Sunday, 27 March 2011
“It’s jolly decent of you to come and see me so quickly Padre … I’m in real difficulty you see …”
Father Ignatius put down his cup of coffee and said nothing. He encouraged Theodore to go on by nodding politely.
“It’s Gregor McBurnish … you know him of course … he played the bagpipes at out wedding!”
The priest nodded again.
“Well … he’s let me down badly … he’s gone abroad. Australia, or New Zealand I believe … he went to visit distant family. You can’t get more distant than Australia I say … what?”
Father Ignatius smiled.
“And now I’m in trouble with Colonel Grant … old Army friend. That’s where you come in … I thought. You’re a decent chap ... Never let me down … unlike McBurnish … You can help save the day with Colonel Grant … He is Catholic you know … but he hasn’t been in Church for years … Grant that is, not McBurnish. He’s Church of Scotland you know.”
“I don’t think I understand …” Father Ignatius enquired.
“I need your help to sort out Colonel Grant … you can handle a gun I take it?” asked Theodore.
Father Ignatius was taken aback at the question.
“No … no …” mumbled the priest, “Why don’t you start from the beginning Theodore. What trouble are you in exactly …”
“Well … ehm … every two years Colonel Grant holds a shooting contest at his mansion some thirty miles or so from here … McBurnish and I are always on the same team … he can’t make it this year so I thought you’d replace him …”
The priest breathed a sigh of relief.
“Ah … I understand. But … but … I’ve never ever been near a gun, never mind shoot it …”
“I suppose not …” interrupted Theodore, “the Bishop’s crook is more your weapon of choice what?” He laughed heartily.
“And I wouldn’t be comfortable shooting at birds or rabbits or whatever …” continued the priest.
“Oh no … it’s not that.” Theodore interrupted again. “We shoot at clay pigeons … little clay discs which are thrust into the air by a machine. You shout “PULL” … the chap at the machine releases the disc high in the air and you shoot it before it hits the ground. We play in teams of two and then there’s a decent lunch at the mansion. You’ll get to meet some new people and you’d be doing me a great favor Padre. It’s in three weeks time and I could teach you to shoot …”
The day in question was pleasant enough although not Father Ignatius’ cup of tea. As expected, he was paired with Theodore and despite trying his best the priest missed more clay discs than hit them. Fortunately, Theodore was a better marksman and did not miss one disc.
During the buffet lunch which followed Father Ignatius mingled with the guests and it was soon obvious that he had nothing in common with these people. He wondered why he had agreed to accompany Theodore and wished he’d soon return to his more mundane lifestyle at St Vincent Church.
As the priest decided to go out for a walk in the gardens there was an almighty clattering of dishes breaking and cutlery falling in the dining room. He turned round and saw a man fall to the ground … It was Colonel Grant.
The guests picked him up and sat him in a chair, whereupon he asked to speak to the guest priest.
Father Ignatius approached him and the other guests moved away to give them some privacy. The Colonel was conscious and spoke quietly to the priest whilst someone phoned for an ambulance. Theodore tried to contact the Colonel’s wife who had gone to town for the day.
Eventually the ambulance arrived and took the Colonel to hospital. He died of a heart attack on the way there.
On the way back to St Vincent Church both men remained quiet for a while. Finally Theodore spoke:
“It was lucky you were there Father …” he said, “God must have wanted you to be there for the Colonel … that’s why McBurnish had to go to Australia and miss the shoot …”
“I’ll admit I did not want to go with you at first,” Father Ignatius replied, “but God had something different in mind. He must surely love the Colonel to ensure there was a priest with him in his final moments!”