crowd; a grass root person. Once he was chief guest at a function. He went without the cloak. A volunteer promptly stopped him at the gate.
“Old man, do you know where you are going?” volunteer asked.

“Do I know where I am going?” old man repeated the question for no one in particular, pondered for few seconds, “A profound question, for which I am searching an answer myself” Later someone recognized him standing beside the gate, and led him inside.

Old man’s mother was buried in the cemetery. Often he was seen late nights near her grave, talking to her for long hours.  A group of youngsters tried to attack him near the grave yard once at night time. “Boys, what are you doing?”

“We thought you are a Ghost” they said.

“It is sad” old man pondered “that Ghosts and priests have to wear similar attire!”

“Father, please forgive us” they begged.

“Forgiven and forgotten!” he said philosophically.

“You mean you are not really angry?”

“Angry about what? I can’t remember. I have already forgotten you see!”


Sometime people come to him for land issues. “The land doesn’t belong to you,” he would point to the first party, “Nor to you,” immediately point to the second party, “The whole world belongs to God” he concludes. But people won’t understand his utopian solutions, they go to the court, fight life long and finally realize may be the old man was right. After all, world does belong to God!

Then there were quarrelling couple needing his solicitation. Matrimony was not really his domain. Catholic priests lead a celibate life. Still they are expected to resolve issues creeping in marriage.

“I don’t regret my decision of becoming a priest!” he joked to a couple who came to him over a dispute, “When was the last time you saw the sunrise together?”

“Father, what sunrise has to do with the problems in marriage?”

“It has much to do. Now answer my question” thus he would start his session.

Young priest

Old man was content with life. He forgave people for their trivial mistakes. Some time youngsters used to pull his leg.

“Why don’t you punish them?” some good people would ask him.

“I was worse at their age. This is Gods punishment for me!” Old man would reply.

He used to conduct a catechism class before the children’s mass on Sundays. Normally he used to conduct alone. But that day he was accompanied by a new much younger assistant priest. As usual teenagers started pulling his leg.

“I have a two part question.” One asked. “What is heaven? How do non Catholics get an entry to it?”

There was more of a mockery in the question than a zeal for religious knowledge. The old priest either didn’t realize this or chose to ignore it. “For all these years, I have asked this question to myself numeral times, finally I feel heaven is nothing but a state of mind,” He continued, “And for which religion will get the entry and which will not – I believe, a true Christian is also a Hindu and a true Hindu is also a Muslim.”

The youth could not digest this mysticism. There was a small uproar and cacophony.

“Excuse me father, Can I elaborate your point?” the new assistant priest requested.

“Go, ahead” he was given permission.

The younger priest started from Nietzsche and death of God, quickly moved to Spinoza and his biblical criticism; Kant and his answer to what is enlightenment?; Meditation and J Krishnamurthy; Darwin’s religious skepticism and eventual theory of evolution; Osho and his unique user-friendly way to attain mokshya. He was jumping from Indian mystics to western philosophers and God knows where all he was intending to venture, if not the old man intervened.

“Father Henry, father Henry,” old man implored.

“What?” reluctantly the young one stopped.

“The child must have got the answer for his query, by now”

“O I see, any more questions?” he asked the crowd. No one raised a hand.

Later when I was alone with this new guy, he said “Next time when some young idiot meddles with me, I am going to kick his ……” suddenly he stopped. “Oh, Jesus, religion has tied my hands, can’t even use a bad word!”

77 times

This assistant priest became immensely popular. People welcomed his dynamism and new ideas. Often he was seen in the fish market. Fisher woman, who would bargain for hours over 25 paisa, won’t do that with this God’s man in civilian dress. Deep in their heart they had a small hope that in an emergency this man could make 5000 fish out of 2 - a feat achieved 2000 years ago by his CEO and founder member.

“Father, did you ever regret your decision of becoming priest?” occasionally a girl from choir group would ask.
“Not until I met you!” he would say coyly,” Now if you excuse me, I have an appointment with Jesus!”

I was an altar boy those days. I started hanging around with him.

 “People like you a lot, there is a large crowd today for the mass” I told him one time just before the mass.

“I don’t know how much true it is. There is a poll after the mass to vote whether to have beer stalls for the parish feast or not; hence the crowd. All the drunkards have come today!

Some time I feel like throwing them all out” he said.

“Like Jesus?”

“Yeh, like Jesus” he resigned.

“But Jesus also said you have to forgive people as much as 77 times.” I tried to inform him.
What ever he was thinking, suddenly he became alert. He gave me a stern look.

“Well well well! Do we have a biblical scholar here? You want to discus 77 times? Fine, let’s meet after the mass”
I made the mistake of challenging the priest in his own domain. I had two sermons that day; one during the mass, one after it.

