Fran Godfrey to Simon Caldwell, on her friendship with Mgr Freddy Miles
“I was a cradle Catholic which, for me, meant the practice of my faith was often habitual – I went to Mass on Sunday because that was what you did – and in a sense my faith never matured. It was not really strong enough to withstand a lot of the things I got wrong in life. I drifted further away from the Church and stopped going to Mass.
“When I moved to London I found myself living just two streets away from St James’s, Spanish Place, which is such a beautiful church, and I started going there, sitting right at the back and not going to Holy Communion and so on. Then I heard Mgr Freddy Miles preach on the subject of choice, and his words hit me.
“I went to Confession shortly after that and I went up to Holy Communion after not going for quite some time. I can see it very clearly. I was just near the Lady Chapel, kneeling on the far right with the monsignor coming down the steps. He had a way of looking into the face of the communicant as he said, ‘Body of Christ’ – always very focused on the person. I know the priest is in the place of Christ when he is offering Mass, but Mgr Miles looked into my face, his head tilted ever so slightly to one side and in that split second he was Christ saying, ‘Welcome back!’
“It was an extraordinary sensation. I talked to him about it later: he had no recollection of it whatsoever, yet it was so powerful that I stumbled back to my seat in tears. I told myself, ‘This is silly’.
“Sometime later Mgr Miles started to develop macular degeneration. I began to help him in the office then, typing out the Missal and Lectionary in large print. He then retired to the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Vauxhall and I followed him. As he grew more frail and more dependent I did more for him. I am sure God put us together.
“I was able to do practical, secretarial and chauffeur-type things he needed but, honestly, he saved me. I wouldn’t be the person I am now if I hadn’t known him.
“He had a way of exuding holiness but without being sanctimonious. It was just better in his company. People seemed to absorb his goodness – it was like osmosis. He never judged you, he was so kind, so funny, so utterly humble and so completely honest.
“I was his friend for 22 years and I never knew such a truthful person. He was an extraordinary priest, and the best friend anyone could ever have.”
As told to Simon Caldwell. Fran Godfrey is a breakfast show presenter for Mellow Magic radio and a former announcer for BBC Radio 2