Thursday, 26 November 2009
Father Ignatius in Court.
Father Ignatius knelt at the front pew just by the statue of Our Lady and read the letter once again. Tomorrow was the day when he had to go to Court; there was no escaping that fact. He put the letter back in his pocket and took out his Rosary and started praying.
The following morning he offered Mass early and focused his private prayers on the day ahead. He said his goodbyes to Fr Donald and Mrs Davenport the housekeeper and explained that he did not know when he’d be back, or indeed whether he’d be back that evening.
He decided to walk to Court, about a mile away from St Vincent Church, which gave him plenty of time to pray another Rosary.
He showed the letter to an attendant at the door and he was led into a large room, dimly lit, and smelling of stale tobacco smoke. He was asked to stay there and await instructions.
In the following hour or so the room slowly filled as more people were brought in one at a time and left waiting, just like Father Ignatius.
They were advised not to talk with each other, and most obeyed and spent their waiting time reading books or smoking to the point that you could now see the smoke floating in mid-air around the dirty brown lampshades, and tobacco stained curtains.
Eventually an officious looking individual, tall, thin and with a tiny moustache came in and asked for their attention.
He explained the various procedures involved in being a member of the jury. He thanked them for their attendance and said that, depending on the case they were assigned to, it is possible that they would not be returning home that evening. In which case they would be taken to a hotel where they would stay the night, and every night, until the case was over.
Eventually, Father Ignatius and eleven other people were called by name and led into the Courtroom where they were asked to sit on the Jury’s benches.
It had already been explained to them by the officious Court clerk that before they are to be sworn in as members of the jury both the prosecution and defending lawyers had the right to object to certain individuals from sitting as jurors. They need not give any reasons for their objections.
And sure enough, as soon as the twelve were seated, both teams of lawyers got into separate huddles to talk in whispers. Eventually a lawyer from each team approached the judge who, after listening to them, passed a piece of paper to another Court official.
Father Ignatius heard his name called and he was asked to leave the Courtroom. A young pleasant lady then asked him to go home as he was no longer needed. She said with a smile, “Please don’t take it personally … it sometimes happens that a person is not accepted as a member of the jury … thank you so much for responding to our invitation … have a nice day!”
“Don’t take it personally …” the words rang in his head as Father Ignatius made his way back to the church. How could he not take it personally? Someone had taken objection to him. Why? Is it because of his age? Is it because they wanted a better balance on the jury between men and women? If so, why not pick on another man to leave? Why him? Why not someone else?
The questions buzzed round his head like a swarm of bees flitting over a bed of flowers searching for nectar. But his thoughts were far from sweet … more tinged with the bitterness of rejection.
As he arrived at St Vincent he concluded that perhaps he’d been rejected because the prosecution lawyers, seeing his clerical collar, surmised that he’d be overly lenient towards the defendant.
“That’s it …” he said to himself, “they think I’m too soft and too forgiving …” And that thought helped soothe his hurt feelings.
Weeks later he heard through a solicitor friend of his that he had been rejected by the defendant. Apparently, he had suffered at the hands of a priest years earlier and he felt he wouldn’t get a fair hearing from Father Ignatius.
Father Ignatius was deeply hurt on hearing this news. To think that an individual had been so profoundly scarred by a member of the clergy … someone meant to represent Our Lord and to portray His love and caring on earth!
That evening Father Ignatius offered a special Mass for that un-named defendant, a man he’d hardly seen for more than a few minutes in Court; yet a man who would haunt his conscience for the rest of his life.