21 August 2020

People you meet - Mr Matt Betts

I am the lay manager of the Shrine; I believe Saint Jude is a great saint who does so much for all of us – including me. 

A while back, I read a book called The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I am sure that some of you have read it too, but if you haven’t, here is a brief introduction: the book tells the story of Eddie, an 83-year-old amusement park maintenance worker who is killed while trying to save a child from being crushed by a malfunctioning ride. Eddie finds himself in heaven, where he is told that he will begin his eternal journey by meeting the five people who had the most profound influence on his life. 

My reflections are not about the novel per se, i.e. meeting people in heaven, but instead I want you to join me in a journey by thinking about four people (I’ve not got room for five, but maybe I’ll do a sequel) that you have met in your life and who have influenced you in a good way. I will take you through four people I have met and although I have changed one or two names, these people are real!

•    Think about four people you have met in your life and who have had an influence on your life - however small the meeting. How have they helped?

The first person I want to mention is a lady called Hilda. I was seventeen and going to Our Lady’s Shrine in Lourdes for the first time as a volunteer helper. Lourdes is truly a beautiful place and, I believe, it is the only place in the whole world where sick people are put FIRST. This is where I met Hilda. 

She was an 80-something lady who wanted to go shopping to get religious gifts for her grandchildren. I was so nervous and kept pushing her wheelchair into the drains outside the shops. She told me not to worry as she was having a great time. However, I was devastated – this poor woman trusted me and I had been a terrible pusher!

The next day, she was laughing with the other ladies in her ward, telling them all about this young chap (me!) who had been so funny, charming and caring. She explained later that I had kept her laughing during our trip with all the shenanigans, and she hadn’t had so much fun for ages. She also told me that I had shown her care and concern throughout and never let her down. I enjoyed taking Hilda out shopping many more times after (but with less drains)! Sometimes people see something different to what you see!

•    Have you ever been surprised by someone who doesn’t see the bad – just the good? Can you be more like that?

In the South East, there’s a parish that I used to go to a number of times a year. We would run charity events in their parish hall, and we met a number of people who had lived in the parish for many years, and in some cases, all of their lives. The following saying comes from Jesus and sums up the parishioners – they were all the salt of the earth. It was a tough area to live in as a lot of the community spirit was being eroded, but even so, each person was full of joy and happiness. 

I am going to mention two people that my wife and I met: a couple called Paula and Rob. They worked behind the bar and were the kindest, loveliest people. Very quickly, my wife and I realised we shared a very similar sense of humour to them, and so every time we met up, we would laugh a lot. Sometimes, I think, God provides chances to meet people like Paula and Rob to remind us that love is everywhere. We enjoyed their company so much, we invited them to our wedding – and they came. We laughed lots that day too. I will always be grateful that my wife and I met them.

•    Have you met someone who has made you smile each time you see them? Can you find happiness in what you are doing each day? Why not thank God for every moment that has made you smile?

The fourth person I would like to mention, is my step-grandfather, Edward. He married my Nan (grandmother) years before I was born. 

Looking back, Edward was the real version of an archetypal character from a PG Wodehouse book (if you’ve not read Wodehouse, please do). Anyway, Edward was a little bit eccentric, but full of fascinating facts, thoughts and sayings. One of his favourite sayings was “take an orange out of the box”, which was said for when we had done well! So, now I try and reward good behaviour from my children with a healthy snack! Brilliant. 

Although as a boy, I found his sayings and thoughts a little bit old-fashioned, in later life, I’ve actually found myself taking them on-board. One of the best pieces of advice he gave me was to always try and find the good in everything and everyone, however bad things might seem. 

As we know, Saint Jude went out and told the Good News of Jesus Christ. He later became the patron saint of “desperate” or “difficult” cases (a term used in preference to the older title of “hopeless”, since with God no situation is hopeless). Jude is thus a saint of hope. Let’s pray to Saint Jude that we may find good - and thus hope - in all things.

•    Why not speak to Jude and thank him for spreading the Good News. Can you do some good for someone today?