I don't hear a word they're saying
Only the echoes of my mind
It had been a long day and Father Ignatius had travelled to the city and driven back all on the same day; something which he hated to do, especially when he had to navigate his way through heavy city traffic.
He was a little tired so he settled down in his armchair next to the fireplace and put on his favourite classical record.
A few minutes later Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, came in and interrupted the orchestra in mid-flow. She was carrying a large tray with tea and biscuits.
“I’ve made you a lovely pot of tea Father,” she said, “and you favourite ginger biscuits.”
“Ginger biscuits?” he replied turning the volume down on the record player, “but it’s not Friday …”
“I know Father … but I thought you deserved a treat today. What with your long journey and what’s been happening at the Convent?”
The priest raised his eyebrows, “I don’t understand …” he said.
“Oh … no one has told you … have they?” she continued as she poured two cups of tea and sat down, “Sister Martha rang me earlier on and gave me the news …
“Well earlier this afternoon … at about four o’clock it was … I’m sure that’s what she said … anyway, earlier this afternoon they found a baby on the doorstep of the Convent.”
“A baby,” said Father Ignatius helping himself to another biscuit.
“Yes … a wee little mite … about a week old they say … a little boy. Mother Superior found him just by the statue of St Joseph and the Baby Jesus … you know the one … the statue outdoors by the main entrance to the Convent.”
“Yes … yes … I know …” said Father Ignatius, “what happened then?”
“Well the wee baby was crying so Mother Superior took him in … he needed changing … and probably hungry too I shouldn’t wonder. Sister Martha called the police and they took him away to the hospital to check he’s all right.”
“Dear Lord,” mumbled Father Ignatius as he said a quick silent prayer under his breath.
“What kind of person would do such a thing?” said Mrs Davenport angrily as she poured two more cups of tea, “to abandon one’s own flesh and blood like that …”
“A desperate person,” replied the priest gently, “we can only wonder what led her to such an extreme act.”
“But she’s his mother …” interrupted Mrs Davenport, “how could she … she's supposed to love him.”
“Giving birth in itself does not make a person a loving mother,” replied Father Ignatius, “normally there is a strong unbreakable bond between the mother and child from the moment the baby is born; if not well before.
“That bond of love I believe has been created by God for our own protection from the moment we enter this world. God knows we are born totally defenceless and vulnerable so He created that special protection which is a mother’s love.
“Now I’m not saying this bond of love did not exist in this baby’s case … most probably it does … so can you imagine the terrible circumstances which led this poor desperate woman to abandon her child … as you put it.
“In fact … she did not abandon him … she could have left him anywhere and walked off … that’s abandonment … but she carefully selected the most appropriate place where he would have been found and cared for.
“No doubt she hid behind some bushes in the Convent gardens and waited for the baby to be found.”
“What … like Moses?” said Mrs Davenport, “I thought he was left floating in a basket in the river … not at a Convent!”
Father Ignatius smiled.
“Did they have Convents in Moses time?” she continued innocently.
“I don’t think so,” answered the priest as he got up to remove the record from the turntable.
“Do you think she’s Catholic … the mother that is … is that why she left him at the Convent?” went on Mrs Davenport.
“I really wouldn’t know … no doubt all will come to light sooner or later,” replied Father Ignatius patiently, “in the meantime I suggest we say a little prayer for the little child and his mother.”
At this point Father Donald entered the room.
“Did you hear the terrible news …” he asked gravely.
“Yes … I was telling Father Ignatius about it …” piped up Mrs Davenport, “they found a baby abandoned at the Convent.”
“Well … there have been further developments …” said Father Donald, “I met Sister Martha just now and she told me … they found the body of a teenage girl at the far end of the park behind some bushes … an overdose … all indications are that she’s the mother of the child … she was clutching a letter to her parents in her hand …”
“Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m so sorry I left home. I couldn’t take any more arguments and shouting. I went to stay with a school friend.
Sometime later I met a man at a party and we became friends. I went to live with him and I got pregnant. He wanted me to get rid of it. I said no and he asked me to leave his apartment. I went back to my school friend. She helped me all this time I was pregnant and I had a baby boy in secret. She took me to a house of a friend where I had the baby three days ago.
I left him at the Convent and saw a nun take him in. Then I saw a police car at the Convent. I think they are looking for me. I am frightened and don’t know what to do. Louise.”
Father Ignatius stopped reading the newspaper. It seems the police had no choice but to publish the letter in order to try to identify who the dead teenager found in the park was.
The priest left the
room and went to his church to offer Mass for the repose of her soul.
There was a University in the town where Father Ignatius lived. It was not far from St Vincent Church, just down the hill at the edge of the town centre.
Father Ignatius was one of the visiting chaplains at the University. He shared the task with other vicars and ministers from other churches and they took turns to man the Pastoral Centre on a weekly basis.
Father Ignatius was at the Centre one day waiting and hoping that someone might call-in for a chat when his wish was rewarded.
Two students, a young lady and a young man came in.
“Hi” she said, “we’ve come to ask you a question we’ve been debating. We’re not Christians as such … searchers for the truth more like …”
The priest smiled and said, “Come in, sit down. Help yourselves to coffee from the table over there!”
As they sat down with their coffee the man said in a more reserved tone, “Well Sir, we were wondering about Jesus …
“We are both science students here at the University … I’m reading biology, chemistry and physics and my friend here is studying medicine …”
“That sounds like very hard work to me …” said the priest encouragingly.
