St Francis, the oldest Catholic Church in Victoria, is popular to visit during the lunch hour of the working week, outside of COVID-19 times.
Within the church itself, on the western side, is the “Ladye Chapel”, a space dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Among the words that run above the stained-glass windows of the chapel are these: “Is there any sorrow like unto my sorrow”. The phrase reminds us that while Mary may be Queen of Heaven, she is also a mother who was hurt deeply by the suffering and death of her son on the cross.
The Ladye Chapel is a place of great beauty, and of deep peace that is not disturbed by the constant turnover of people popping in to offer a prayer to Our Lady.
I happened to be in the chapel one lunchtime. I was ready to leave but a sense that I should stay kept me there. I delayed my departure until I sensed that there was no longer resistance to my leaving and then I headed off, crossing Lonsdale Street and walking back towards the heart of the city along Elizabeth Street.
Elizabeth Street was packed with people hurrying through the city on their lunchtime break. When I paused at the lights on a small one-way cross street, a little boy, perhaps three or four years of age, came bursting through the crowd behind me and arrived by my side on the edge of the road. He was alone.
I immediately, instinctively, put my arm out in front of him, barring his way across the road, asking him where his mother was. The crowd pushed all around us.
I looked back behind us and, after a long minute, I saw what I was looking for; the mother, wide-eyed and frantic, fighting forwards through the crowd. She reached us and enfolded the boy, giving voice to her fears and relief. They disappeared and I went on my way.
I might have thought that the encounter was a lucky coincidence, that I had just happened to be in the right place at the right time but for that strong sense I had received in the chapel that the timing of my departure was very important that day.
We should not be surprised at the notion that God might sometimes work through us; we are taught that God takes a personal interest in our welfare to the point that the very hairs on our head are numbered.
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