Red Chillies

A New Pastor's Newly Laid Lawn

Short Story by Stan Ageira, Mulki  

May 14, 2011

HC Anderson’s short story ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ gave him the most pleasurable reading. He closed the book as bus came to a halt close to church. He tapped his card on electronic system at exit point and leaped out.  Life was not easy for him. He was beaten by economic recession and was tossed out of storekeeper job. Living in a Middle East country with very limited contacts, he struggled hard from last two months. The PRO of old company had threatened to cancel his visa by next one month. His parents and siblings back in his home country were dependent and he was their only support. The emotional strain had taken its toll.
 
He stepped into the place of worship. The serenity in the area gave him comfort factor. He found solace, tranquility and hope in his deeply offered prayers. Especially the Eucharistic celebration by the new Parish Priest provided immense joy and pleasure. Once on the altar, Pastor was exceptionally special in his own ways.  He was highly radiant and well poised. His articulation had motivational constituent towards intensification of faith. Powered by the wisdom and reflective skill, the transformation into divine purity was a treat to watch.
 
New Pastor appeared at raised structure with altar boys. The impetus remained same throughout mass. He was in his elements with hilarious humor all through the homily. He emphasized the essence of compassion in human life.  A momentous aide memoir was declared while ending the sermon. “Riding on materialistic success, at times we fail to feel the suffering of people in pain. Christ had compassion towards common man. Jesus came in contact with common people in distress and did something about their needs. And so we as his followers must find joy in compassion. He is watching you and he is always at your side during your difficult times.’ Pastor had pointed his finger at the cross. “You have to trust the man of Nazareth. He will test your strength of character. So don’t go defeated. He creates unlimited number of opportunities. As one door closes another opens. The sense of insecurity will not bother if you have true faith in Jesus.”




The unemployed young man felt as if the sermon was scripted for him. He found relief and liberation while passing through devotional moments. At the end of mass, Pastor thanked congregation for their munificent donations, which assisted the Church in facilitating the requirements of needy, deprived and poor. Finally, he prayed for abundant blessings on all benefactors.
 
Most of worshippers vacated the place soon after mass. The young man spent a few more minutes at pew. He kneeled, prayed for a job and emphasized his desperation. The caring and gentle words of the Pastor ricocheted. An inner call inspired him to meet the Parish Priest. Perhaps it was God’s call and believed it so. ‘The Priest could be having some contacts with business community.’ His confidence level had shot up to the extent of explaining his hardships to the Parish Priest. He truly trusted in his hunch that the Pastor would help him.  He had never ever seen a Priest as compassionate in his expressions as the new Pastor. He walked out of Church with spanking optimism and exuberance.
 
Extreme apprehension caressed his mind and body as he stepped into Parish office. An attractive woman was busy in attending calls while a male employee was occupied in filing some documents. The assembled visitors seemed waiting for Priest’s arrival.  The beautiful green lawn in the open inner plot beside the office drew his attention. He observed the activity through a glass door. A man in Nike sportswear was diligently engaged in instructing the workers at backyard.  The face appeared familiar. It took him some time to realize that the man in Nike sportswear is their Pastor. He looked different devoid of his traditional cassock. The young man’s heart thumped in awe.
 
The Pastor pushed the glass door and entered in. The visitors stood to greet and wish him.
 
“How is my newly laid lawn?” The Pastor asked with immense pride. “The former Parish Priest had left it barren. I converted the unproductive plot into a luscious yard.  Isn’t it beautiful?”
 
“It’s very beautiful father.” Some joined in chorus.
 
“And very expensive too!” Pastor reacted while moving into his office. Creating and maintaining such a landscape was a pricey indulgence in notoriously hot desert.
 
Looking at the number of visitors, the young man felt weak in his feet. The hesitation destabilized his determination. Suddenly he felt unsure of Priest’s reaction. Would he understand and help him? He turned dreadfully nervous and decided to approach the Priest when less occupied. Today didn’t seem the perfect day to present his plea. Without any second thought, he marched out. The desire for a fag bothered him. He reached the designated smoking zone and lit a cigarette.
 
The subsequent day was Saturday.
 
He ate his breakfast in an economic south Indian restaurant and caught public transport bus to reach Church. Pastor’s beautiful secretary was all alone without any co-workers and visitors. Her eyes were completely focused on computer monitor.  He reluctantly stayed to draw her attention. The wait continued for couple minute in anticipation of her response. Her utterly quiet style left him on edge. He rolled his eyes in silent disbelief and cleared his throat.
 
“Good Morning.” He broke the silence.
 
