One hot summer evening a baby possum got into our house.
There was a tiny space beneath the screen door, just big enough, apparently, for a small animal to squeeze through. Since the front door was open to help relieve the heat, the critter slipped in and took up residence under the sofa.
Have you ever tried to get a possum out from under a piece of furniture? Of course our first attempt was getting the broom to sweep him out. But he just wriggled under the broom handle, moving even farther from the front door.
Fortunately, I knew exactly what to do. I called Animal Control.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that one thing Animal Control doesn’t do is animal control.
They would not come out, the woman on the other end of the line informed me, unless the animal was injured or dead.
Apparently providing a service for the people whose taxes paid their salary was beyond the reach of the folk at Animal Control.
Great. For all I knew, this possum had rabies. And every time we shined a flashlight on him, he bared his teeth in an obvious warning that he was prepared to bite.
I can’t tell you how ticked I was at Animal Control. This was the one place I should have been able to turn to for help.
It reminds me of times when folks turn to the Church for help . . . only to have a priest refuse to grant the needed assistance.
That happened to me once. I planned on going to Confession and so arrived at the church a good ten minutes before it was scheduled to begin. Four people were in line ahead of me, but since we had an hour and a half, I was certain I would have no problem getting in.
Except, as one penitent told me afterward, Father (who was, fortunately, a visiting priest) loved to chat. When the last person before me exited the confessional, she informed those of us still in line that Father had instructed her to tell us that he was done and that we could “come back some other time.”
I felt like I’d had a door slammed in my face. How was I supposed to get rid of the “vermin” of my soul without the assistance I needed? I didn’t have anything serious to confess, but what about the other people behind me? What if one of them, after years of sinning, had finally gathered enough courage to go to Confession . . . only to be told “You can come back some other time”? I can envision such a penitent preparing to throw himself at the feet of Christ, begging forgiveness, only to have a priest step between the two of them and say “Not now! Come back some other time!”
I realize priests have many duties and responsibilities and certainly can’t—without a special grace from God—bilocate so they can be in two places at the same time. But I’ve heard of people leaving the Church because, after frantically knocking on the rectory door, the priest informed them he wouldn’t come administer the last rites to their dying loved one.
I for one would not want to stand before God for judgment on something like that.
In case you’re wondering what happened with the possum, we spent a good hour and a half on more futile attempts with the broom. Finally we came up with the idea of moving the sofa closer to the door so the exit from the living room would be more enticing. And that, at long last, got him to scurry outside.
I’m glad our current parish priest is a devout man who goes out of his way to perform his duties. It’s good to know I can count on him far more than I can count on our city “services.”