On Sunday I went to Chalcedon451’s Church for a special reason. His parish has been supporting a seminarian who was ordained to the priesthood two weeks ago. To the Catholics here that will sound an odd time to ordain someone, and in the normal course of events he would have been ordained next Easter; but since he will be dead long before then, he was ordained under special licence (is that the right term?). He came to concelebrate Mass that morning, with his family with him; he is 37.

I was in tears, and wasn’t the only one. Thin to the point of gauntness, Fr. Ben stood only when he could, and he looked for all the world like one of those El Greco saints. But the sadness was all with us – he radiated peace and calm.

Afterwards the priest told us that Fr. Ben would give anyone who wanted an individual blessing, as is customary with a new priest. As an Anglican, I held back, but took one of the older ladies who can’t walk far to the front for her blessing. I stood delicately behind her (in case she fell) and to one side. Fr. Ben blessed her. His eyes seemed large and almost burning in that gaunt face. When he had blessed her, I went to catch her arm – he caught my eye. ‘You need a blessing’, he said, looking right at me. My world suddenly went quiet as I looked into his eyes.

Some instinct, I know not whence it came, made me kiss his hand, and I put my hands together between his. He signed me with the sign of the Cross and then he blessed me. I shan’t say what he said, it is between us and God. But I felt an electric shock go through me – my whole body tingled with some energy it hadn’t felt before. C helped me away.

I gathered myself, and went off to do my stuff with the old ladies – getting them tea and biscuits and making sure that the children did not get too rowdy around them. Routine helps sometimes.

C and my sister took me to lunch to cheer me up, they know I’ve been a bit ‘down’, and why. I’ve just been letting myself ride on the surface of what happened with Fr. Ben. He knew, of course, that I was not a Catholic, and I would never have sought out a blessing (though I wanted one badly) when there were so many faithful Catholics waiting; but he singled me out; he sought me out though I was far off and lost.

My emotions are high. Every time I think about Fr. Ben I cry. I prayed for him in the Rosary last night and this morning. He is dying to this world, but surely, oh surely he is being born to the next one. God, he told us all ‘is Good! The source of all goodness.’ Of a truth, cancer may eat away his body, but his spirit blazed through like the fiery pillar in the wilderness.