I wear two gold rings, given me by the two parishes in which I worked in Pakistan. I must be losing weight, because this morning I discovered that the ring on my left hand was missing, lost, I have no idea when. There was nothing I could do about it. As I wrote, I have no idea when, and where, it went missing. It could have been days ago. I could have been last night. Nothing to do but grin and bare my left hand!
I thought it most likely that I might have lost it when washing clothes, or myself – hot, soapy water; skin more slippery; ring more likely to come off – but no idea where and when.
However, since I was still in Ourinze for a second day, I thought I might as well ask at the albergue where I had stayed the previous night. I had noticed that the ring was missing. Maybe it was only last night that it went missing? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I decided to re-visit the albergue and ask. It was only a few streets away from the hostal where I am staying tonight. So I went to ask.
There was a different hospitallero (guest master) at the desk. I tried to explain that I had lost a gold ring. My Spanish wasn’t really up to the task! He kept insisting that it was a different hospitalero the previous day, so he had nothing to do with it. I left my card in the faint hope that if it did turn up, they might post it on to me.
As a last gasp, I said I would have a look myself in the mens’ bathroom where I had washed my clothes and showered the previous afternoon, but without much expectation. Not only did I have no assurance that the ring had been lost there, it might have been lost days before, but even if I had lost it there, it would be down the drain. There was no way that I would find it.
I went in to the bathroom and looked. Sure enough, the clothes washing basin had a vented cover over the drain hole, but the vents were big enough that my ring, if it had come off my finger while I was washing my clothes, would have washed down the drain. I had washed and rinsed several times, so surely it would have gone down the drain.
And there were more pilgrims staying at that albergue today, and surely some of the men would have washed clothes, so that even if by some miracle the ring was lost there and not some other place, and had not gone down the drain the day before, it would surely have done so today!! I had no hope of finding it there.
But before I checked out the shower cubicle, my last faint glimmer of hope, I leaned over and checked the nearer side of the clothes washing basin. To my astonishment, there was my ring, lying on the bottom of the clothes washing basin, out of sight to a casual glance. I was astonished that it had not washed down the drain when I was rinsing my clothes, and even more, that it had not been washed down the drain since. I recovered it with glee, and went to show it to the hospitallero.
Michael and Denis and I were going out for the evening meal. I had prevailed on them to allow me to make this visit to the albergue, not with any real expectation, but just on the rare off chance, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The meal was on me. A celebration. Thanks be to God, who was looking after me and my possessions, especially those that have sentimental value.
I was reminded of the Gospel parables in Luke 15:4-10
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins,[a] if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I rejoice that what I lost, I had no idea where and when, has been found. I have celebrated with friends, who shared my joy at finding my lost treasure.
But I have now put both rings in a secure pack at the bottom of my backpack. No point tempting divine providence again.
‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the [ring] that I had lost.’ (Lk 15:6,9)
I remember a few days ago that Grainne, the Irish woman, had lost her credencial, the official camino document, stamped at places along the way, testimony to her walking a stretch of the camino for the past six years. She had left it at a bar in a previous town where she had stopped for refreshment, and, uncharacteristically, had asked the bar owner to give here a stamp in the credencial. But was confident that it would show up. The hospitallero of the place where we were staying phoned the bar of the previous town. Sure enough, the document was there. The owner of the bar would post it on to the hospitallero, and Grainne left sufficient money for the hospitallero to post it on to her home in Ireland.
‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the [crednecial] that I had lost.’ (Lk 15:6,9)
God is good!