You’d grow very old if you were looking for any common ground between Father Damian and Pastor Brett; unless you started with a love of golf. They had both found that this passion overrode the Catholic – Protestant divide’s more trivial issues: like theology, doctrines, traditions and methodology.
They always enjoyed a round together, when they could fit it in. But Pastor Brett suddenly found that Father Damian was getting harder to beat, and asked why. He was shocked at the reply.
“I go out every Sunday morning now. It’s helped me so much, and I know you would love it!” Damian grinned. “You should give it a try, Brett!”
“How could I, when I have to lead our morning worship every week?” protested Brett.
“Well,” Damian conceded, “it does free me up if I look after every Saturday night Mass. Why don’t you phone in sick one Sunday? We could get away to that course way out north of town; and you’ll see how good it is!”
Brett tried to forget that conversation, but it echoed ceaselessly through his weaker moments: “Why not phone in sick one Sunday?”
He tried to resist: “Get behind me satan! Okay, quit pushing!”
One fateful Sunday, the sun rose into a beautifully clear spring sky. Birds were singing in harmony as Brett reached for the phone to call the church secretary. With a well-rehearsed series of croaks and wheeezes, he pleaded his case. Having secured the sympathy and agreement he needed, he replaced the handset.
Miraculously cured, but with his collar turned up, his cap pulled down and his eyeshades in place, he slunk out to his car and was gone.
In less than an hour he was at the first tee with Damian, who was grinning like a Cheshire cat and inviting him to tee off!
Addressing his ball, Brett wiggled his hips to ensure everything was balanced and ready to flow. He risked a smile while lifting his driver to the peak of his backswing.
He should not have smiled…
For at that very moment; but far above; the archangel Gabriel was concluding a revision class for some young angels. One of them pointed down at that first tee.
“How can we punish that Baptist pastor? He should be leading his flock right now!”
“Leave him to me,” said Gabriel, smiling.
Instantaneously and invisibly, he was at the tee, holding the ball. Then, as Brett’s club came through, he flew straight at the hole; where he dropped the ball.
Gabriel smiled up to his students.
Brett whooped for joy.
Damian gaped, and clapped his hands.
Brett walked through Damian's shots along that first fairway, though he was inwardly reliving that brief bliss: of perfect balance as his club had caressed the ball with no sense of impact; and of seeing the ball’s graceful arc as if it were being drawn to the hole.
Golfing etiquette gave him first shot at the second tee; where Gabriel was waiting. Still smiling
Brett swung too eagerly this time, hooking the shot and driving the ball almost sideways. It crashed against a rock, where Gabriel easily grabbed it and flew it through a few spirals before lobbing it into the hole!
Brett could not believe his eyes.
Neither could Damian, who mumbled through clenched teeth something about how all his happy Sundays were rapidly going up in smoke.
Gabriel kept smiling.
Brett saw his third shot scuff across a water trap, before it ricocheted off the edge of a bunker and came to rest. In the hole.
Gabriel kept smiling.
Shot number four sailed high towards some trees, but somehow it lodged on the back of a hawk that was flying across the fairway. The hawk glanced around for a safe roost, then swooped down to alight on the flag.
Brett’s ball trickled off its back and down the flag pin; right into the hole.
Gabriel kept smiling.
Golfers still talk of an amazing clap of thunder that somehow came out of a clear blue sky that morning.
It wasn’t thunder. Gabriel’s trainees had exploded in frustration at his lack of judgement!
“Gabriel!” they shrieked, “we should be punishing him so hard that he will never do such a thing again!”
Gabriel kept smiling. “That’s exactly what I’m doing,” he replied.
“How could four holes in one be any kind of punishment?” they chorused.
Gabriel’s smile grew wider: “Well, it’s true that he has aced four holes; but when will he ever be able to brag about them?”
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