William Allingham is in the New Forest at Lymington, a small port opposite the Isle of Wight, where he is a senior customs officer. He recorded in his diary on this day in 1868.
Thursday, October 22. — Lymington. Walk to Setley, and find gypsies encamped. Coming back I overtake a little girl carrying with difficulty two bags of sand, and just as I am asking how far she is going, up drives Rev. P. F. in his gig, who offers me a lift. I say, ‘ Help this little girl with her two heavy bags,’ upon which his Reverence reddens and drives off. I carry one of the bags.
Where to start? Of course in 2022 we could be screened from the realities of life for a poor child because we would drive past in a sealed car, and not notice a thing. And we can insulate ourselves in other ways too.
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Matthew 25:44
The Pope’s intention for October is: We pray that by virtue of baptism, the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church.
Having been dismissed summarily from a post of responsibility in my parish by a newly ordained curate, I realise that it is not always ‘by virtue of baptism’ that ‘the laity’ participate in the Church, but by the favour of the clergy. Something’s wrong when a priest abuses the power that rightly goes with the responsibility of leading a parish community. As Pope Francis says, the pastor should smell of his sheep.
Do you remember the Doors of Mercy that were set up during Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy? This one was in Zakopane, Poland. Through God’s mercy we can enter what we rather inadequately call ‘The House of God’ — if there is a way to avoid crippling steps, put there by history but not needed for today’s church, which seems to be called to be much more lay-led in the near future.