It had been a busy year for Theodore Luxton-Joyce the eccentric millionaire businessman and he hadn’t been in touch with Father Ignatius for some time. So it was a surprise for the priest when the phone rang early on Boxing Day, the day just after Christmas, and he heard the familiar voice.
“Is that yourself Padre?” asked Theodore.
“Yes … it is. Merry Christmas Theodore to you and Rose …”
“Yes quite … jolly good …” interrupted Theodore, “I was somewhat concerned at getting that other French priest on the phone. You know the one … you’ve had him visiting lately …”
“Yes … Father Gaston. He has gone back to Paris”.
“Jolly good I say … what? Never liked the French … Father Gaston being an exception of course … he was rather quiet and said very little … just as I like the French to be … what?”
Father Ignatius smiled and said nothing whilst Theodore continued totally unaware of what he was saying.
“Right … now that I’ve got you on the phone rather than that French fellow, I need you urgently to help me out! Terrible spot of bother … old boy … terrible I say!”
The priest frowned fearing the worst. “What’s happened?” he asked.
“Well … Rose and I had arranged a quiet after Christmas get-together for this evening and we’d invited the Mortimers … you know them? He’s a businessman working from the US most of the time. No … Of course you don’t know the Mortimers. Have you ever been to America Padre? I’m sure the Vatican has opened a few Branches over there …
“Anyway … back to the Mortimers. They’re over here right now for a few days … visiting family … that sort of thing … Rose and I thought we’d invite them for a spot of dinner this evening … Disaster old boy! Disaster I tell you!”
Father Ignatius smiled again.
“Well, as it happens …” continued Theodore never stopping to pause for breath, “the Mortimers can’t make it tonight. Jolly bad show don’t you think? We’ve got most of the food prepared and all … well Mrs Frosdick the cook and her staff have everything prepared anyway … And the Mortimers can’t make it for dinner. They’re stuck up North because of the terrible snow storms we’ve been having over Christmas. Totally snowed in and cut off from civilization and a drop of whisky I shouldn’t wonder!
“So I thought of inviting the Hendersons … now I’m sure you know them Padre. They live about a mile or so from us, just up the hill. I thought I’d introduced them to you some time ago. Not Catholics you know … but decent people all the same. Better than many Catholics I know, I should say! Anyway … dash it all … they’ve decided to spend Boxing Day with the in-laws. Now what kind of nonsense is that? I tell you … Who’d wish to spend Boxing Day with the in-laws? It’s just like being in Purgatory I imagine … what?”
Father Ignatius smiled once more at Theodore’s continuous rant and wondered what all this was leading to … and then it came.
“Well Padre … as neither of them can make it tonight, I thought of you. Would you care to join us for a quiet spot of dinner this evening? We’re having a goose and Brussels sprouts you know … traditional fare for this time of year sprouts … and I’ll be playing the latest musical instrument I’ve mastered … the harmonica … much less stressful than the bagpipes. I can now play Chopin’s piano concerto on the harmonica as well as the pipes!”
The priest was amused at being the third choice as guest at the millionaire’s luxurious mansion in the country, but he knew that Theodore meant no malice by it.
“It’s so nice of you to think of me …” he said quietly, “but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline too. The problem is that this evening St Vincent’s Church hosts the annual Christmas Dinner and get-together for the old folks of the Parish. We bring them to the Church Center and Father Donald and I and a few of the nuns from the Convent prepare a Christmas meal …”
“Bring them along too …” interrupted Theodore with no hesitation, “we’ll make a party of it … we’ve plenty of room over here …”
Father Ignatius knew that there was little point resisting Theodore’s generosity and enthusiasm; so plans were hurriedly changed to reschedule the venue of the Parish Christmas Dinner to the mansion on the hill.
And so it was that about fifty people including the nuns from the Convent went to the millionaire’s house to enjoy Theodore’s and his wife’s genuine kindness. They all gathered in the grand dining room which had been festively decorated at short notice where they enjoyed the best food and drinks sumptuously prepared by the catering staff.
Theodore dressed up like Father Christmas to give each guest a gift and then he entertained them with a sing-along which featured him playing his repertoire of the classics re-arranged for the harmonica!