By Father Bernard Basset
I AM sure that the Canon wasn't
joking when he remarked that the crib ought to be the other way round, He had been behind the scenes to the part which was closed to the Congregation, partly to provide a place for glue, batteries and first-aid equipment, partly to shut out the nosey
parkers who might sec that St. Joseph's beard was chipped. We couldn't keep the Canon out, for it is his Church for one thing, and for another ho is the type of man for whom no has no meaning at all. So he saw the other side, saw more of the makeshift cave than ever we did who were merely ashamed of the mess.
This year the crib is at the bottom on the left, in that tiny little chapel officially dedicated to St. Joseph but known to the natives as " the place
behind the Canon's box." It isn't the ideal place for a crib but it has this huge advantage over the Lady Chapel that one can use the space under the choir-loft stairs for storing vases, candles and things. That was why we chore the place at the start of building operations and agreed from time to time during the more difficult moments with the mountains, " Thank heavens this year we have a place for the glue close at hand."
MRS. Carew was O.C. Glue, Marjorie was detailed off to deal
with brown paper, Jim had to cope with Bethlehem and the sky, Fr. Mulligatawny and self were on the lights. The rest just pottered about, begging us to remember that paper was scarce and hard to come by, suggesting that Bethlehem should he more in the centre, warning us that the star wasn't straight. Mrs. Hesketh was a menace with the broom, just tidying up, as she thought, to save time later. in fact sweeping all the loose drawing pins into a hole in the floor, and so straight to Australia without a stop. There was the usual anxiety over the sky, which was suffering from too many stars and war-time paper while I had the perennial difficulty of asking for the glue with -pins in my mouth.
The work went on for the best part of the day. various helpers coming or going at different stages. some bringing new supplies of paper, others rushing across to dear Mrs. Titsweli's near the Post Office, to use charm, cash and Christian apologetics in an effort to lure, from under the counter, a few more pins or yards of tape. From time to time we stood back to look and remove straw from coats and trousers and I must say that, with the Marshall plan not yet working, the cave looked remarkably fine. Of course. we all knew that the ends didn't meet. that the rocks were brown in front, stuffed with newspaper, and twice I overheard Mrs. Carew saying, " It won't show at all, my dear, so don't worry; we can always put a Shepherd there to hide the ends."
... Difficulty of asking for glue with pins in my mouth . . .
Y half-past four the main work was done, the cave was in position and the star came on if you turned the switch behind St. Joseph's lamp. Bethlehem looked remarkably safe and secure on two drawingpins and the News Chronicle glued behind it, while Jimmy and the Daily Express had successfully fixed the sky. Mrs. Carew arranged the figures herself, after a final dusting and cleaning, for only she and Marjorie knew the work that each Shepherd had to do. One had to stand by the rocks on the left to close the gap made by the economic crisis, another on the right, along with his lamb and baapipes had to hold the flex in place. St. Joseph and Our Lady then appeared to resume their annual vigil by the empty manger, for there still remained a week and a day before the joy of Christmas night. We stood and saw the figures kneeling there, with the manger empty and. in a queer Way, it brought home the expectancy of Advent and our appalling need for Emmanuel to come.
TO drive home the lesson of man's sickening need, at that moment up came Canon to stand and admire with us the work we had done. I think he liked it very much, he certainly said so, commenting on the strange quiet and tenseness of the Christmas court waiting for its King. We all seemed to share the strain and hope of the china figures, the desperate adveniat regnant Ilium of Advent which is changed by His courtesy to the sublime venire adoremus . . of Christrims day.
So we stood for a few seconds. profoundly moved and the sense of anxious expectancy was only heightened as we went in a struggling procession—Mrs. Carew clutching the gluepot—to show the Canon the arrangements behind the scenes. Front the little space under the choir-loft stairs we could sec more than drawing pins. flex and switches, for above and behind Joseph and Mary were odd hits and nieces of newspaper glued across the rocks