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.