Thursday, 20 September 2012


I’ve spent almost the whole of my priestly life working in the Caribbean islands of Grenada and Barbados. That’s over fifty years. I know what it’s like to labour in the heat of the day. My heart goes out to that little girl who asked of her mother why they always had to have a tired priest for their Sunday Mass. Hers would have been my third celebration of the morning – each one being in a different place; each one being a gorgeous act of worship lasting well over an hour.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Mine has been a very contented priesthood, sprinkled with the sweet and the sour, the smooth and the rough. Taking a rest after my Sunday lunch has made it possible for me, from a temperate climate, to cope with the tropical heat and humidity, as well as with the heavy work-load.

Life was never meant to be as easy as we would like it to be! Time was when I was pastor of a parish with the church and presbytery right in the heart of the town.   There was this darling toddler who would bottle up his noisy energy throughout the week and then release it on Sunday afternoons as he paraded up and down the street that passed just under my room. He’d got hold of a large dried-milk tin and, in a state of sublime ecstasy, was pounding the very life out it with a stick.

Perhaps he’d been captivated by the melodious sounds stroked out of the steel pans of the  West Indies. Could be this little fellow aspired to belonging to the police band when he grew up. One thing I do know for sure is that drums belong to the culture of the West Indies. Many a secondary school has its drum corps which leads the ‘March Past’ of the competing Houses at the annual sports.   Even the infant schools have to find some drummers to ‘ beat the beat’ as they proudly  ‘march the march’ at their own sports.

My head throbbed with weary pain as this drummer- boy adorned the Day of the Lord with tin-can glory! Grudgingly I groped towards the window to see what was going on.  There, before my sleepy eyes, was a child radiant with joy as admiring folk clapped their hands to his beat. If I’d intervened I would probably have lost next Sunday’s congregation (as well as the collection).

All this happened many years ago but it surfaced in my memory as I listened to the readings of the Mass of the day. Sorry but it’s true …irreverently, uninvited, this Blog sprang into being as I heard of St. Paul carrying on about booming  gongs and tinkling cymbals. Perhaps his siesta had been disturbed by a lusty drum-beater or tin-can- basher. Any way he was one who in irritation considered that those who speak without love had much in common with the gongs and cymbals that emit a hollow, empty noise! ( see I Cor. 13) I’m sure he would have added tin-cans to his list of offenders.

Now I must watch myself. I find myself rushing in a direction that is totally unacceptable to me.  I would never have wanted to chide the little boy for being so noisily naughty. (Or should it be ‘naughtily noisy?’) There was never a grain of malice in his little heart.  That Sunday afternoon he was a source of laughter and happiness to his admiring audience.

His spectators were in step with his exuberance. I, the sleepy priest, was probably the only one in town who was out of step with his beat!

Now, what about this for a happy liturgical coincidence? In the Gospel of that same day Jesus spoke of  those grumbling discontents who were like, children shouting to one another while they sit in the market place: We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn't dance; we sang dirges, and you wouldn't cry,’(Lk.7).

I feel that this memory, brought to the surface during the Mass itself, was godsway of telling me I will never be happy, and I will never deserve to be happy, if I insist on people accommodating themselves to my convenience. Once I allow other people  (such as this little boy) to have ‘their moments’ I shall find inner peace- even though it may be amidst some tribulation –such as the loss of a much desired, greatly needed, siesta!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post, Father!

    I always enjoy reading this Blog.