Thursday, 27 May 2010
The gardens behind St Vincent Church stretched out for an acre or so. The land was part of a Monastery which stood there years ago which has long since been destroyed; although some ancient walls still exist outlining the perimeter of some ancient buildings.
The gardens were well maintained by a team of volunteers who had planted several fruit trees, flowering bushes and a vegetable patch which Father Ignatius and Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, use to plant beans, carrots, tomatoes and several other vegetables in season.
At a secluded corner of the gardens stood a large statue of Our Lady on a pedestal, surrounded by rose bushes and overlooking a small pond containing goldfish and several plant-life. Father Ignatius held many prayer meetings there in summer evenings with the youngsters from the Youth Club, followed by a barbecue and Praise singing by an open fire.
Beyond the church gardens a thick hedge separated St Vincent’s property from a field leading to the hills and countryside.
Father Ignatius stood by the kitchen door one September evening at about six o’clock admiring the light rain as it drizzled gently through dark skies. It was that time of day when departing light met early darkness resulting in various shades of gray mingling with brown and golden autumnal leaves.
He looked out pensively and smiled to himself as he recalled lovingly his dear departed mother. Whenever it rained lightly as it did just now, she always used to say “the Angels have turned on the garden sprinklers in Paradise”. He smiled again recalling to mind her many sayings which often involved Angels and Saints living happily in Heaven above.
His thoughts were cut short suddenly by the front door bell ringing. He opened the door and there stood a young man and two boys, one aged about twelve and the other slightly younger. They were wet all through as they tried to shelter underneath a small umbrella.
“Please sir, can you help us …” said the man, “we believe our small dog has got into your gardens through the fence … we were on our way home through the fields at the back and he escaped from his dog collar … it’s a bit too large you see … can we search your gardens please?”
“What … in this rain?” asked the priest incredulously.
“He’s a small dog …” said the older boy wiping his face of water and tears, “he won’t make it through the night … please mister, let us look for him … we won’t be long …”
“Let me help you …” replied Father Ignatius as he put on his coat and took with him a small dog collar and chain often used by his own dog Canis, “we’ll also need a couple of electric flashlights as it’ll soon get dark …” he continued, handing a flashlight to the young man.
Moments later they were all out in the drizzling rain looking for the lost dog in the church’s grounds.
The two boys ran here and there shouting “Bruno … Bruno …” in the hope that the lost creature may come running to them.
At one point, as Father Ignatius pointed his lit flashlight left and right, he thought he noticed some movement amongst the rose bushes around the pedestal on which stood the statue of Our Lady. He approached the statue quietly and got down on his hands and knees pointing the flashlight at the foot of the pedestal in the hope of finding the small dog sheltering amongst the bushes. There was nothing there.
He looked behind him, and discovered the young man and the two boys kneeling on the wet grass with their heads bowed low.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“We are praying … like you … so that Mary can find the dog for us …” said the young man.
“She’s got more sense than to be out in this weather …” replied the priest gritting his teeth and wishing he was at home by the fire enjoying a hot cup of chocolate drink.
A few minutes later, after they'd been soaked right through, one of the boys found the dog behind a shed. They picked him up joyfully and he greeted them warmly shaking his little tail in delight.
The priest suggested they carry him home to make sure he doesn’t slip through his collar again. They thanked him most profusely and left hurriedly through the side gate and onto the main road.
Father Ignatius made his way to the Parish House still carrying his dog’s collar and chain which he had taken with him, and the two flashlights.
As he entered the house, totally drenched with muddy knees and wet trousers where he’d been kneeling, he was greeted by Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper.
“How come you took the dog for a walk without the dog?” she enquired looking at the collar and chain in the priest’s hand, “and in this terrible weather too … at least Canis had the sense to keep warm by the fire!”
Father Ignatius said nothing as he went upstairs to get changed. He wondered whether Jesus meant the Good Shepherd would go out looking for the lost sheep in all weathers.