Seven year old Mia’s father, Tom Manion, had a gambling problem. Cynthia her mother, worn-out by tortuous arguments, was often depressed and spent whole days in bed. There was never any physical violence at number 47B, but affection there was an on-again off-again affair.
Number 49 next door was Peg Noble’s home. A retired research chemist and university professor, she had lectured the world over. Her husband was dead and her only daughter and family lived overseas. Mia and her four year old brother, Max, would often slip through the broken paling in the back fence and spend long hours at the prof’s place. They would play there and sometimes sit on Peg Noble’s side verandah patting her cat, sipping her home-made lemonade, chomping on her animal shaped biscuits and listening to her stories.
The professor let the children call her Nanna-Peg. When they were around she lived on their level in order to be truly with them and that meant letting go of hobbies and opportunities. Every so often she would drop a casserole into the Manions when Cynthia was enduring the worst of it. And even though she would have preferred to have professional tradespeople do it, she would periodically invite Tom Manion over to do a few ‘repairs’ for her.
To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. I recommend myself to people in all kinds of different situations so that by all possible means I might bring some to salvation. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, that I may share its benefits with others.- 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
Loving God, by the preaching of Francis Xavier* you brought many nations to know the love of Christ. Give his zeal for the faith to all who believe in you and guide us to accompany the weak as he did. Then may your Church rejoice in continued growth across the world. We ask you this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
When eating bamboo sprouts,— Chinese Proverb
the man who planted them.
*The great Jesuit missionary, Francis Xavier, was a student of St. Ignatius and a member of the founding community. He became the first Western missionary to reach India and Japan and in 1552 died at the borders of China. He is one of Australia’s patrons.