Never the less he gave a wonderful sermon on implementing teachings of Jesus in current times.  But no one listened to him, they were only interested to know whether there will be bear stalls or not for the parish festival.

A visit from Satan

One day on my way home from school, assistant priest stopped me. He was on his bike. “Hop on” he said. I climbed the bike

“where are we going?”

“Got an emergency call, Satan has come over Inthru” he said.

“Do you know how to drive away Satan?” I asked skeptically.

“What do you think I am? I am a priest not an exorcist!” sullenly he replied.

“Police is after Inthru” I informed him.

“Is it? Looks like, even the Satan is after him. Let’s check what the moron is up to”

We stopped the bike near the road side; walked along the paddy fields of Paul. Paul was working in the field.

“Paul?”

“Good evening father” he recognized us.

“God evening Paul, as a matter of fact it may not be a very good evening. The point is, it has come to the notice of church that you are poisoning the peacocks! You can not do that, Paul. It is against the law. Peacock is our national bird!” he said in one breath.

“Well Father, your national bird is ruining our harvest. They come in groups at night and spoil the whole thing. All the farmers are fed up with peacocks. You know, farmers are backbone of this country!” Paul lamented.

“Oh I see, a serious case of national bird meddling with nation’s backbone! This is a paradox,” he said, “I wonder how Jesus would have handled this predicament.”

“Never the less,” he continued, “At the moment Inthru is priority, I will handle you later”

So we moved ahead. There was a large crowd, gathered in front of inthru’s house. Inthru was an incarnation of Satan, he was dancing and wailing, ferocious and looked dangerous. People were scared to go near. Priest went directly to Inthru muttered something in his ear, after which dancing and wailing stopped at once. Suddenly Inthru was normal. It was my first miracle!

“Let’s go” he told me. One the way back, I asked him “What did you mutter in his ear?”

“Told him, I will call the police if he doesn’t stop the nonsense”

“That is not a religious way to drive away Satan” I felt somewhat let down.

“Religious or not - it is effective!” he replied.

Road less traveled

Rectory is like a jail. Day to day life is boring. One has to be a great person to tolerate long monotonous days of a rectory. How interesting life could be with 3 males and debatable company of God?

Life in the rectory is highly unpredictable. As a priest, one can not really plan anything. Someone would die at odd hours and as a vicar you need to be there. Or Satan will come over someone. There will be people claiming to seen the devil, some claiming to seen God, some believe they are God. All these mental cases need to be handled delicately.

On an average priests study for 12-14 years. Average people don't read a single written page once they complete their education. Hence there is an intellectual difference between the congregation and the priests. Often priests are very good source of knowledge and intelligence. With their intellect they can tackle complex predicaments of the congregation. They are ever-ready to solve the problems. Unfortunately often problems of the local people are meager, sometime down right stupid.  

“Father, I need your unbiased opinion” someone would come in a hurry.

“How can I help you?” priest is ready to test his vast knowledge of theology.

“Santhanam’s pig trespasses my rice fields regularly, and spoils the crop, what should I do, tell me frankly?” the person demands. Priest is irritated by this trivial question. He starts,

“Probably you should forgive..”

“Forgive whom? Pig or Santhanam?” retorts the restless man.

Such is the irony of life. As a priest you can’t even laugh at the silliness of your people. Probably you can laugh at yourself, and probably wonder what more tests from God you need to clear before entering his Kingdom.

Ravi Lobo - Archives:

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Comments on this article
Annie, Moodbidri/BangaloreFriday, March 01, 2013
Sir, excellent writing style. Extremely readable. Keep up the good work.
Comment on this message     

Renny Lobo (Rodrigues), Gurpur Kaikamba/ Abu DhabiThursday, April 08, 2010
Superb article Ravi. Reading it after two years of publishing. Every character depicted is very true. You have done a fentastic job in describing Fr.Bernard who was also our Principal at St. Joseph's PU College Bajpe, for whom my admiration and respect stands till date. As stated by you-Coconut.
Comment on this message     

Fr. Mark C. Mathias, SVD, Shirva, PhilippinesTuesday, March 17, 2009
Ravi, its a great article. I enjoyed reading it. I studied in Pompei High School too, 1964-1967. Fr. Bernad came in much later as the principal. As you said the students used to be scared of him. Once there was trouble in one of the classes. He called the boy to his office and asked him to bring his mother the next day. On the next day, right in front of his mother Fr. Bernad gave a few round to the boy with his stick saying: I will either mend you or end you!! Great man Fr. Bernard. Great memories.
Comment on this message     

Melroy D'souza, kallianpur/DubaiMonday, June 16, 2008
Well narrated, nicely composed and written. Keep writing
Comment on this message     

