Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Legion Work

Legion Work

She knits. The same scrap of cherry-red wool, over and over, unwinding her rows and click-click, endlessly reworking her masterpiece: keeping her hands busy and her thoughts at bay.

"No thank you." "No thank you." Every time I ask. "Would you like something to eat? Would you like a drink?" So quiet, she draws no attention to herself, she doesn't want it.

This time, I sit beside her. She dresses in a rag-bag of clothes. She carries a rucksack and she wears a scarf. Summer and winter. I should have guessed, but, she's Caucasian you see, Irish in fact, and I didn't think... .

"My name is Mary," I say holding out my hand. Tentatively, she takes it, "Mary-Catherine". She speaks quietly. "Catholic?" I ask. I always ask: sometimes someone will want to rage against the church, or recall fond memories of it, or ask where to hear Mass. I listen. I wait. If there is something to be said, I will hear it.

"Muslim."So softly, I have to lean forward to hear.

Her story unwinds. Her husband, not here, her children in Birmingham. Gloucester is a smaller town, she says, she feels safer here. Her own faith community doesn't know her whereabouts, she has no contact with the Mosque. She's alone. Completely. So she sits in the Day Centre for the disposable and the dispossessed and knits the same cherry-red block over and over again.

"I was a member of the Legion of Mary when I was a child."

I am at a loss. This gentle woman fills me with a deep sense of sorrow. Mary and Jesus are both honoured by Islam, and I do not care to dishonour her faith, so I pause, awaiting inspiration.

"Shall we say a Hail Mary?"

Unhesitatatingly, she joins in.

"Please, light a candle for me." she whispers, as I leave.

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