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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

14 November 2018: Sheila Douglas, St Laurence Catholic Church

Out of the blue

In France school classes begin early and today the children were late up. It was 7.20am — 15 minutes more before they had to leave for school. Suddenly a voice from the radio bade me ‘Good Morning! Today I am going to talk about prayer’. Not now,' I thought, ‘I'm too busy.' I shouted, ‘Hurry up’, and over the thump of feet on the stairs I heard Rabbi Lionel Blue say, ‘I know you are very busy — you will not have time to kneel and pray today — you need a hand. Well God needs a hand too, so, if you have no time to get on your knees today just be a pair of God's hands’. His words stuck in my mind. Later that week I attended an ecumenical service and had a chat about the difficulties of prayer with David Gerrish, an Anglican priest from the Chaplaincy of Aquitaine who ministered to expats in Dordogne. A few days later he sent me a text by St Theresa of Avila. I still have it.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours: no feet but yours: yours are the eyes with which He looks out with compassion upon the world: yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good: yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.

Local papers often featured road accidents involving British tourists. Did they need help? Could I interpret? Maybe next week I … then … suddenly … inexplicably ... while sipping a cup of coffee, there was an intense awareness that I had to visit the local clinic right now … in the next hour. Such a strong feeling was not to be denied. The receptionist frowned when I gave her my written details, looked puzzled when I offered to interpret for medical staff treating British patients, consulted a colleague, then said with a smile. ‘Ze couple viz ze child are Dutch. Zay speak Engleesh. No French. Pliz tell zem zee little girl 'as peritonitis and we must operate in two hours’. I did as asked and happily, two weeks later the child was well enough to be driven back to Holland by her parents.

Was it just a curious coincidence or a nudge from above? Who knows? All I do know is that within a period of a week the words of a Jewish rabbi, an Anglican Priest, and a 16th century Catholic saint completely changed the course of my life over the next 30 years, gave it new purpose, and enriched it beyond belief.

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