Francis Gardom considers two other members of his mythical congregation, worthy and wrong
In his book Sins of the Saints Fr Rosenthal claimed that the Greek word eu-peristatos in Hebrews 12.2, often rendered ‘the sin which doth so easily beset us’ should be translated ‘the sin which is admired by many’. Not those sins like murder and adultery which everyone knows are wrong, but thoughts, words and deeds which have been corrupted into something less worthy, but which nonetheless are ‘admired by many’.
Let us continue our tour of St Grizelda’s folk with Mrs Martha Driver. She is a widow, and someone who gets things done. Before her retirement she was Sister-Tutor at the hospital, and previously, Matron at a boy’s boarding school. Now, with time on her hands, and a single-minded commitment to St Grizelda’s, she spends her waking life in its service.
As Tutor, Martha learnt that unless someone is ‘in charge’, standards quickly plummet. As Matron she realized that
grown men remain schoolboys throughout their lives. Their self-discipline, as she says, always needs ‘affirming’. Which means keeping her watchful eye on what they are doing or, more probably, failing to do.
Martha’s an admirable example of commitment; but her skills are only part of what St Grizelda’s needs. Some women find her breezy manner off-putting, so she’s ended up by running practically everything herself: Mother’s Union, Young Wives, Stewardship, Flowers, Guides, Brownies, Cubs.
As for criticism: ‘If that’s how you feel then you’d better find someone else.’ So criticisms are made sotto voce. Others, who might lend a hand, long ago ceased volunteering their services, leaving the handful of helpers who rather enjoy being bossed about by Martha Driver!
Mary Neale resembles her in one respect: both share a total commitment to the well-being of St Grizelda’s. But whilst Mrs Driver is concerned with what she calls ‘practical solutions’, Miss Neale when troubles come says T think we should all pray about it.’
And what, you ask, is wrong with that? Well, nothing is wrong with it – but there are certain problems where no amount of praying will substitute for the honest elbow-grease which Mrs Driver provides in such generous quantities.
For example: cleaning the Lady Chapel. When Mrs Driver first asked Miss Neale if she would like to be responsible for this, she responded enthusiastically. But now she spends more time in the chapel praying for St Grizelda’s and its people (including Martha Driver) than actually cleaning it. Recently, I’m told, a colony of mice were found to have taken up residence under the altar.
Neither of these good ladies has got it entirely wrong – but they haven’t got it quite right either. Each is doing a ‘permitted thing’, but because Mrs Driver seldom prays and Miss Neale’s cleaning leaves so much undone, their admirable virtues conspire to make both of them ‘fall short of the glory of God’.