There are times in life when whatever we have done in the past has a habit of catching up with us and come back to haunt us, or bite us on the backside, or give us a pleasant surprise even. And that’s what happened to Father Ignatius when the door bell at St Vincent Parish House rang one sunny afternoon.
There at the door was a pretty young lady of about 23 years of age with two toddlers, a girl aged about five and a little boy aged four.
“Hia … Father … Ignatius isn’t it?” she said with a smile, “I have a surprise for you!”
“Good afternoon …” he replied gently.
“May we come in?” she asked, “the little ones want to go to the toilet … and I have something to tell you …”
Father Ignatius led them into the downstairs waiting room and showed them where the toilets were. He then asked Mrs Davenport to prepare some tea and biscuits and orange juice for the children.
Moments later they were all in the waiting room as Mrs Davenport came in with the refreshments. As she left, closing the door behind her, Father Ignatius asked, “How can I help you?”
“You don’t remember me?” she asked.
“Well …” he mumbled embarrassingly, “I get to meet so many people over the years …”
“I’ll give you a clue …” she interrupted, “about five years ago … the age of this little girl; now that should jog your memory."
He looked at her blankly.
“I was the Cocktail Queen working at the Bitten Apple Night Club … I offered to let you in without paying … and you were too embarrassed to be seen there I think!
“I told you I was pregnant, having a baby … do you remember?”
Father Ignatius lifted his eyebrows as faded memories came rushing back from the deep recesses of his mind.
“Ah …” she said in exasperation, “you still don’t seem to remember me … that’s not very flattering to a pretty girl you know … and I thought I had made quite an impression on you!
“Well I do remember that you were none too happy when I told you I were pregnant … it made you quite mad I think …
“As I recall I came to see you and tell you all about it … you took me in your office upstairs.
“And that’s when I told you I were pregnant and I wanted to have an abortion and get rid of it.
“You got very upset with me and you advised me against it. I thought what right have you to tell me what to do? You said it was a living human being and it was wrong to kill it … and that I would always regret it.
“As I said at the time, I was working at the Night Club … the Cocktail Queen I was … very popular with the clientele I were!
“I couldn’t keep the baby could I? It would have interfered with my job. Who has ever heard of the Pregnant Cocktail Queen? You can’t wear those skimpy outfits with a big bump upfront can you?
“Anyhow … I left you and I was proper upset with you I was … telling me to keep the baby!
“Months later we met again at the supermarket and I told you that I had the baby after all …
“It’s this little girl here; you never met her. I called her Ignatia after you. Well it’s her middle name really … Ignatia is rather an odd name don’t you think? But I had to name her after you. Her first name is Hilary.”
The priest smiled feebly.
“So when I had Hilary I gave up working at the Night Club and took on a job at the supermarket where we met.
“I was living with Hilary’s father at the time … When I told him what you’d said to me he agreed that I should not have the abortion … even though he was keen on it at first …
“His name is Alec. We later married you know … not in a church like, but at the Registry Office. A year later we had Mark here … he’s about four years old!”
“Yes … I remember,” said Father Ignatius, “I’m so glad you and your husband decided not to proceed with the abortion … she’s such a pretty girl. I’m sure you love both your children.”
“Oh yes … we do love them very much, my husband and I. We’re ever so happy. If it were not for you I would not have my precious Hilary!
“I still work at the supermarket … part-time like … I have to look after the kids and all! You don’t go to that supermarket anymore … ‘cos I haven’t seen you for ages!” she said, “My husband Alec works at the bus depot you know … he asked me to come and see you … since you helped us the last time when I were pregnant with Hilary … Alec said perhaps you can help us again!”
“I’ll do my best …” he said gently.
“Well, it’s about Hilary here … I took her to the Catholic school down the road and they wouldn’t let her in … the Head Mistress there was a proper snooty fancy pants she was … She said she couldn’t accept Hilary because she didn’t have a Baptismal Certificate. So Alec, my husband, suggested I come to you for a Baptismal Certificate. And could we have one for Mark as well while we’re at it … I hope they don’t cost much! ”
“It’s not that simple …” said Father Ignatius, “I take it the children have not been baptized!”
“No … I don’t think so. I was brought up a Catholic on my mother’s side … she taught me the Hail Mary and showed me a little chain with beads … but I don’t think I got baptized … it was too expensive in them days … is it expensive now?”
“No … you don’t have to pay” he replied gently, “what the Head Mistress at the school meant is that before your children are accepted at the school she has to give priority to Catholic families and their children. I’m sure you understand that.”
“Yes I do … I’d like to come to church with my husband and the kids and learn about God and all that … only I was put off by a woman I work with.
“She said the Catholics are expensive … they have two money collections and sometimes more on Sunday and even on weekdays if you go to church to pray. She said you have to pay to get a Baptismal Certificate … which is what the Head Mistress asked for.
“This friend … Diane is her name … well she said you also talk in a foreign language in church … Italian was it? No … no … Latin. That was it. Only we don’t know Latin Alec and me … I left school at fifteen and can just speak proper English … never mind Latin.
“She also said Catholics have to eat fish every Friday … well we can’t do with that … It’s expensive for a start and Alec is allergic to shell-fish … brings him out in spots it does!”
“There appears to have been a lot of misconceptions about the Catholic Faith …” said Father Ignatius, “what I mean is that you’ve misunderstood about the Catholic Church … never mind. Many people make the same mistakes.
“Can I suggest perhaps that you and Alec come to a few meetings when we can talk about God and Jesus and the Catholic Faith? You said you were willing to learn.
“It’ll be just you and Alec and me, or Father Donald if I’m not here. You can bring the children too and I’ll ask Mrs Davenport, whom you’ve just met, to look after them.
“It’s just once a week, in the evening or at weekends … and in time, if you wish, you can have the children baptized and you and Alec too … if you wish.
“And it will be in English … not one word of Latin will be spoken, I promise.”
She smiled broadly and asked “How much will it cost?”
“There’s no charge at all …” he replied smiling back, “the Love of Christ is priceless but you don’t have to pay … He already has!”
“And what about the fish?”
He held back the urge to laugh and said “Don’t worry about that … you don’t have to eat fish or anything else you don’t want to eat … on Fridays or any other days!”
And that’s how it was that the Cocktail Queen and her husband Alec attended Catholic teachings at St Vincent and in time, the two of them and their children were baptized at a private ceremony attended by both priests and Mrs Davenport.
Hilary now attends the Catholic school and Mark has been registered to attend the following year.
The family is now part of Father Ignatius’ flock!
MORE FATHER IGNATIUS STORIES HERE