Monday, 29 July 2013


The former incumbent of our next-door parish once made the more sensitive members of Chapter gulp with a statement that 'a parish priest needs to know when to be a bastard'. I suppose the corollary of that is that they need to know when not to be, too.

I found myself in the bastard's position last week over Micky. Micky had taken up residence a couple of weeks before in the churchyard, initially with a bicycle, although that had mysteriously disappeared. He had a habit of grasping my hand in a vice-like grip which belied his appalling aroma, clouds of accompanying flies, and incomprehensible speech (which, however, I discovered could be effectively deciphered by various local residents). He lived in the big rhododendron bush and had been observed by the denizens of the old people's flats on the other side of the churchyard taking a dump there, which I'd already upbraided him for. I had swabbed down the benches in the churchyard after he'd wee-ed over them, and been very grateful for the fact that he never tried to sleep in the church itself. I was not sure quite where responsibility for the piles of lager cans lay between Micky or the other drinkers who were magnetically drawn to the Garden of Remembrance to accompany him. I was rather more sure of the complaints I had from people whose relatives' ashes were buried there.

On Sunday morning a week ago I came to church to take the 8am mass on a hot, bright day. Micky was rather harmlessly sat on a bench minding his own business. However on going home for breakfast I spotted him enthusiastically urinating up the wall of Boots the Chemist as families went by on their way to the Roman Catholic mass at 8.45. People live in the flats above that, I thought.
Coming down again for the 10am I found him lying in the church porch, his lager cans on the ground. I said it was time for him to move on. 'You look on me as a lower form of life' he said.

Now let us not be falsely sentimental, for Christ is the enemy of false sentiment. Micky's life - a life he doesn't want to leave as there is a very pleasant and well-resourced hostel four miles away he could go to if he wanted -  is just incompatible with the life my parishioners lead, and I can be of no good to him. But being bounced into being the representative of communal self-righteousness is not at all congenial.

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