“Morning.” She replied without looking at him. The silence continued for three more minutes.
 
“Excuse me. I would like to meet Parish Priest.” He gathered courage to speak.
 
“Any Problem?” She questioned without looking at him.
 
“I have more than one problem.” He reacted.
 
“Marital issues?” She refused to notice him.
 
“It’s not related to marital issues. I am unemployed and looking for a job.” He clarified.
 
“My goodness.” Infuriation was visible as she finally looked at him. “You have come to a wrong place. I don’t think the Parish Priest would be any of your help. This is not an employment agency. We can help you in your spiritual and religious needs. The priest also could assist in sorting out if you have marital issues.”
 
“Could I meet the Pastor just for couple of minutes?” He pleaded.
 
“You can not meet the Pastor on your wish and whims.” She said unsympathetically. “The meeting is possible only with prearranged appointment.”
 
He tried hard to be rational. Gone are the days the faithful would just walk into a priest for help. Now he was living in modern times. The Churches and Priests had suitably adapted the corporate culture and commercial style of management.
 
“Could I seek an appointment?” He solicited.
 
“However you need proper grounds to meet the Pastor.” She asserted.
 
“I am his huge admirer.” He sincerely meant it with twinkle in his eyes.
 
“Sorry.” She declined. “The new Pastor has thousands of admirers. It’s humanly impossible for him to meet his all fans.”
 
It was a reality check. The exclusivity of the new Pastor was in line with movie and sports celebrities.
 
“Excuse me.” She showed the door. “You may please go.”
 
She had made it tough. Perhaps the Pastor was kind hearted. He had attended the Masses of new Parish priest. The man of his stature could never be harsh and insensitive. While turning back he glanced at the newly planted lawn. The Priest had translated the barren land into pleasing green pasture. In some ways, the Pastor was magical and certainly, his best hope in distress. Frustratingly he came out, but then he had decided find a way out to reach the Parish Priest. He lit a cigarette at the allocated smoking area.
 
He called the Parish office from his cell phone on the following day.  The secretary answered from the other end.
 
“I want an appointment with the Pastor.” He informed after greeting her.
 
“Sure. Could I know the reason?” She demanded.
 
“I am planning for a separation.” He deliberately lied.
 
“I will arrange your meeting.” She assured.
 
“Could I come today?” He insisted with an undertone of urgency.
 
“No, you can’t.” She turned down. “Today is Sunday, Masses are lined up. It’s tiring for the Pastor.”
 
“How about tomorrow?”
 
“Tomorrow is Monday, the Parish Priest prefers an off every Monday.”
 
“I can make on Tuesday.”
 
“Tuesday, it’s weekly off for the Parish office.”
 
“Wednesday?”
 
“He is busy on Wednesday, all meetings are already booked. Can you try on Thursday?” She stopped for a while.
 
“I will. Could you tell me the time?”
 
“At 4:30 in the evening. You will have to come in time. Otherwise the appointment would be cancelled.” She cautioned, asked his name and number.
 
Next few days were spent in hunt of a job. The frustration remained due to lack of progress. However, by Thursday morning he was asked to appear for an interview by evening at 5:30 for a Store Keeper’s post. He decided to meet the Priest at 4:30 and then proceed to attend the interview. By 4:20 pm, he walked inside the gate. He passed across a woman puffing a cigar outside the Parish office as he paced his strides into Parish office.
 
“I have an appointment with Pastor.” He informed.
 
“I have seen you somewhere.” She stated.
 
“This is my first visit.” He declared.
 
“You may have to wait. The Priest is not in. Don’t worry; you will be given the first chance.” She showed him the seat.
 
“Your lawn is beautiful” He peeped at backyard.
 
“And very expensive too!” Her reaction was instant. “We have enough resources. The Church is blessed with generous donors. The Priest has to just make an appeal and funds pour in like rain.”
 
“I have attended his celebrations. He is charming and enchantingly captivating.” He truly admired him.
 
“I love his attitude towards life.” She opened up. “It’s heavenly experience to live here.”
 
“What do you mean by live here?” He asked her.
 
“I am single you see.” She clarified. “I have been allowed to stay within church premises. This place is highly secured. He is modern & techno savvy. You can see those security cameras inside & outside. Parish Priest keeps a watch on every possible threat.”
 
‘The sense of insecurity will not bother if you have true faith in Jesus.’ Pastor’s words reverberated.
 
“You said something?” She demanded.
 
“No.” He shook his head. “I wish Jesus had such security cameras when the soldiers came to arrest him.”
 
