Monday, 11 January 2010
Father Ignatius was enjoying breakfast when Father Donald came in holding a letter.
“Only one for you today … and it’s from the USA judging by the stamp.”
Father Ignatius frowned, “I don’t know anyone in the States …” he mumbled.
Father Donald chuckled as he poured himself a cup of tea. “Maybe it’s from Hollywood. They probably want to make a film about you …”
The older priest was not amused. He opened the letter and read:
“Dear Father Ignatius,
“You’d be surprised how long it took me to trace you down. I contacted almost every bishop in England. I hope this letter finally reaches you.
“I’m Johnny Nottingham. Do you remember me?”
Father Ignatius mumbled … “Johnny Nottingham …”
“What was that?” asked his fellow priest.
“Johnny Nottingham …” repeated Father Ignatius, “a young rascal I knew years ago when I first became a priest. He was always in trouble … I warned him that one day he’d end up in prison, or at the very least have a police record … eventually, he met up with a young girl named Florence and I married them … they left town soon afterwards in a hurry and I’ve never heard of them since …”
“What does he want?” asked Father Donald.
“You’ll never believe this … he emigrated to the States years ago and has become a successful businessman. He is still with Florence and will soon celebrate their Silver Wedding Anniversary … doesn’t time fly? He has invited me there … he insists I come … let me read this bit …
“I mean it Father. You have been a great influence on my life and we would really love to have you visit us for our celebration. All expenses paid. Just say the word and I’ll get the plane ticket rushed to you.”
“Sounds marvelous …” said Father Donald enthusiastically.
“No way … America is such a long way away … I’ll reply politely and decline.”
But Father Donald would not hear of it. He insisted his fellow priest took up the offer.
“It’s only for a week Ignatius,” he chuckled, “not enough time for me to sell your church and run away with the money … I promise you the church will still be here when you return …”
Father Donald can be quite persuasive when he puts his mind to it, and weeks later Father Ignatius was on his way to New York.
He was met at the airport by a chauffeur driven luxury car and was taken to one of the best hotels in the city. In his room there was a large basket of fruits welcoming him to New York signed by the Nottinghams.
That afternoon, the chauffeur took him to the Nottingham’s magnificent mansion where he met Johnny and Florence and their children and grand-children.
They looked after him all week and took him to many tourist places of interest, including a baseball game one evening.
“I never understood a thing about it,” joked the priest, “but I enjoyed it all the same”.
Towards the end of his stay, on a Saturday, Father Ignatius took part in the renewal of their marriage vows, together with their priest, in the church the Nottinghams regularly attended.
As an added surprise, which he knew nothing about, he was asked to baptize at the same time the Nottingham’s latest grand-child; named Ignatius after him.
On his way back on the plane, tears of gratitude welled up in his eyes as he remembered a life which started as if headed for disaster yet somehow, along the way, turned a reckless man into a successful Christian businessman.
“Praise you Lord,” he mumbled as he closed his eyes in prayer.