When I am not inside reading, typing a new post for my Blog, fixing a meal, watching CNN, the BBC, national TV or a DVD, straightening things up, paying bills or chatting on the phone, I enjoy sitting in my garden in a comfortable armchair with my back to the house,  simply gazing at the trees and shrubs and flowers between me and the bottom of the garden some twenty-five yards away.  I don’t potter, Harry; I just sit and I . . . contemplate.  I like basking in the early Summer sunshine.  The cool end of the garden is shaded.

Last week, before lunch one day, I was there in my chair wallowing in my “dolce far niente”.  I thought at first my eyes were playing tricks on me, but down there at the bottom of the garden I saw a man standing, looking at me.  He was not a neighbor or someone I knew, but a total stranger whom I curiously recognized immediately.  He had a striking face, darkish skin and strange clothes which included a thick leather tradesman’s apron, loose, Middle-Eastern attire and sandals.  He just stood there, with a half-smile on his face, gently shaking his head with what looked like frustration mixed with reproach.  He said nothing.  Nor did I.  After about five minutes, he disappeared.  I knew I had just encountered the Carpenter of Nazareth.

The next day, same scenario, but this time I found Him sitting at the other end of my table in a chair like mine, but without the low coffee-table on which I stretch my legs.  Five minutes later, having said nothing, He disappeared.

As the fine weather was holding up, I was again in my garden on the third day, wondering whether I would have company or not.  I was not disappointed.  This time He was standing in front of me.  He said just three words : “Why, Frank, why ?”.

I forgot to tell you that I find myself dozing off sometimes when I am relaxing in the warm sun in my garden.  On those three consecutive days, I did in fact doze off.  I realized later that I had been dreaming.

I know at least one reader who would have a ready explanation of my three-part dream : Frank boasts of being an atheist and even brags about leaving his religious Order and the priesthood.  But in fact he has a serious guilt-complex about his apostasy and his diabolical efforts to get believers to abandon their faith.  He knows Jesus will hold him to account, and sees Him in a dream, gently scolding him but offering him a chance to repent.

I made up the whole story of encountering Jesus in my garden to underline how ready some credulous people are to believe such tales.  They are reassured to hear that even atheists never really abandon their faith.  How wrong they are !

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

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