“Well, yes … at times,” continued the young man, “We were wondering, Jesus is supposed to be the Son of God. When He was around on earth these subjects like biology and such like were not known at all … people then were very primitive. Did Jesus know all these subjects? Was He knowledgeable to University Degree standard and beyond? Or was He just as ignorant as the people of His time?”
The priest did not reply but cleaned his spectacles to gain a few seconds thinking time. A trick he had used often enough.
“This is not a joke question …” said the young lady.
“I am sure it isn’t,” replied the priest, “I was watching a TV programme about animals in zoos the other day …
“You know the new style zoos? The ones where they keep the animals roaming free in a large enclosure instead of cages. The animals feel as if they are in their native environment and the visitors see their behaviour in this environment rather than in a cage …”
The two students looked at each other and said nothing. The priest continued.
“Apparently feeding time is quite elaborate. The zoo keepers don’t just throw the food in the enclosures, but they spend a lot of time hiding food in trees and in bushes, behind rocks and under stones and so on … whilst the animals are caged of course. Then they release the animals in the open enclosures and let them search, or hunt, for their food, whatever it is. Be it meat for lions and tigers or seeds and fruit for other animals …
“This of course enriches the lives of the animals. They behave as they would do in the wild. They use their sense of smell and inquisitiveness as they go out searching for food. They climb up trees to reach any food hidden there. They dig under rocks to find the seeds placed there by their keepers. This gives them exercise and no doubt sharpens their appetite.
“And it’s all good fun for the visitors watching them.
“Yes … those zoo keepers go to great length to make the animals feel at home, as it were!”
“What has that to do with our question?” asked the young lady impatiently.
“A lot really …” continued Father Ignatius, “When God created us He could have fed us easily by providing us with all we need.
“He could have invented a magic oven and whenever we opened its door out came the most succulent steak and French fries, my favourites. Or roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes, parsnips and carrots; not forgetting the Brussels sprouts and gravy of course. Or chicken or turkey … and chocolate cake. Do you like chocolate cake?”
They both nodded and waited to hear more.
“Oh … can you imagine having an oven like that? Whatever your wish, you press a button or two and out comes your meal.
“God could have also made things easier for us in many other ways you know. Take travel for instance … I hate driving in busy highways don’t you? We could have a box somewhere in our homes and whenever we got in, press a button or two, and in seconds we’re somewhere else … America! Oh … I love America … How lovely it would be to go there every weekend without having to wait at those airports … There’s fifty States you know. One for every weekend of the year … I could visit them in alphabetical order you know. Then stay at home the two remaining weekends.”
The students looked at each other and smiled wondering whether this priest was really losing his mind. He noticed their confusion and went on, pretending to be totally unperturbed by their bewilderment.
“But God is wiser than that …
“He created us and gave us the power of thinking, questioning, investigating and looking around.
“Then He created a world full of wonders for us to find and enjoy. From the large varieties of trees, plants and flowers and the birds and insects that inhabit them, to the wonders of the oceans and their various creatures. He gave us a whole world to discover and marvel at. And as if this is not enough He also gave us a whole universe full of planets and stars to gaze at and study and research.
“He gave us hidden talents too … investigative talents. Inquisitiveness, like in those animals in the zoo. But we didn’t use them just to search for food. We searched for knowledge and boy did we discover … did we not just marvel at what we found …
“We discovered writing, painting, sculpture, music and the arts. We discovered science and medicine … We learnt who we are, what we are, what we’re made of and how we are made. We learnt to heal ourselves from illness and disease. We learnt to travel and to fly.
“Do you understand where I’m getting at?”
They nodded silently.
“But God is clever you know … He did not give us all the secrets to life and to His creation. There are some things which will always be hidden from us, for our own protection, in case we think we’re a little too clever and can manage everything by ourselves … And make a mess of it, as we seem to be doing right now!”
He chuckled to himself.
“And having given us all these marvels to discover and enjoy, He still remains in control of events. He watches us as we learn and progress through the ages, but He will not let us go against His ultimate will for us.
“You’re both studying scientific subjects right now. This is good. I hope and pray that in your personal journey of discovery you too will one day discover some hidden gems in a tree or behind a rock like the animals in the zoo. And I hope that whatever you discover will help mankind in the field of medicine young lady … or in the sciences you’re engaged in young man.
“Praise God He’ll guide you into purposeful careers for the benefit of humanity.”
They smiled meekly.
“You’re right in the original point you made,” Father Ignatius continued gently, “At the time of Jesus people were primitive in comparison to us … They knew very little of what we know now.
“But they searched, they questioned and they learned … and they discovered many things slowly, year by year until today.
“It’s the way God gave us a purpose in life … instead of having everything ready for us. Like a magic oven …
“That’s what I think, anyway. Call it Father Ignatius’ Theory of Evolution!”
They smiled again, now both of them more relaxed.
“But don’t look for it in the Bible … I doubt you’ll find it exactly as I said it … You’ll discover a lot more about God though … it may even change your lives.
“Oh … and about your original question. How much did Jesus know at the time He walked this earth?
“The Bible teaches us
that He is the Son of God … All powerful and omnipotent. So how much do you
think He knew then when He visited this world?”