On Monday night, I attended the first mass of a priest friend of mine; Fr Peter Wolton. It was held at the beautiful church of St John the Baptist, Holland Park Road. It was a wonderful evening, with the mass setting Missa Princeps Pacis; by William Lloyd-Webber, father of Andrew and Julian beautifully performed by the choir. It was an occasion to celebrate the rite of passage of a new priest (just as I did myself a year ago) and to gather with friends old and new. Fr Kevin Morris, Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Bedford Park (Fr Peter’s sending parish ) preached an outstanding sermon. He invited us – amongst other things – to examine the life and work of a priest and suggested that a priest is – or should be – an Easter person who ministers in a Good Friday world. I love that analogy; but it’s not just for priests – all of us exist to show something of the nature of the Risen Lord to a broken and bruised world.
On the way home from the service on my bike (in my clerical collar), I was hailed on Kensington High Street by a well-dressed lady – maybe in her early forties – who said that she had run out of petrol. She said her car was by the Odeon on High Street Kensington. She had just enough money for petrol but didn’t have enough money to buy a can to put it in. Could I help her out with £7.99 for a can to put her petrol in to see her home to Kew? We swapped details and I said I would help her. She said she would send me on the money. Just then another woman jumped out at me and said ” This woman is a total con artist – don’t give her a penny – I’ve seen her out here for the last few hours trying to con people with her story about running out of petrol”. The lady I had been speaking with who wanted the money for the can – Sophie she said to me was her name – angrily denounced this new interloper, who then stalked off, accusing me of being blind to the con that was about to be perpetrated on me.
So to cut a long story short, in the end I gave Sophie the money; £10 to be precise (I didn’t have any change on me). I hope she pays me back. I hope she hasn’t conned me. I’ll let you know. I believe in her. I have the address she gave me and I also have a photo I took of her and I also have the mobile phone number she gave me. Perhaps she is living in Good Friday times and, as Fr Kevin reminded us, needs an Easter Person to help her? Perhaps she was on her knees and couldn’t get home? Perhaps – even if I am conned out of my £10 – she is someone who reminds me – us – that there are people out there who are much worse off than ourselves who need a helping hand once in a while? And if that is the case, maybe our paths crossing on Monday night was a blessing to me?