GREEK ORTHODOX;Toman Catholic and unorthodox ways of dealing with fate were examined on television this week.
The opening sequence of Please God showed a fruit machine graphic, with images representing statues, angels, ikons and astrological symbols.
A matching row of the astrological signs rang in the first programme. This started with a visit to the Battersea Prediction Fair where psychics, mystics, crystal ball gazers, tarot card readers and astrologers were all doing a roaring trade as the curious tried to discover something of their future.
From Battersea we were taken to Delphi to be told that the Delphic Oracle had often given ambiguous advice open to two interpretations, although the Oracle was only consulted for specific incidents.
Back in London, the highlight of the programme was a professional medium. A former carpenter, he had taken up his new trade after bumping into the spirit of a dead Peruvian who offered to act as his guide in the spirit world.
This medium was a great success at parties — his act brought exclamations of amazement when he told the girls that they had some connection with flowers; this ,was just after St Valentine's Pay.
John Mortimer and Derek Jacobi were brought in to the programme to give their views on fate and the paranormal.
John Mortimer was sceptical about spiritualities, partly because those they contacted never had anything interesting to say about the afterlife. Nor did they attract very interesting people. It wasn't Mozart or Rembrant who turned up — but Mrs Snook from next door.
In the second programme, presenter Susan Crosland turned her attention from astrologers and parapsychologists to the Greek Orthodox version of Lourdes. The Ikon on the island of Tinos is credited with many cures and miracles. The Greek Orthodox priest gave a clear distinction between the ikon and what it represents, comparing it to a photograph which reminds the lover of his beloved. He also dismissed the rather arrogant view of the Sothebys specialist that the miracle-performing ikons were only those of great artistic merit.
The Bishop of Durham was brought into the programme and expressed himself in favour of ikons. He thought the church today was too rationalistic and dull and thought gazing at pictures and seeing what God says might be better than too much talking.
He believed in miracles and saw them as offering an individual a real sense of God being particularly present to them. But he placed miracles in the realmS of faith and mystery. They were a way to understand and draw closer to God and must not be seen as magic or tricks.
The purpose was to draw people into the wider mysteries and give some comfort and understanding. It was these qualifies that the pilgrims to Lourdes found.
Forty Minutes (Sunday BBC I) was a repeat of the story of Michael, a two-year-old Northern Ireland boy with an incurable disease. He and his family went to Lourdes with the Handicapped Childrens Pilgrimage Trust and although they hoped for a cure, they did not expect one.
Despite the commercialism of the town and the desperate and heart-rending sights of suffering, Lourdes did seem to bring solace, a little joy and greater peace to the pilgrims. Michael died last month, but his parents believed his life had been lengthened as a result of the visit to Lourdes.
Saturday, June 21, Soundings, Radio 4, 10.30pm. Weekly religious documentary programme.
Sunday, June 22, Morning Service, 9.3 Oam. From Castlehold Baptist Church, Newport, Isle of Wight. Morning Worship, ITV, 10am. From the Parish Church of St Andrew, Chippenham, Wiltshire. Home on Sunday, BBC 1. Cliff Michelmore talks to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Baptism by Blood, Radio 4, I Ipm. The Story of Seven Martyrs. Tonight's programme in this excellent series examines the courage and belief of the South African Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko.