Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 29

I DO believe, Sister Jan, that your vocation includes the making of the most ambitious of cakes. I’ve never seen the like of that one before!” Father Anderson gazed longingly at the Italian lemon tart which lay in the place of honour on the top of the sideboard.

“Our newest sister has taught us a lot.” Joan laughed.

“I could smell the lemons as soon as I entered the room,” Father George said. “My mouth is watering already.”

Clare came into the refectory bearing a large tureen, and placed it at one end of the table. Jan and Emma carried bowls of vegetables and new potatoes with the butter melting around them invitingly.

“If you will sit at the head of the table with Father George at your right we will all take our places,” Joan said.

The nuns took their seats and Joan noticed that Ben, whose place was beside her own at the other end of the refectory table, bowed his head shyly and his shoulders drooped. Joan realised with a smile that he was trying not to look so tall.

“Well, now,” Father Anderson said. “Shall I say Grace?”

“Oh, yes, Father, that would be so nice,” Joan replied.

“Then instead of joining your hands in prayer I should like us to join hands together in love and friendship.” He smiled.

They joined hands together around the big old table as Father Anderson said the Grace that would be his last in their house. Joan felt sadness in her heart. They had been friends for many years and it was hard to think that this would be the final meal they would all have together. The smell of the lemon tart wafted across the table like an invisible temptation. Joan set her mind to the prayer.

“Amen.” Father Anderson opened his eyes.

“Amen,” they chorused.

Sister Clare and Jan put plates beside the tureen that had been set before Joan. She lifted the lid and the delicious aroma almost cancelled out the temptation of the lemon tart.

“Sister Jan?” Clare smiled. “Will you give this first plate to Father as he is the guest of honour?”

Jan took the plate and put it before their friend. Clare stood with spoon in hand to serve the vegetables. Her face was quite pink, as if she were holding her breath.

“Sister,” he said. “Without even tasting it I can see that you have excelled yourself.”

Clare let out a breath.

“There’s plenty, Father,” she said. “You may have seconds if you like.”

“Wine also,” Jan added. “Farmer Murray has given a bottle if you fancy it, and wishes you bon voyage.”

Father Anderson held up his hands.

“My word,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed by all this kindness but I fear that the meal will be intoxicating enough without any other embellishments. I suggest you keep the bottle for Christmas.”

Joan noted that Father George looked rather disappointed.

“I hope your plans for the parish will include Christmas dinner with us.” She smiled at the young priest.

“I would be delighted,” he replied.

“I saw the ginger cat today,” Sister Louise said. “He was investigating the potting shed. He refused to be caught.”

“We have mice in there,” Sister Amy observed. “Maybe he’s doing a good job after all.”

“Best not to encourage the creature,” a disapproving Madeline said. “Give that sort an inch and he’ll be sneaking into the larder in no time at all.”

“That reminds me,” Father George said. “Next week I’m giving a Bless the Animals service. It will be my first chance to do something a bit different for the parish.”

Father Anderson grinned.

“Rather you than me, young man,” he said. “I’ve heard of these services, and of some of the adventures that happen there.”

“Oh, I think it will be fine,” Father George assured him. “Only the small animals will come into the church; the larger ones like horses and ponies I shall bless outside.”

Sister Amy giggled.

“Farmer Murray has a pig.”

“It is still one of God’s creatures,” the young priest replied. “It will be welcome.”

“It’s a jolly big pig,” Imelda observed.

“We have no pet to bring,” Clare said sadly.

“If we can persuade the ginger cat, maybe he would like to come,” Sister Jan said.

Madeline grinned.

“You’ll have to catch him first.”



Alison Cook