I had to go shopping again during the week which is not without its hazards. On this occasion I had to purchase new trainers for the gym and the alleged playing of football.
I usually stand about an indoor football pitch and if I manage to kick the ball as well as the man it’s an unexpected bonus.
However my trainers had seen better days and a bad workman always blames his tools. Arriving home I dashed into the parochial house through the rain careful not to get the new shoes wet.
I was about to put the shoe box onto the table or counter in the kitchen when I heard my mother’s haunting voice echo with the words: “Never put new shoes on the table, it brings bad luck”. It’s absolute superstitious nonsense, although I make allowances because my mother’s from Tyrone! So feeling brave and not allowing myself to be dictated to by irrational fear, I left the new shoes upstairs in the spare room instead.
In relation to superstition some people get very excited about the number of magpies they spot, especially if they should see one or two of the birds. According to popular myth the sighting of one or two magpies will bring either good or bad luck. As long as they aren’t like pigeons nesting on my windowsill I couldn’t care less how many magpies were flying about?
There was this one occasion when we were travelling to Dublin for a Cup final and we noticed one magpie as we passed a field. Of course after Derry got beaten later that afternoon it had nothing to do with the players, the tactics, the ability of the other team, it was the magpie’s fault, pure and simple.
We all find ourselves governed at times by traditions, customs and superstitions which tug at our fears. In the face of uncertainty and doubt we often cling to the most unlikely of signs. Before many major events we can be tempted to look for omens to find confidence and reassurance.
Often these tendencies can influence our attitude to prayer and faith in God. In times of turmoil and the unexpected we can look for certainty and search for answers in the fields of superstition rather than faith. We can be tempted to believe if we say certain prayers, if we perform certain acts then we will be granted what we desire. We might fall into the trap of approaching God as someone who needs to be appeased and satisfied before we can gain what we need. At the heart of prayer is the realisation of how God called his children to be in relationship with him. God asks his children not to give up on him and to always maintain a relationship in prayer. Regardless of whom we are God never gives up on his sons and daughters. This is the hope at the heart of our faith; for God often answers our prayers in unexpected ways. What God wants is for us to be fully alive; this is only possible if we listen to his voice.