“You stupid….” She smirked. “Jesus knew everything.”
 
“Having cameras all around, if is sense of security or insecurity?” He impulsively responded. “Forget it. I am delighted to know more about our Pastor.”
 
“I had seen his work in his previous Parish. He is gifted and highly capable. You will witness a vibrant transformation in this Parish very soon identical to this pleasingly beautiful green lawn.” She was in her rare mood to talk.
 
“You mean, you know him from his earlier Parish?” He turned inquisitive.
 
“Yes.” She nodded. “I was his secretary in his previous parish. I could not refuse his offer when he asked me to join at his new Parish.”
 
“It must be pleasure working under him.” He quipped. “I am sure he would invite you to his next Parish as well.”
 
“You are talking too much.” She blushed. “You may wait. I have plenty of work to do.”
 
The time was getting closer to 5:00 pm.
 
Half an hour had passed after his arrival. He turned uneasy and fretful while worrying about the interview at 5:30 pm.; could it be possible to reach in time? He had managed to obtain Parish Priest’s appointment with great difficulty. Unable to exert control over the situation, the desire for smoke stemmed out. He assured the secretary that he would return in 5 minutes. He came out and rolled the cigarette across his lips. A volunteer stopped him as he was about to light up.
 
“Don’t you know it is prohibited to smoke within Church compound?” The volunteer gnashed his teeth.
 
“I saw a lady smoking here some time back.” He argued.
 
“I see. You saw the woman and thought you too have the right to smoke.” The volunteer mockingly conversed. “Don’t you know the gorgeous lady whom you saw puffing is recently appointed by our new Parish Priest? No one has the power to confront her. However I have the authority to stop you.”
 
The young man looked confused and helplessly placed the cigarette back in pocket. The newly appointed female worker had taken her seat when he returned. The male employee too was behind his desk. The young man had skipped the 5:30 interview by relying on his unfounded faith over the Parish priest.
 
Parish Priest’s cabin door was pushed open and elegantly dressed Pastor stood at doorway. He was in his top of the range branded blue jeans and T-shirt. The Youngman was delighted to have a close look at his idol and role model. His defining moment of life of meeting his admired icon was just a minutes away.
 
“I over slept, my siesta went slightly longer.” The Pastor addressed his secretary. “I have a coffee meeting with a journalist at Starbucks. I am already late. Could you cancel all my appointments? I will celebrate the seven o’ clock mass. There after, I have to attend a function at Le Meridian. I don’t think any other work is possible for rest of the evening.”
 
“There is something more.” Pastor remembered. “A friend of mine is expected to turn up at six o’clock. He is leaving his sports car for couple of weeks for my use as he is going away on vacation. Please collect the key and offer him a cup of coffee. I love sports cars.”
 
He turned without waiting for reply.
 
“Mister…” The secretary hesitantly uttered. “You know our Pastor is very busy. Please call by next week for a fresh appointment.”
 
‘Jesus came in contact with common people in distress and did something about their needs.’ Pastor’s sermon resounded!
 
The young man was left speechless. He silently got to his feet and glanced at the lawn for one last time. To his amazement, the lawn did not appear green anymore. The dark black loam underneath the green top was exposed. All at once he developed an impulsive urge to read H.C. Anderson’s ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ all over again.
 
                                      =================

Note: The plot, narration, events & characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real, living, dead is purely coincidental. Most important, any similarity to those living/non-living with dead conscience is entirely accidental & unintentional.          

                                       =================


Comment on this article

  • Cedric Vaz, Goa / Mumbai

    Wed, Sep 7 2011

    Fr. Von - you spoke about? Is he the Spanish priest Fr.Juan who was Vice-Principal of St.Mary's High School (SSC section) somewhere in 1970-1972 ?
    Remember him as a real gem.... so kind, simple and well mannered who was always helpful to anyone. Encouraged sports too. Never played politics with the teachers or favourites with the students unlike some other priests.
    I can never forget Fr.Juan for one small incident..... I missed my school bus after school on a heavy rainy day. I went to him to ask for an umbrella and not only did he lend me one from the lost property office but also put me into the right BEST bus stopping near my house.
    Can never forget dear Fr.Juan....!

    Agree

  • Ajith Dcosta, Halealve/Muscat

    Wed, Jul 6 2011

    delighted one, I Loved it, excellent one.

    Agree

  • Dr jerry Niddodi, kallianpur

    Tue, May 17 2011

    Beautiful story reflects city corporate pastors.
    jerry niddodi

    Agree

  • ANNA DCRUZ, Mumbai/Dubai

    Tue, May 17 2011

    We cannot group all the priests into one category.

