Monday, 6 August 2012
St Vincent was the only Catholic Church in town so Father Ignatius’ parish covered a wide area including the countryside around the town.
Because he was such an approachable priest it was not unusual for parishioners to either visit him unannounced to discuss a problem on their minds, or indeed to phone him and expect him to jump at a moment’s notice. As happened last week.
He was about to settle down near the warm fireplace with a nice cup of hot chocolate and to listen to his favourite classical music when the phone rang and interrupted the London Orchestra.
“Who could it be at 10 o’clock at night?” asked Father Donald.
“It’s Mrs Montague …” replied Father Ignatius, “she’s just had a break in … she’s totally distraught and frightened and hasn’t even phoned the police … she phoned us instead …”
Mrs Montague was an elderly widow in her seventies who lived alone in a small cottage in the countryside. As Father Ignatius jumped in his car and rushed to her home, Father Donald phoned the police.
The priest could see the police car parked outside the house as he finally arrived at the scene. They had made a search of the property and the garden and found no one.
Apparently Mrs Montague was asleep in her armchair in the living room and was awakened by the barking of Rupert, her little dog.
Someone had broken into the kitchen and had plenty of time for a quick search and for making quite a mess. The kitchen door was closed so the little dog could not get to him. Eventually, the burglar must have run away, perhaps disturbed by her Guardian Angel. Luckily, he didn’t enter the living room and attacked the old lady, or worse.
“Have they taken anything?” asked the policeman.
Mrs Montague was too confused to even give a coherent answer. She looked around the kitchen, with everything strewn everywhere, and eventually realized that a small metal box was missing.
“They’ve taken the biscuit tin …” she cried, “oh no … not that … I can’t live without it … not the biscuit tin.”
“What biscuit tin?” asked Father Ignatius.
“A metal tin … it was that big … an old biscuit tin I kept here in this drawer … it’s gone … my life is all gone …” she broke down in hysterical tears and was helped to a chair by Father Ignatius.
“Did it contain any money, or jewelry?” asked the policeman.
“No …” she replied as she calmed down a little, “it contained all the love letters my husband wrote to me when we were courting … I read them often to remember him when I’m lonely … and photos taken when we were young … I miss him so much … I’m so frightened and lonely since he died …”
The two police officers made another quick search of the house and eventually left. Father Ignatius managed to hammer a few pieces of wood on the broken window to secure it for the night. As the elderly lady was far too distressed to be left alone, Father Ignatius decided to spend the night nodding off in the armchair, whilst Mrs Davenport, his housekeeper, came over too to provide her with moral support.
The following morning, whilst Mrs Davenport was preparing coffee for the workers who came to fix the window and secure the house, Father Ignatius, prompted by some unexplainable feeling, made another tour of the garden.
There under a rose bush he found the missing biscuit tin. No doubt the intruder found it full of worthless papers and discarded it in his hurry to escape.
Worthless papers to him, but a whole life in a box to an elderly lonely widow.