The Refectory

The tears were for many things – the water from the Holy Well seemed to have released a steady stream in my. As my face was already wet from the washing of it, and as the light was so low, and as there was no one there save God and myself, it did not matter. Odd how my mind works at such a time – I found myself thinking that it was a good thing that I had worn no make-up (not that I wear much any way). How can the mind carry on such a dialogue with itself whilst also being lost in the wonder of a sublime moment? Perhaps it is just me?

I don’t know how long I sat there in silent contemplation of God’s love and His Grace to me. The benign priest had touched a chord when he had said that it did not matter how much we loved God, He loved us more, and He loved us first. The priest told us that when he was a young man he had ‘tried to make a girl I loved love me, but it did not work’; but that with God that never happened. He loved us, and our response was critical; we can elect to ignore Him, but He will always be there with His arms open. Putting it like that made a powerful impact; as no doubt it will on anyone who has suffered the pangs of unrequited love. (How must it be to be one of the beautiful ones who has never suffered such a thing?)

But I cannot live on that plane for long. I had forgotten about lunch, and it was now 3.30, and I had a drive ahead of me. So, I took some (indifferent I am afraid) photographs and went to the lovely refectory café to have a cappuccino and, since I had missed lunch, a slice of quite delicious Victoria sponge cake. A lovely old gentleman (whose name I never caught) sat at my table, even though the place was almost empty. He asked if I minded? I said I didn’t.

He told me he’d been helping at the Shrine ever since his wife’s death, and that he loved it because of the chance it gave him to help others; it was also an excuse to be with them. His children lived far away, and because they were busy people, they didn’t see much of him, and he was not ‘too good on my pins’ and so didn’t like to travel distances. His eyes were a little wet; mine were a good deal wetter. He offered me a napkin to wipe my tears away. There was so much of tenderness denied in that gesture, so much of love with no object now she who had been its object so long was dead. I think she was a lucky lady; but perhaps he’d been a lucky man too.

They’d been married, he told me, for nearly sixty years; there was not a day he did not miss her. I gave into the impulse, and I held his hands in mine. I said that he’d made me very happy to be connected, even in this remote way, with such a love. He turned his gaze directly on me – ‘my dear, that’s what God feels for you – and much more.’ Where the extra tears came from, I don’t know – but they did.