Monday, 2 August 2010
Father Ignatius misunderstood.
There are times in life when misunderstandings happen, albeit well intended. And when they happen it is very difficult to rewind time and make things all right once again. As Father Ignatius found out.
It was always his intention to involve as many parishioners as possible in the running of St Vincent’s Church. It was after all their church and he was only there as their humble servant.
Since the wedding of Theodore Luxton-Joyce to Rose Leamington, Father Ignatius got to visit the eccentric millionaire and his wife quite often in their beautiful mansion.
He had mentioned at some time that they’d be most welcome to join in the church’s activities and events. As a result, Theodore had been encouraged by his wife to join the Parish Council; and she, being far wiser than her husband, decided to give him ample space and not get involved with any church business.
Instead, she joined the Board of Governors of the local Catholic School. This way they both helped the local community but in totally different capacities.
Father Ignatius was in the Chair that evening when Theodore attended the Parish Council Meeting for the first time; and not surprisingly, also for the first time ever, every member of the Parish Council attended that day. There were no absentees whatsoever. They all turned up to meet this millionaire whom they’d heard so much about; perhaps in the hope that some reflected glory would rub on them.
They all sat in cinema fashion in the Parish Hall with Father Ignatius and the Parish Secretary at a table facing them.
“Let us start by saying the Lord’s Prayer …” said the priest.
And then it went on to various Parish business on the long and tedious agenda. The St Vincent de Paul Society gave a short report of their activities, followed by the Boy Scouts, and then the Annual Garden Fete sub-committee outlined what was planned this year – an ice-cream and popcorn stand, a beautiful baby parade, a karaoke sing-along contest and so on and so forth. And as the minutes ticked ever so slowly various Parish groups presented their insomnia healing reports ad infinitum.
Father Ignatius noticed that Theodore sat politely somewhere up front and for once said nothing; which was very unusual for a person always in control and ready to make his views known. The priest realized that unless he involved the man in some activity or other he’d certainly not see him again on the Parish Council.
An item under Any Other Business on the Agenda came to the priest’s rescue – repairs to the roof of the Parish Hall. The very place they were sitting in right then.
“May I draw your attention to this important item …” said the priest introducing the subject, “you will see behind you in that corner that the ceiling has several damp patches. Basically, this building has a flat roof which is in great need of repairs or possibly total replacement. Rain has started to leak through gaps in the roof and these will get worse by winter. We have an estimate that replacement would cost up to £1000.
“We need to set up a sub-committee to look into this matter and to come up with recommendations on how to proceed. We’ll need clear indications of costs and how to raise the funds required.
“May I suggest that we ask Mr Luxton-Joyce to chair the sub-committee?”
Theodore jumped in his chair at the mention of his name and, perhaps for the first time that evening, he paid attention to what was being said.
“Hear … hear …” said several people enthusiastically.
“Good …” said the priest, “Mr Luxton-Joyce, would you agree to see to the repairs to the roof?”
“Sure …” said Theodore, “I’ll take care of it!”
The priest asked for volunteers to serve on the Roof Repairs sub-committee and almost everyone there put their hands up. They all wanted to serve with Theodore. They all put forward ideas on how to proceed …
“We can organize a tea and cakes evening to raise money …” said one.
“And we could sell second-hand books; they’re always very popular you know …” said another.
“£1000 is too much money …” said a third volunteer, “perhaps we can have a second collection on Sunday!”
And so it went on with everyone enthusiastically volunteering ideas in order to be chosen on Theodore’s sub-committee.
Eventually, Father Ignatius brought matters to a close by selecting six people to join Theodore’s team charged with repairs to the roof. And so the first Parish Council Meeting attended by Theodore ended.
The following morning Father Ignatius and Father Donald were both out traveling separately for the day. Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, was the only one in the Parish house.
At about 8.30 in the morning two vans turned up and six men started un-loading various equipment into the church car park.
One of the men called at the house and said to Mrs Davenport, “we’ve come to replace the Parish Hall roof.”
