Wednesday, 7 July 2010
Father Ignatius was very observant. He knew most of his parishioners by name and he noticed their moods, habits and behaviors and he reacted to them according to circumstances.
One early evening he came out of the Sacristy and he noticed that Mrs Holingsworth was arranging the flowers on the Altar and by the numerous statues of Saints around the church silently. She usually hummed her favorite hymns under her breath whilst working; but not today.
“Everything OK Denise?” he asked with a smile.
“I suppose so Father,” she replied glumly, “I was just thinking that’s all …”
“That’s what I like about women,” he joked, “you can multi-task … we men cannot think and work at the same time …”
She said nothing.
“Is there a problem I can help with?” asked the priest tentatively.
“Well Father,” she replied as she stopped cutting the stems of the flowers to make them the same size, “I’ve received a letter from my doctor … and it upset me …”
“Do you wish to talk about it …” he asked gently.
“It’s nothing serious … the doctor said that as I am now over 60 she invited me for a medical check-up … just as a precaution …”
“Well … what’s the problem …” asked Father Ignatius, for once missing the point entirely.
“It just brought it back to me Father … I am 60 … or rather I was 60 four months ago, and I told no one about it … I’d put it at the back of my mind … and now here’s a letter reminding me once again of my age … I mean … who wants to be 60?”
“I’m sure there are many people under 60 who hope to reach that age some day …” said the priest gently, “and there are many others over 60 who wish they could turn back the clock … but that’s not the problem is it Denise?”
“Well Father … I look at my life and wonder …” she stopped for a while and bit her lip, “my dear husband used to say that I will be as beautiful when I’m 60 as the day he first met me … we married when we were 20 you know …”
“I’m sure you are as beautiful as you were then,” he said trying to comfort her.
“Oh Father … are you allowed to say beautiful to a woman … you being a priest and all …”
“I didn’t realize that some words are forbidden to priests …” said Father Ignatius jokingly, “all right, I take it back. I am sure you look as you did when you first met Daniel … in fact he is looking down from Heaven right now and he agrees with me …”
She smiled finishing the flower arrangements on the Altar, and packing the debris of stems and wrapping papers to throw away.
“Look Denise … we all get at some point in our lives when we look back in fondness and look forward in trepidation perhaps,” said Father Ignatius calmly, “this is only natural. It is part of our human emotions.
“The trick though is not to dwell too much on the past or dread the future. We should trust Jesus to see us through what is to come … just as He did in the past, even though we were not aware of it …
“We should aim to live for the present … and live it as fully as possible … that’s what God wants for us. He wants us to enjoy life … not endure it in dread and trepidation …”
“Thank you …” she said managing another weak smile.
“You know Denise … there are many people spending their lives staring at tomorrow rather than living today. You know the kind … people who have their favorite set of teapot, cups and saucers made of the finest china … yet they do not use it … they keep it for a special occasion … or their favorite dinner plates and cutlery or whatever … and they still wait for that special occasion … for the day when the Queen or the Pope might visit perhaps …”
Father Ignatius smiled and then went on.
“But I can assure you that the Queen or the Pope will never visit your house … they are far too busy … so enjoy your tea set, cutlery or whatever you have right now …
“Don’t fret about your age … or what the future might bring … celebrate your achievements today, and move forward hand in hand with God.”
He stopped again to gauge her reaction.
“Do you know what I do when I’m feeling a little down?” he asked her.
She shook her head silently.
“I go across the road and get some freshly fried fish and chips from the shop opposite. Nothing makes me feel better … and it improves my waistline …
“In fact that’s where I’m going right now … Mrs Davenport has asked me to get some fish and chips as she was too busy today to prepare supper for Father Donald and I … Care to join the three of us for a fish supper … with salt and vinegar?”
“Yes please …” she replied smiling broadly.