Weekly Reflection 9th – 15th August 2009

Posted on: Sunday 9th August 2009

Never look a gift-dog…

I remember when I passed my driving test, aged thirty, my instructor telling me to forget everything I’d learned if I actually wanted to get anywhere in a car. During the course of our long relationship his hair went white – unusual in a man of thirty – and he may simply have been trying to finally get me out of his Maestro, but it was advice I recalled when I was ordained. Much of what is taught at Theological College should be forgotten the day you leave, and I have to say that the hours spent studying something called ‘pastoral theology’ are among the most wasted of my life. The best advice I ever got while I was an ordinand was from an old and experienced priest from the Diocese of Durham who said, One: get a good confessor – and Two: do your Christmas cards in November. Of course, in this profession, like so many others, most of one’s learning is ‘on the job’; and this week I’ve learned something really useful.

It is a common experience for a cleric in a dog collar to walk down the most crowded thoroughfare and see it part before you like the Red Sea before Moses. I don’t think it is because people feel particularly hostile towards us – or not many – it is just that Vicars and Curates seem to provoke obscure feelings of guilt or awkwardness in a crowd. Sometimes this can work to your advantage. An elderly Monsignor I used to know said he could always guarantee a compartment to himself on the train simply by beckoning to other passengers to join him. More often, however, it is frustrating; but I think have discovered the solution.

I have acquired a puppy, Daisy, a fourteen-week old miniature long-haired, blue-eyed, piebald dachshund. She is so pretty shaven-headed men with spiders’ webs tattooed on their faces have broken down in tears at the mere sight of her and queues of cooing ladies-who-lunch have formed in Motcomb Street to pet her on our midday constitutional. Please feel free to behave as extravagantly as you like to her for the puppy-trainer advises that getting her socialized to as many people and places as quickly as possible is best.

Naturally, I am already hopelessly in love with her, but she wouldn’t be here if it had been down to me. I’ve had dachshunds before but not for some years now, and I’d begun to think that it was simply impractical to have a dog. I mentioned this casually to a friend – actually someone I’ve only just met – and three weeks later he gave me Daisy, a gift not only of sumptuous generosity but extraordinary thoughtfulness.

We can all think of a hundred reasons not to do something – we don’t have the time, it will inconvenience us, it may not be practical – but sometimes being inconvenienced is exactly what we need.

Fr Richard Coles, Curate.