Friday, 13 November 2009
Left holding the baby.
Father Ignatius had finished his weekly shopping at the supermarket. He jumped into his car and drove to the gas filling station across the road.
It was one of those self-service stations where drivers were expected to fill up their cars by themselves at the pump. The priest got out of the driving seat and began his purchase when he was approached by a young lady in her early twenties pushing a baby in a pram.
“Are you a priest?” she asked.
He was wearing his white collar at the time so he nodded and replied “Yes, I am. How can I help you?”
“It’s an emergency you see …” she said, “I have to go to the toilet quickly. Can you look after my baby for a few minutes please?”
“Well I …” he hesitated.
“I can’t wait …” she cried and ran across the street towards the supermarket, narrowly avoiding a car by inches. Within seconds she was out of sight behind some bushes and trees in the supermarket’s car park.
The priest looked down at the pram at a child who was about to start crying. He leaned down to the child and that was the signal for it to howl loudly.
“There … there … little one,” said Father Ignatius trying to soothe the child by shaking the pram gently. But the more he tried the more the baby cried louder.
By now other cars had queued behind him to get their gas. One or two impatient drivers tooted their car horns. Another opened his car window and let out a profanity only to realize who he was speaking to and then apologized profusely.
The priest looked at his watch and towards the supermarket. The young lady was nowhere to be seen. He ushered the drivers to use another pump.
He waited and waited but the mother never arrived. The baby continued to cry louder and louder. So he decided to pick it up and it was soon obvious what the problem was.
The baby smelled to high heaven having answered the call of nature.
“What do I do now?” thought the priest. “Changing diapers is not something they taught us when I trained for the priesthood.”
He decided to lock his car and made his way, baby held tightly in his arms for fear of dropping it, towards the small shop where you pay for your gas purchases.
It was quite a sight when he entered the shop with a howling smelling baby.
A young dude said: “Hey man … I thought you folks are meant to be celibate. What have you done?”
One or two others laughed as the priest approached the shop counter.
“Your baby stinks …” said the young cashier.
“I know …” replied Father Ignatius gritting his teeth. “Can you please call the police?”
“Because I asked you to ... Hand me your phone … This is an emergency.” replied the priest losing for a brief moment his usual calmness and serenity.
About fourty minutes or so later the police arrived.
Obviously they did not consider the situation an emergency as the priest had described. By then the baby had stopped crying as he slept in the priest’s arms. All the time Father Ignatius mind was focused on the large tub of ice cream melting gently in his car. “Funny how your mind wanders at moments like this,” he thought to himself.
The police officers took their time taking the details of the situation. They recorded his name and address and asked him to describe the young mother. He couldn’t remember much of the brief encounter but helped as best as possible under the circumstances.
Eventually, over an hour and a half since he’d first met the young mother, the police officers decided to take the baby away with them, as well as the pram which by now had been soaked by the rain pouring outside.
Father Ignatius drove back to St Vincent Church and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning ice cream from the back seat of the car.
That evening the priest sat down by the fireside to reflect on his afternoon adventures when the door bell rang.
It was the police. They advised him that they had found the mother and re-united her with her child. She wanted to see him at the hospital.
“At the hospital?” asked the priest.
“Yes sir. Apparently on her way back from the supermarket to collect her child from you she slipped on something and was concussed. An ambulance was called and she was taken to hospital. When she woke up she told us what happened and we re-united her with her baby.”
The priest visited the mother at the hospital that same evening and met her husband as well as other members of her family.
The mother’s wish was for Father Ignatius to baptize their baby.
The young family is now members of his congregation.