We are considerably blessed in our particular church. One of those blessings is the considerable breadth in the types of people who grace our edifice. We are well used to Bishops visiting us, even Lord Lieutenants and town Mayors. All part of a day's work here at St. Mary's. At the other end of the 'social status' scale, we are oft visited by members of the homeless community, and some even make a bed under the Lady Chapel altar, for it is snug, and you could remain undetected for literally years.
Last Sunday, a vagrant entered the church. He was, in every sense of the word a hobo, a tramp, a ragamuffin. It would not be unkind to report that he smelled appalling, and his clothes had that rather crumpled look of one who had slept in them. His hair was a picture too - balancing atop his head at an alarming angle which testified to its unwashed, un-brushed state. I am not sure if wasn't full of vermin and lice - but it would have been entirely conceivable. That said, his breath would have purged his hair of any livestock. Please don't think me unkind, for I am simply reporting the bare facts.
What caught the attention of the parishioners was the demeanor with which he stumbled into the church. There was something wild about him - that sort of expression we all get when we are about to miss a train. This dusty crumpled fellow had a wild look in his eyes, a breathlessness. It was that which was the more alarming, not his appearance and odour. God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform - and rather than coming into church to bum a cigarette or to beg for some cash (though he would have claimed [and appeared] to have needed it), he did something very different. He didn't ask for food or even for a place under the Lady Chapel altar. No, he simply walked behind it, looked at the gathered throng - who, believe me, were rather uncertain of what was going on at this time.
Then he celebrated Mass.
For this is what happened when the Curate forgot that the clocks went forward last Saturday night, and fell out of bed at 8.01am. That the service was due to start at 8.00am only added to his consternation. No time for collars, no time for ironing shirts - no time at all.