Anvil, Kinnigoly/BangaloreWednesday, May 14, 2008
Excellent piece of work.. Keep on writing. I read somewhere, some memories are best forgotten, but after reading this it reminded me some old memories…
Comment on this message     

Anil, Bangalore / Lagos, NigeriaFriday, May 02, 2008
An interesting read. Keep them coming.
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Joyce Rego, Bajpe / Abu DhabiWednesday, April 30, 2008
Excellent Article! Very true to present time. We need such articles to freshen up minds. Please keep up the good work. God Bless You and your family.
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Ramona Fernandes, Goa / KuwaitTuesday, April 29, 2008
Too good an article to read and know the life of a priest which some take for granted. Keep it up!
Comment on this message     

Priya Lobo, Kinnigoli/BangaloreMonday, April 28, 2008
Excellent article bro.Enjoyed a lot.Waiting for the next one.Take care.
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VINOD WIFRED TAURO , MADANTHYAR,DUBAISunday, April 27, 2008
Dear Ravi Well written article,humourous with childhood experience, espcially remembering Fr.Bernard. May god bless you with more articles
Comment on this message     

Sunil, Mangalore / DubaiSunday, April 27, 2008
Ravi, wonderful article, the content, the style is real good.
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Kishor Guleria, New JerseySunday, April 27, 2008
Ravi..!! catching the flow.. goodone
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Gertie, Mangalore/torontoSunday, April 27, 2008
love your style of writing. much humour. i had a good laugh.keep up the good work Ravi.
Comment on this message     

Austine Salins, Brahmavar/KuwaitSaturday, April 26, 2008
Dear Mr.Ravi it's my pleasure to read your humourus articles.I liked unique way of narration except few lines which pinched me as a catholic.A bargain at fish market shall not be compared to the institution of holy sacrament of Eucharist...
Comment on this message     

Aron D'Souza, MangaloreSunday, April 27, 2008
Dear Ravi Lobo Good article...keep it up good work.may god bless you
Comment on this message     

Alfred J. Rebello, Kundapur/DubaiSaturday, April 26, 2008
Well written article with humour and it applies in our daily life. Sometimes we also do not know how stupid and Idiots we could be.
Comment on this message     

Elias Mascarenhas, Puttur/ Melbourne AustraliaSaturday, April 26, 2008

Dear Ravi, Like many of the readers, I am a vivid reader of your witty write ups on real life situations and experiences of your life and I really enjoy it. I have a small reservation on your comments on Inthru's deliverence though I am not a privy to the mutual discussion you had with your asst. priest.

The priests and few lay people who were annointed by holy spirit do have the power of deliverence and your message gave an indication that it's just a fluke or black magic. My concern is that these write ups are also read by many non-christians, which may distort their impressions of our priests.

Comment on this message     

Melwyn, PernalSaturday, April 26, 2008
Wonderful article Sir... All the best..
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Robert Lobo, Kinnigoli-MangaloreSaturday, April 26, 2008
Proud to be his Dad, keep up the good work son.
Comment on this message     

Melwyn Pereira, Mangalore/SharjahSaturday, April 26, 2008
Excellent piece of writing - I enjoyed the humour that Ravi brings in. Real life stories written in simple language. Well done Ravi - Let's hear more from you.
Comment on this message     

A.D'Cunha Shenoy, MangaluruFriday, April 25, 2008
Ravi, Real life, real story and real priests. Simple in thoughts, real and pleasure to read. I remember my days with the lovely priests as an alter boy. Those were the pleasure-full days. I miss them indeed.
Comment on this message     

Rhea, MangaloreFriday, April 25, 2008
This is a real kool article...Ravi writes so well....i dont want to miss a sentence even, until i read till the end...no matter how busy i am with work.:)
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Fr. Steve Ronald, San Jose, CAFriday, April 25, 2008
Eternal thanks for writing this article. This is a true dedication to the chosen few. The article summaries the true essence of a clergy, very well narrated. God bless you.
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Jerry Fernandes, Belman/MumbaiFriday, April 25, 2008
Very good one. Revived my childhood memories.Reading for the first time but won't miss in future.Best of luck Ravi
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rashmi, Friday, April 25, 2008
Nice article!! not only this all of them... would love to read more.... Take care
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Shanti Ferns, Toronto, CanadaFriday, April 25, 2008
Very Interesting.. Ravi's articles always make me smile and I take the time to send them to my friends. I agree he sure has a unique style of writing! Keep writing.
Comment on this message     

Suhasini K, Chennai / MangaloreFriday, April 25, 2008
Superb piece of writing. Thanks daijiworld for bringing always quality articles. Daiji is a great media for us
Comment on this message     

Archana Kamath, UdupiFriday, April 25, 2008
Ravi Lobo has unique style of writing. I never miss his aticle on daijiworld. Wonderful article
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