St. Ignatius of the Garden
by Brigid O'Sullivan
by Brigid O'Sullivan
For several years she’d spent every spare minute in the garden of the church, digging, weeding and planting the seeds and cuttings from her own up the road. In the centre of it, Saint Ignatius would keep her company, floating above her on his marble pedestal. She'd go on about the loneliness of her life with the kids grown and gone and her husband dead, God rest him. Ignatius had special understanding powers, he interceded for her.
She bought those expensive Italian creams once Father Ryan had told her the big news a week ago. The silver bottle was for the eyes, it took away the wrinkles. The gold bottle was for around the mouth. She'd heard it removed accordion lips.
Frequently, Father Ryan would come down from the church and join her on the bench beneath the statue, taking one of her cigarettes, telling her that although he’d quit, the odd one couldn’t hurt. They’d look out over the garden together, Ignatius flying above them. The years of her dedication had seen phenomenal growth in the banks of rhododendrons, hollyhocks and climbing roses she’d dug in as cuttings. Spectacular, Father Ryan had said of her efforts in the spring, two months ago.
A month ago, when the calla lilies were flaming against the hedge and the colours of the clemantines tumbled over the rockery, he'd said she’d the hands of an artist, an artist of God, and he leaned over to touch one of the trellised rose buds between his fingers, and smiled at her in that special way.
When he’d gone back to the church to hear confessions she'd looked up at Ignatius and said it was great to be appreciated.
A week ago Father Ryan had come down the steps and said he'd something to tell her, it might be a shock. He took her elbow and sat beside her on the bench.
I'm leaving the priesthood Maggie, he said, I can't fulfill my vows anymore.
She closed her eyes briefly, silently thanking Ignatius.
Why Father? And she puffed nervously on her cigarette, conscious of her heart beat, mentally framing her words of response.
The sins of the flesh Maggie my dear, I'll have to say goodbye now. You're a good woman, a very good woman.
And he immersed her hand in both of his, then blessed her and hurried away in a bustle of cassock.
You'll be in touch? she asked his vanishing back. But he didn't hear her.
Of course he would be. That would go without saying.
She weeded the lily of the valley circle which was nestled under the yellow and purple of the sweet pea.
So Ignatius, she sat on her haunches and looked upward, you'll take all that to Himself, right? You'll do the interceding for me up there? It's been a week and he hasn't phoned me yet. It must take a while to leave the priesthood and get your affairs in order. Sure, I'll be waiting right here.