Tuesday, June 2, 2009

'You need not fear the terrors of night nor the arrow that flies in the daytime...'

The names and places in the short stories on this posting are changed for privacy or anonymity of any person therein. The stories themselves are real life events.

Catherine heard the sound of the car turning into the driveway. She ran out, dishcloth still in her hand. Her heart sank at Teresa’s solemn face looking out the car window. "It didn’t pass?" she asked as Teresa closed the car door. Suddenly there were shouts of joy "Of course it did. Thanks be to God." "Oh don’t do that," Catherine replied but couldn’t resist the whoopee shout as the two friends walked indoors. Not sure if it was all the excitement, but as she closed the door she noticed a tall thin man across the street standing there, chatting on his mobile as he looked over at the two women walking into the house.
"I just can’t believe we have the car for another two years. What a good ol’ buddy! She should run pretty well through the country roads," Teresa said as she put down her handbag and took out the certificate of the National Car Test. It only seemed like yesterday when Fr. John was over to bless the car. They recalled how he stood at the car doors. "Do you have a blessed medal in here" he asked. Noting their obvious answer he said "Okay, here is a miraculous medal, now I will bless it" and with his hand he blessed the medal and placed it inside on the dashboard. Five years had passed since then and it was hard to believe how quickly the time had gone. The following week they would be driving West and it couldn’t arrive soon enough. To walk in the green fields again, count the many different hues hidden in the landscape, watch the swallows build their nests, and perhaps hear a few of their sweeter songs to the Creator in early morning or late evening. "A time for everything," Catherine thought, a time to move West!

Catherine went out into the garden and sat beneath the big old apple tree that was older than the house itself. Their mission time in Dublin was drawing to a close. Mary was well settled now in the cloister and while at first she was very much missed, their prayers for each other united them more closely in Spirit than perhaps when they all shared accommodation together. She smiled as she remembered Mary’s last words to them both "Want to come with me?" Catherine knew her place was in the world, as it had been since she devoted her life to the Lord at the age of twenty five. Twenty two years later she marvelled at the way in which she had been led by His Spirit. In many ways she felt her work was only beginning, perhaps the longest part had been the life of quiet prayer. She delighted in the walled garden, a shield from neighbouring houses, giving privacy to enjoy the blossoms around her. Once again she looked at the white and lilac flowers hanging over the old wooden gate leading into the back garden. The pastel colours, splashed across the walls, were an attractive contrast against the deep green of the trees and lawns. The different fragrances, especially in the late evening, mingled in the fresh air that skirted around her face and hands as she wrote.

Teresa waved as she drove off suggesting her flat mate should stay indoors this time until she returned. She had a small grocery list for shopping and wouldn’t be away too long. Catherine went back into the living room and sat down to some work at the computer. Suddenly she became uneasy and restless. She got up and went into the kitchen to make a tea. Waiting for the kettle to boil she walked over to the window and looked out at the front lawn. More flowers were budding. She went upstairs. "I’ll get full view here," she thought. As she looked down into the flower beds that unease suddenly moved over Catherine again and she stood still. Standing to one side of the bedroom window she looked out and across the road. All along the tree lined avenue it was quiet. No one was in sight. Hardly a car passed by. The avenue was empty of traffic and pedestrians. She turned to move away dismissing the unease but paused one more time to scan the tree lined avenue and then her heart seemed to stop. A pair of grey blue tennis shoes were visible underneath the blossom trees across from her front door. Slowly her eyes moved up to see a patch of worn denim jeans. The rest of the man was hidden by the wide green bush all around the wall. Catherine picked up her mobile and began texting "Pls return, we seem to have trouble." She then went down the stairs to check all doors and windows and said a short prayer.

The sound of the car in the driveway was music to her ears as Catherine walked out and looked up and down the street. Teresa looked around. "He’s gone," "I know that" Teresa replied. "But why is he hanging around and who is he? I don't like it."
"I would really like to pray Psalm 91, if that's okay with you," Catherine said as they began evening prayer. "Sure, but we always ask God's protection every morning so is there any reason for this?" "Don't know, just have a need to say it every day in these days" was the reply.
The weather forecast warned of heavy rain on the way and all doors and windows were checked before dark set it. A headache continued to niggle at Catherine who was now also feeling the beginnings of a fevery flu. She decided to call it a night. "I’m going to stay up a while and catch up on some online english teaching." Teresa called from the kitchen.

Catherine pulled the duvet over her, glad to have rest in her cosy bedroom.. The evening prayer time was so peaceful but sleep wouldn’t come. She sat up, propped another pillow behind her head and sat back. "It’s too humid," she thought. "Need to let the night air at this headache." She jumped out of bed and eased the window open enough for the cool night air to move in and not too much that the raindrops would follow! Settling back against the pillows she sat in silence, listening to the pounding drops hit the deserted streets and roof of the car in the driveway. The rain continued to pour down, the sky darker than its night colour. Suddenly her eyes shot open at the loud thumping sound. She sat up. "What is that?" she thought. It was so difficult to figure it out with the noise of the raindrops falling in heavy sheets of grey. Again she listened. There it was. A thumping sound, like a thud, a continuing thud. Her heart began to race. She ran out into the corridor calling down to Teresa. "What’s going on?" "S-h-h-h," Catherine whispered, with her finger to her lips. "Come upstairs and look out the window." Teresa rushed to the window. "Oh no" she cried. "There are two guys, with hoods over them and they are kicking in the door of my car." "Quick, turn on all lights in the house, every room, except this one quickly." As Catherine looked out the window in disbelief one of the "hoodies" looked up and spotted her white face in the dark room. "Let’s get out of here," he cried to his mate. To her astonishment, a low whistle sounded through the dark night air. A car out of nowhere screeched up to the outside of the house. A door shot open with the driver shouting aggressively to the two men to hurry. Catherine watched on speechless. As the second guy jumped into the car she got a glimpse of a grey blue tennis shoe hanging out of the doorway as the driver sped off turning the corner on two wheels and heading towards the dual carriageway into the city.

Catherine reached over for the arm of the chair beside her bed and lowered herself down into the cushions. "Did I just see a getaway car speeding off like in the movies, or has this flu got the better of me and I'm delirious?"

The police officer jotted down the last note and closed his book. "Well ladies, your car is the only one this criminal gang didn’t get. They have been doing the neighbourhood and many more besides." "But why would they want an old banger like ours" Teresa asked. "To do a job, they have a robbery planned, they get an old car first, hit the place and then dump or burn the car." replied the Garda. "Do you mean these are a professional gang?" "That’s right."

The next morning the car was brought to the garage. To their delight it could be fixed. "The gang kicked in the door, that’s the way they can open it, but one of you guys saw them before they got very far in their efforts and so there is little damage done after all." The garage man told Teresa. The old reliable was returned two days later as good as new and the following day the car was packed up with everything ready for the journey West. As Catherine and Teresa opened the Psalms of thanksgiving, a lilac petal fell from the Bible where Catherine had put it on the night they had prayed Psalm 91 - '..you need not fear the terrors of night nor the arrow that flies in the daytime...'


  1. No, we do not need to fear (but can I always be in such a blessed place?). Whether things turn out for me for good or ill (as it may seem), I am never forsaken.

    I often find stories (akin to parables, perhaps) to be the starting point of changes I need to make in my life or my perspective - and this is a continuous process. I don't mean to be monotonous, but thanks again - your post is both well-written and thoughtful. I do hope you continue.

  2. Thanks Penny. Yes, we all need to make changes along the way and it is a continual process. The friendship of God invites change. Without knowing His love we are inclined to stay in the shadows. Have a blessed Feastday on 19th. Frances.