Face to Face with the Bishop

Face to face with the Bishop

 

The Cardman thought deeply about Miranda as he handed out cards on the warm, sunny and calm Saturday that followed her visit to Truro earlier in the week. 

The lunchtime period was always an important time.  For some reason, people with food to eat would, more often than not, sit down in the Cathedral square and give particular attention to either the photograph or its message; or both.  The Cardman enjoyed seeing this.  And, quite often, people would return to him after they had eaten and say `Thank you` or pass on some positive feedback about the card he had given them.  Their comments would always be constructive – `these words were said on our wedding day, nearly 30 years ago,` and another might say, `that message takes me back to my time at Oxford,` and another, a retired school teacher, with an emotional blend of tears and smile, recalled how `these words were used at my husband`s funeral.`

It was at this relaxed time of the day that a familiar, clerical man appeared in front of the `man with the cards`.  He had one of Warren`s hot pasties in his hand.

`Do you ever eat?` he asked with a mischievous smile.

`When I get a chance,` the Cardman replied.

`Well, there you are,` and the Bishop placed the pasty, wrapped in its paper bag, into the man`s empty right hand.  `It`s veggy, just in case you don`t eat meat.`

`Thank you so much,` the Cardman said, visibly moved by the act of kindness.

With the other hand he found a card, which he passed to the Bishop, photograph facing upwards.

`Mm.  That`s a good picture,` the Bishop acknowledged.  `Do you take these yourself?`

`Yes, it`s a hobby of mine.`

`Well, it`s very good.`  The Bishop engaged the Cardman in conversation mostly because of his general interest in people; and this man, in particular, made him pleasantly curious.  But he also had an intention. 

The opportunity now presented itself for him to ask the question for which he had wanted an answer since the Cardman had arrived in the spring.

`What is your name?`   There was no response.  `We all have names,` the Bishop continued.

`Yes, sir, we do.  Names are important, and I`m honoured to know yours. But names also can be misused, even in blasphemy, ` the Cardman replied.

The Bishop just looked at the man.  He intrigued him; there seemed no way he could prise the name from him.  He turned the card over and read its message.  Then he read it again; and then again.  He looked at the Cardman, who just smiled back at him, acknowledging that he knew the words spoke deeply to the Bishop.

`What is this saying to me?` the Bishop asked in a whisper. 

The Cardman smiled in contentment, as if he had given the Bishop some precious gift; which, of course, he had.

After a moment of unexpected silence, like a waterfall that miraculously stops flowing, before it starts again, the Bishop`s eyes met those of the Cardman and he asked, once more, `What is your name?  Who are you?`

 

The Cardman answered in a whisper, `You know who I am.`

 

The Bishop sqeezed the man`s left shoulder in a gesture of love.

`Enjoy your pasty,` he said.

The Cardman watched him slowly walk towards the Cathedral steps, then the Bishop turned and their eyes met again.  Within the relative darkness of the building, he looked back, once more, and saw the Cardman with one hand giving out cards, whilst, with the other, enjoying his pasty lunch.

In the Cathedral nave two or three people hovered close to him, but somehow they instinctively knew this was not the time for words.

He sat down and looked up the long aisle that eventually reached the high altar.  The only words he wanted to hear were those same ones that he had just heard from the man outside with the pasty in his hand, `You know who I am.`  And he did.