Monday, 5 April 2010
It was Good Friday, about nine in the evening, as Father Ignatius settled down in his armchair by the fire. It was still cold for this time of year and snowing yet again. He put a couple of logs on the open fire and picked up a book to read.
Moments later Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, entered the large living room and announced that Geoff Henderson had just called in and was waiting in the reception room.
“Oh let him in …” said Father Ignatius standing up to greet his visitor.
Geoff Henderson was an architect and he had brought with him some plans to discuss some alterations to the Parish Hall and the area behind the garage. After their discussions were over the priest said:
“How are you these days Geoff? I haven’t seen you in church for a while now!”
Geoff hesitated as he gathered his papers together and sipped a little coffee.
“To be honest Father …” he said finally, “I’ve been rather busy lately …”
“Too busy to go to church?” asked Father Ignatius.
“Well … actually, I feel that God is distant these days …” confessed the architect standing up to leave.
At that point Canis the dog, who was lying by the fire, yawned heavily as he made himself more comfortable.
“That’s not a comment on what you’ve just said,” joked the priest, “sit down Geoff if you have a minute to spare.”
The architect sat down again.
“This dog and I have a special relationship,” said Father Ignatius, “when I take him for a walk in the park I sometimes let him off the lead. He runs away like mad here there and everywhere in no particular direction. He is free and he’ll go where he wants. Sometimes he is quite far away. It is he who has distanced himself from me Geoff; and not the other way round.
“Do you see what I mean?”
“Yes … I do … I suppose it is me who’s distanced myself from God,” replied the architect, “but I suppose it is because I no longer see Him as relevant in my life.”
“I wonder whether Canis sees me as relevant in his life?” asked the priest, “the other day I was cleaning the back garden and he looked at me as if to say ‘I like this … I poo wherever I want and you get to pick it up … that’s a special relationship all right!’ ”
“And what’s more …” continued the priest, “he seems to be absolutely useless. He is certainly no guard dog. If we were to have a burglar in the house he would probably show him where I’ve hidden my stash of chocolates.
“The other day he came face to face with a cat in the back garden. He stood still like a statue. Then turned his head towards me expecting me to run and bark after the cat.
“I did not move. The cat started to panic and run but then stopped in total confusion and looked at the dog.
“Canis looked at me and then at the cat once or twice, and then he whined and ran inside the house to hide in his bed.”
Geoff chuckled quietly.
“But I like him Geoff,” said the priest, “and I wouldn’t part with him. And he seems to like me.
“Do you know … I think God likes you. In fact I know He loves you for sure, because He said so, many times in the Bible.
“I suspect you’re off the lead now and you’re running successfully all over the place. You don’t need God really … you have a great business, a lovely car which I must admit I envy, and a good life. No wonder He seems distant.
“But God is there all the same Geoff. Protecting you from more ills than you can imagine without you knowing it. All because He loves you.
“When you get the time, come and visit Him in church just to say Hello!”
Geoff said nothing.
“I don’t mean to be critical,” continued Father Ignatius gently, “we all get distanced from God at some stage or other in our lives Geoff.
“It would be wrong of me to see this happen to you and say nothing.
“Take one step at a time. Come to church on Sunday, and when you feel ready come to Confession. Or come again and see me for a quiet talk.
“You’ll find God will welcome you back in His loving arms like a father welcoming his prodigal son.
“You’re a good man Geoff deep down. I wouldn’t be doing business with you otherwise. I’ll be praying for you.”
“Thank you …” said Geoff quietly.
“I’ll be praying also that you won’t charge me too much for the building extension!” said Father Ignatius.