The Laurel Hedge

Another true story and another exploration of the ‘pedestal mentality’ within the Church…

“Ah’m so awfy sorry Fayther!

Ah didna ken… ye wur a priest!”

The wee lady, all out of breath,

Had run back twenty yards at least.


I had been aware of her group,

Doing the full monastery tour.

Probably kin of Brother James,

Up for the day from Kirriemuir.


I gave her a smile while saying:

“Bless you!” – but through gritted teeth.

The good soul was being polite:

Why was I so angry underneath?


When she passed me by just now,

I was pruning the laurel hedge;

Dressed in old clothes, smeared with dirt;

Bereft of all clerical vestige.


What hurt and upset me that day?

It wasn’t me she came to greet;

It was status, and a real fear

Of offence, that had caused her retreat.


Most likely a ‘cradle Catholic’;

Hymned in from early years to view

The priest as ‘alter Christus’;

Revered, above and beyond the pew.


I’m minded of the story told,

By an old priest, how whenever he

Entered his parents’ house they stood.

Is that courtesy or travesty?


The servant has become the lord;

Maybe the way it has to be?

But if God is the Father of all,

All men share divine pedigree.


There is no cause, ism or ity,

Worth more than a single human life.

Every hair on our head is counted;

We’re redeemed by God’s own sacrifice.


A simple plea for equal respect:

Gardener, priest, tramp or peer.

Look beyond the tatty or the posh;

God has treasure under that veneer.