Monday, October 24, 2011

Holy spirited driver

My mother used to tell us an amusing anecdote about a car excursion from South Grafton to the beach at Yamba. Her oldest brother, Eric Walker, was at the wheel, while their mother (whom my siblings and I always referred to as Grandma) was seated in the rear. Suddenly, on a narrow stretch of the highway running alongside the Clarence River, they were overtaken in a dangerous manner by a speeding vehicle. They noticed immediately that it was the black sedan owned by the Roman Catholic church of South Grafton. The driver, alone in the vehicle, was the local parish priest, Father O'Meara. Eric was so startled that he started to curse the priest, whereupon Grandma came to the defense of the speeding ecclesiastic.

GRANDMA: He has probably received a phone call asking him to rush to the bedside of a dying parishioner.

ERIC: Like bloody hell. He's speeding to get to the pub in Maclean in time for a beer before closing time.

I thought of that anecdote when I read an amazing article in today's Australian media. A few days ago, the local priest from South Grafton, Father Peter Jones, was stopped by police for driving dangerously on the road from South Grafton to Yamba, in the vicinity of Maclean. Alarmed drivers had phoned the police when they saw the priest's white Toyota zigzagging from one side of the road to the other.

[Click the photo of Father Jones to access a newspaper article]

When a police officer attempted to use a hand-held breathalyzer to determine the priest's blood-alcohol state, his intoxication was so high that the machine was incapable of supplying a result. So the offender was taken to the police station in Maclean, where a more sturdy apparatus gave a reading of 0.341. Not only was this result some seven times the legal limit, but the drunken priest supplied one of the highest blood-alcohol readings ever recorded in the history of the New South Wales police. A specialist explained that guzzling down beer alone would not be able to produce such a high reading. So, the priest had surely been imbibing a large quantity of far more potent spirits. Thank God that nobody struck a match near the good man, for they might have all been consumed in a ball of fire.

My grandmother would have said that, in such a state of inebriation, the priest was surely being protected from an accident by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

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