You could not have come at a better time

You could not have come at a better time

Fr Vincent Sherlock

Jack was a decent man!  The sort you’d enjoy visiting.  He lived alone – well not totally for he had an amazing connection with horses.  A man once told me that he could leave the wildest of horses in the field beside Jack’s house and within days, the animal would be tamed beyond belief.  Gentleness and patience were the only tools Jack used.  He was a decent man.

I began to visit him on my First Friday calls.  The priest that was in the parish before me used spread his calls over two days, Thursday and Friday but I discovered I could do them all on the Friday. Maybe I didn’t give it as much time as the other man, I’m not sure.

In any case I asked Jack one day if he called in to visit any of his neighbours and he told me that he didn’t.  I then asked if any of them called in to visit him and again he said “no”.  He seemed quite all right with this and I asked him if he went anywhere; “No”, he replied “I don’t bother”.  “You must enjoy your own company”, I said.  “I do for sure”, he replied, and I said “Jack, you’re a lucky man”.  He nodded in agreement.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” I asked.  It’s as if he’d been waiting all his life for this question.  “Could you call on a Thursday?” he said!!  I smiled, the man who didn’t go anywhere found Friday to be a less than ideal day for my visitation!!  I think we both saw the humorous side of this.  We both laughed.  I’ve never forgotten the moment.  He was a decent man.  I kept going on Fridays and we didn’t have that conversation again.

The last time I saw him was in hospital.  I just called in to see how he was doing and found him nearing the end. We said a few prayers and said goodbye.  When I got to my car, I thought that I really should have anointed him, so I returned to his room, said the prayers and celebrated with him, the Sacrament of The Sick.

The right place

A few hours later, his nephew called “Jack’s gone”, he said.  “May he rest in peace”, I replied.  I realised it was before midnight and, more importantly, that it was Thursday.  “It took me a while Jack”, I said to him in prayer “but I did manage to get to visit you on a Thursday”.

Luke’s Gospel passage (1:39-45) finds Mary on Elizabeth’s doorstep.  Irrespective of the day, she’s in the right place.

Maybe there’s someone that might benefit from a visit from you this Advent day?

(From a short booklet of Advent Reflections, I’ve written called LET ADVENT BE ADVENT, published by Messenger Publications and available through and bookshops)



A prayer for Advent


As we think of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, remind me of the importance of visitation and keeping in touch with people.  Allow me that freedom of time that ensures I can visit people especially when they might most need it.  May my own comforts, tiredness or laziness never stand in the way of doing the right thing by others.  May I show graciousness too in welcoming those who come to visit me and assure them of a welcome that is sincere and appreciative of the time they’ve given, and the effort made.






The last time I spoke with Fr Ronan Drury was on a Monday about four months ago.  I recognised his voice immediately and prepared myself for work!!  “I’m not the editor”, he used to say “I’m the predator!”  He asked for nothing!  He called because he had read a piece I had in the Irish Catholic that weekend.  “It was so good”, he said, “just wonderful, and I wanted to say that”.  Thirty and more years ago, he shaped my voice and words.  His called humbled me.  I can only hope he knew that.  May he rest in peace.