    There are a few priest whom I will always hold in high regard. Especially, the soft spoken Spanish Priest Father Von & Father Lobo in St Anne’s Church, Mazagaon, Mumbai who always came forward to help the needy of the parish with a smile.

    We always looked forward to his Annual House Blessing visits (without accepting any token of gratitude).

    Agree

  • Pius Dcruz, BELMAN/DUBAI

    Tue, May 17 2011

    A thin line between fact and fiction. A well written article which depicts the current status of SOME of our clergymen.
    Yet there are some few good priests who Walk the Talk and are always willing to help the parishoners.

    Agree

  • Ronald, Mangalore

    Mon, May 16 2011

    Another excellent story from Stan. Really enjoyed reading it. It is the reality now a days. The Note at the end made me smile :). Keep writing Stan.

    Agree

  • Vincy Pinto, , Angelore/Dubai

    Mon, May 16 2011

    Well narrates, especially religious sensitive topic like this, difficult to tell to the society. That much blindness covers. `Stan’ shows this easy. The story point out, what we can see here & near.

    Agree

  • Leonilla, bangalore

    Mon, May 16 2011

    It reflects reality and does not sound like fiction. It is time to wake up.

    Agree

  • CGS, Mangalore

    Mon, May 16 2011

    Stan Ageira has proved once again
    that he is one of the best and finest short story writers in Konkani.He is known for his unique
    style and narration.Hope Stan would
    come out with many more short stories and novels.He is very popular among young readers,
    specially among young women and girls.

    Agree

  • Praveen Fernandes, Mangalore

    Mon, May 16 2011

    It is a fact an exemplary preacher does not practice what he preaches. This story dubbed a fiction by the author is a case in point. Unfortunately, in today's world they are in the majority.

    Agree

  • vincy, dubai

    Mon, May 16 2011

    Well written Stan, there a lot of facts that I came across in this story and it highlighta the functioning of our Diocese, which is mainly buisness minded.It does not sound fiction to me.There are priests adopting Western Styles and appointing young female secretary of their choice giving them absolute powers. This is not Christianity as preached to us.There is a popular saying "Practise what you preach" But at present only preaching part is done but not followed by the preacher.

    Agree

  • Arthur Fernandes, Mangalore / Dubai

    Sun, May 15 2011

    Indeed this story is an eye opener and facts happening all over the world. The priests should practise what they preach and be a role model to the congregation.

    Agree

  • Dr Edward Nazareth, Mangalore

    Sun, May 15 2011

    Beautiful story. Stan has the rare talent to narrate the facts in the form of fiction. All the best

    Agree

  • Anil Dsouza, Halealve

    Sun, May 15 2011

    NEAT. Just one word.. :). All facts right and extremely well disguised and narrated. Looking at th comforts these priests have ,in future there will be people paying donations to get their sons into priesthood.

    Agree

  • T.M, Mangalore/NZ

    Sun, May 15 2011

    Wonderfuly story Stan. Goes without saying Priest's are human too not GOD as people make them to be by giving too much importance. We see that a lot in our community where priests are given undue importance invited to family gatherings, showered with presents etc which wavers them off their task of serving god. Its not uncommon to see Priest's living a life of luxury while the common people struggle. And so many times they turn down our expectations of them like the man in this story. How often we come across such priest's who are nothing but a show and who never practice what they preach!

    Agree

  • Kevin, Mangalore / Dubai

    Sun, May 15 2011

    The facts put forward in this story matches with the prevailing situation in our Parishes. It is an eye opener from you Stan. Keep writing and thereby enlighten the community.

    Agree

  • Vijay Almeida, Udupi / Dubai

    Sun, May 15 2011

    Excellent article Stan, kept me engrossed throughout !!! I wish every Priest reads this...

    Agree

  • Dave, Mangalore

    Sat, May 14 2011

    Very relevant Story-first published in Konkani weekly-& now in English-making it availabe for a wider section.
    Keep it up, we want more.

    Agree

  • LAWRANCE, BELMAN/DOHA

    Sat, May 14 2011

    The story is some what related to present era, loved the narration...

    Good one Brother, God Bless

    Agree

  • AllenC A Pereira , Mangalore/Kulshekar

    Sat, May 14 2011

    The plot, narration etc. may appear to be fictional but i have first hand experience /knowledge of similar incidents.I truly wish Jesus was on earth in these times-He would have repeated His famous act of chasing the moneychangers from out of the Temple of God

    Agree [1]

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