“ … and there we were both standing at the doorway of the Church,” said Father Ignatius, “and then he asked me if I could spare a cup of coffee. I didn’t think he drank coffee. What do you think he drank anyway?”
“St Peter?” asked Father Donald.
“Yes … St Peter,” repeated Father Ignatius, “what do you think he drank. Surely not coffee. It hadn’t been discovered then! When he was alive on earth.”
“Oh … boiled fish water, I shouldn’t wonder” laughed Father Donald, “must have tasted really horrible I should think!”
“And then …” continued Father Ignatius after a short pause, “and then, as if by magic, we were here in my office. I was sitting at my desk, like now, and he sat in the very armchair where you’re sitting in!”
Father Donald looked around him in the armchair and said nothing. Father Ignatius continued.
“St Peter sat just where you’re sitting Donald. He looked just like we’ve seen him portrayed in the movies. Tall guy and well set. With a beard and wearing a brown tunic … and sandals. I remember distinctly the sandals … Big man, he was … I wouldn’t wish to be on the wrong side of an argument with him. He was here in this office.
“He asked what I thought of him.
“I mumbled the usual things we’ve been taught in seminary … Loyal follower of Christ, leader of the Disciples, Head of the Church … That sort of thing!
“He smiled and picked up a biscuit … he preferred the chocolate covered ones and commented that they tasted different to the ones he was used to in them days … That’s exactly what he said … in them days!”
Father Donald raised an eyebrow and smiled, whilst Father Ignatius went on.
“Then he asked me to be honest. Not repeat what I’d been taught. What did I really think of him?”
Father Donald smiled once more and said nothing.
“Well …” Father Ignatius went on, “I hesitated of course … it’s quite a shock seeing St Peter face to face and being asked such a direct question …
“I said that some theologians consider him to be a bit irresolute of character … Tends to speak first, sometimes acts quickly, yet … a bit hesitant when the chips are down!”
“Wow …” said Father Donald, “did he hit you for saying that? He has a bit of a temper our St Peter you know.”
“No … he remained calm,” replied Father Ignatius, “He said ‘I don’t care about what theologians think … what do they know? I’m asking for your opinion Ignatius!’ He called me Ignatius … so he knew full well who I was. Then he asked me if I had any more of those brown covered biscuits …
“I gave him the whole packet of chocolate biscuits which somehow I had here in my desk; and then I said that I sympathized with his predicament and how he’d been portrayed by some theologians. He was and I’m sure he still is very loyal to Christ. He spoke first because of his confidence and beliefs in our Lord.
“He hesitated a little when he jumped into the lake and tried to walk on water. But anyone would have done that … Jesus had asked him to come to Him … so at least he did show real Faith by jumping into the water … but his Faith faltered … understandable really!
“And that’s when St Peter sat a little forward in the armchair and calmly said to me … ‘Quite the diplomat aren’t you Ignatius?’ I remember distinctly those words … and they were not said in a complimentary way either … He asked me to go on … what did I really and honestly think of him …
“So I swallowed hard Donald … I knew what he wanted me to say but I was too scared to say it. He nodded gently to encourage me …
“And very quietly I mumbled that he had denied Christ three times …
“He looked me straight in the eye and all gentleness seemed to have gone from his face. He waved his hand gently at me, still holding a half-eaten chocolate biscuit, as if to reprimand me … you know, as we do with our finger when we point at a little child, and then he said ‘After over two thousand years you people still hold that against me! And you call yourselves forgiving Christians … The Lord Himself forgave me with His knowledgeable look full of love and pity for me. But you Christians still bring this matter up …
“And it’s the same with Thomas … Whenever I meet him he says that the only thing that people remember about him is his doubting, and they can’t relate anything else he did after that.
“Well let me tell you something clever Ignatius that you are’ … That’s what St Peter called me, Donald. ‘Clever Ignatius that you are …
“Let me tell you something … Have you ever considered what would have happened if I did not deny our Lord? I would have most probably been taken by the crowd and hung from the nearest tree …
“They were horrible they were … and angry and wild. Those same people who pretended to love Him, whom He had healed and taught over the years suddenly became very wild. They became angry, almost feral … And of course I was scared. They were probably scared too, you know. They had to act this way because acting any differently would have resulted in them being hanged too!
“And by denying Christ, the Son of our God, I unwittingly set in course the chain of events which followed. Jesus knew exactly why I had to deny Him at the time of His capture.
“After His Resurrection, when He appeared to us on the shore of the lake as we were fishing; it was the third time Jesus appeared to us after He was raised from death … We had just eaten together, and Jesus asked me three times if I loved Him. And every time I said yes He asked me to take care of His lambs and His sheep!’ ”
After a short silence Father Donald asked “What happened then Ignatius? When St Peter told you that?”
Father Ignatius replied.
“Well, he finished eating his biscuit and then he asked me whether I thought I had done a good job of looking after Our Lord’s lambs and sheep …
“Before I could answer … I just woke up!”
“That’s quite a dream …” said Father Donald, “and quite a message from St Peter.
“Christ knew precisely why Peter had to be spared at the time of His capture … in order to lead the Disciples and the Church!”