Not knowing any better, she pointed out to them the building in question and left them to it; bringing them tea and coffee every now and then.
By about 7 o’clock that evening they had totally taken away the old roof and replaced it with a new one. They were clearing up debris and generally tidying up when Father Ignatius drove in.
Totally confused he asked one of them what was going on, only to be told that Theodore had asked them to replace the roof. They packed up their equipment and left.
Father Ignatius rushed to his office and rang the eccentric millionaire.
“But Padre …” said Theodore, “I did as you said. You asked me to fix the roof and I said I’ll take care of it … I’ll see to the cost involved … don’t you worry about that old boy … and I’ll send you all the paperwork in due course …”
“That’s very generous Mr Luxton-Joyce …” muttered Father Ignatius somewhat taken aback by the man’s bigheartedness, “it is really very kind of you but … but …”
“There’s no buts about it Padre …” interrupted an enthusiastic Theodore, “you have a new leak-proof roof, and I told the fellows who did it to put on an extra layer of top quality fiberglass insulation … so you’ll be as warm as toast come winter if it ever snows on it … what?”
“Thank you … thank you …” muttered the priest, both grateful to the millionaire and yet trying diplomatically to make himself understood, “you see Mr Luxton-Joyce …”
“Hey … call me Theodore old boy … none of this Mr Luxton-Joyce nonsense … you married Rose and I remember, you’re practically family now … She doesn’t call me Mr … you know … I shan’t tell you what she calls me though … ha … ha” he laughed heartily at the thought.
“Yes … Theodore,” continued the priest patiently and digging deep into his reserves of tact and diplomacy, “when I asked you to Chair the Roof Repairs sub-committee … the intention was that the sub-committee, under your able leadership, would cost the project and raise the funds …”
“Takes too long old boy …” interrupted Theodore, “I couldn’t be bothered with all that selling of cakes and second-hand books nonsense … it would take ages to raise £1000 … I got it done in a jiffy … what?”
“And that’s very kind … I’m very grateful and I’m sure the parishioners will be very pleased with the work done … however,” Father Ignatius tried once more, asking under his breath for God to come to his rescue, “your kindness and generosity … lovely as it is … of course … has taken away from the sub-committee a sense of belonging. They lost the opportunity to belong … to your group and your leadership. Did you not notice yesterday how they all wanted to serve on your committee? They all wanted to work for you and to share in your success in raising the funds …”
“What … by selling cakes at a penny each? Do they not know how many pennies there are in £1000 … they would never have made it …”
“Perhaps not,” said Father Ignatius, “but then they would have known that they took on a task, and failed to complete it. That in itself would have been a valuable lesson, don’t you think? People should be encouraged to take on responsibilities, and then try to meet them.”
“I have just got the most brilliant idea Padre …” shouted Theodore down the phone, “it’s so good that I’m not sure whether it is me that thought it …” he chortled to himself. “Why don’t we tell them that the roof repairs were such an emergency that it needed to be done quickly before the rains come in and we all drown in that Parish Hall of yours …
“And instead … this is a good one Padre … you’ll be surprised what a good idea it is … instead, the sub-committee could change their objective from repairing the roof to painting the inside of the Hall. It looked a bit tatty to me, if you pardon me saying so. So why don’t you ask the Roof Repairs Sub-committee to paint the Parish Hall instead?
“They can sell cakes and second-hand books for as long as they wish to raise the money … I promise you, I will not interfere Padre … one of them could take over the Chairmanship of the Committee from me.
“I’ll sit back and wait to see the new painted Hall … as long as they get on with it before my 100th Birthday in forty years time … ha … ha ...” he laughed.
Father Ignatius agreed to the proposed solution; the roof was after all in need of urgent repairs, and it couldn’t wait much longer.
He spent the next few days un-ruffling feathers and soothing hurt feelings amongst his parishioners; but all worked out well in the end.
Theodore did not attend any more Parish Council Meetings. Father Ignatius appointed him as “Special Advisor” to be contacted by the priest alone on “matters of great substance and import” to the Parish Council.
And everyone was happy once again!