As a teenager, I regularly babysat the three children belonging to the curate of our local church, and during one summer weekend, I accompanied the family to London to assist in taking care of the little ones.
In London, the family stayed with grandparents, and I had the honour of staying with the Provost of Southwark Cathedral, the Very Rev Ernest Southcott and his family.
To say I was a little apprehensive is probably something of an understatement. It was to be my first visit to London, and I was about to spend three nights in the home of complete strangers.
Southwark Cathedral stands on the south bank of the River Thames. (The lower reaches of this river are called the Tideway due to the stretch of water being subject to tides).
During the weekend we took a train and bus ride to visit a family friend, a Dutchman named Cornelius who was a Catholic priest, a curate who was having a term of study at a Catholic seminary, I should add here that we ourselves were Anglican Church of England.
Until today I was unable to remember the exact location of the seminary, though I did remember the impressive buildings within equally beautiful grounds. An online search this morning informed me the seminary was St. John’s Seminary, located in the village of Wonersh just outside Guildford in Surrey.
Cornelius was no stranger to me and having met him during a number of his visits to Yorkshire I’d grown fond of him.
At the time of our visit to the seminary I was at a crossroads in my life and indecisive about the path I should take, which was something that Cornelius and I discussed.
In the afternoon, it was necessary for me to entertain the children for a while, so I took them for a walk around the grounds and snapped several photographs of them playing. (Unfortunately, a physical search this morning in my photo boxes and albums proved to be a fruitless one.)
Later in the day when we met up with Cornelius again, I sat on a bench while he read the first part of a poem to me. Before we left that day, he gave me the whole poem on a handwritten note. The poem remained in my heart and in my mind, but I never heard it recited again until the funeral of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 2002.
This morning I woke up thinking about my poem from Cornelius. Known as The Gate of the Year, though the title given by the author Minnie Louise Haskins is God Knows.
THE GATE OF THE YEAR
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
It continues thus –
So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.
God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.
Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.
That was the last time I saw Cornelius. Over the years there has been much I have forgotten but never the very gentle Dutchman.
(c) SueW-nansfarm.net May 2018 – In response to the word-prompt TIDE
Photos courtesy of Londontopia and St John’s Seminary