Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Less than two years a priest! Only a few months in the Caribbean island of Grenada and I'm required to stand in for a priest who was sick. At first I was somewhat daunted because of my complete lack of experience...the first time in my life to be completely alone...in the presbytery, having to fix the Coleman paraffin lamp and adjust the 'Cat's Whisker' crystal set radio.

I soon came to love every minute of walking the roads and hill-side tracks; en route meeting and greeting each and all, and receiving warm welcomes as I was invited into homes and offered drinks.

However, I had not yet got used to the tropical bright daylight swiftly rushing into evening darkness. As long as I was on the main road lighted candles and lamps guided me towards the presbytery.

This was approached by a steep avenue of trees. After a few paces nothing visible ahead of me, but total, solid darkness. At least I knew I was heading in the right direction. The hard even surface of the road was sufficient to keep me on course. When I strayed somewhat I met soft, tufty grass.

Progress was so far so good..until I collapsed onto a very solid lump of something, which surged and heaved itself upwards in one violent thrust that sent me hurtling backwards, surprised, shaken, bruised.

No need to speculate about what I'd encountered. It bellowed and brayed, pounding away from me in shocked indignation. Wouldn't you have done the same? The poor donkey had been violently awakened from its pleasant dreams. It knew not by what. It could not see me. It's limited experience of parish priests had never prepared it for this.

Come to think of it, nothing that I had been taught by my learned tutors at Blackfriars, Oxford, had prepared my priesthood for this. They might have cautioned me lest I got myself into trouble...but not, surely, the trouble of tripping over dormant donkeys!

An obvious lesson to be learned would be never to step out of the house without a flash-light, even the micro penlight version.

Only many years later, more than forty, when I'd got into this 'blog business' did it occur to me that there must be a spirituality to this episode in my priestly curriculum vitae. There must be something God wants me to share with you that might somehow be helpful to you. And surely He, stirring up these long dead memories, must, in these days, want me to learn something that would contribute to my own spiritual well-being.

Very much to the point are those words in Sacred Scripture about those who walk in darkness and in the shadow of death; also people being children of the light and children of darkness. And what about Psalm 119 (118),v.5, always a favourite with me?
'Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path.
I have sworn and made up my mind to obey your decrees.'

I think of the confusion, the pain and the shame I have brought to my own life, and, by direct consequence, into the lives of other people through my following my own lights, rather than allowing myself to be enlightened by God. This has been when I've stuck to my own opinions and preferences rather than do what I knew for certain was the will of God.

Mywaygodsway must be that I must always carry His light, never put out His light, never, never, never! For my own sake and that of others!

Peter O.P.
Next week Isidore will reflect on meeting God in a Place of My Own

1 comment:

  1. This story reminds me a little of George Bernanos, Diary of A Country Priest. I hope you and the donkey managed to make things up!!
    The darkness you speak of, reminded me of the west coast of Ireland, with only the sound of the roaring waves. Terrifying, but wonderful too. Thank you for sharing this story.