I am writing the Log a day later than usual this week, as myself and Father Antony have just returned from meetings in our Passionist Retreat Centre at Crossgar in County Down. There were two days of meetings. The first was with the members of our various communities who are fit and able enough to travel. The intention was to review our lives and ministries since our Chapter last year, and to plan next steps forward in implementing the desired actions that we drew up at that Chapter. Myself and Father Antony were grateful to Father Frank Trias for sacrificing his presence at the meeting to look after things in St. Mungo’s for those few days, and to keep Father Justinian company as well. By the sounds of it, they enjoyed a great time together, and Father Justinian might be disappointed that we came back. We were delighted to meet up with Father Gareth at the meeting. He is just the same as ever, and couldn’t wait to remind us that Wales beat Scotland at rugby a couple of weeks back. He is doing well. As ever, for me, meeting up with the men was just as important as the content of the meetings.
Most of the men went home to their own communities after that first day. Myself and Father Antony had to stay on for the second day when a smaller group of us, those in key leadership roles, had to meet with some members of our Passionist Province in England and Wales, known as St. Joseph’s Province. Until 1927 we were all one province, known as the Anglo-Hibernian Province, but then, when numbers increased, it was decided to form two provinces, and so, there was formed the provinces of St. Joseph and St. Patrick. Now, almost a hundred years later, when numbers have become much smaller, we are on a journey to explore closer links, and who knows where that might lead? But, once again, it was good to meet fraternally and to chat. Having spent some time living in St. Joseph’s Province when I was the novice master for the Passionists in North Europe, it was, for me, a very pleasing encounter.
On the morning of that second day, we woke up to a war, with Russia having invaded Ukraine, and who knows where that might lead to as well? These are quite frightening times. We Passionists have a small community in Ukraine, under the jurisdiction of the Passionists in Poland. There are three Ukrainian and one Polish Passionist, ministering in the town of Smotrych, and surrounding areas in Western Ukraine. The Polish Provincial is in constant contact with them via the internet, as the telephones are not working. He has communicated how serious the situation is for everyone, and our monastery in Smotrych is getting ready to accept refugees from Eastern Ukraine. He is asking us to pray for Ukraine, for the cessation of hostilities, and for lasting peace in a region so badly affected by many decades of wars and occupation. We will do that of course, and we invite you to join us in that prayer.
Also, on that second day, on a much lighter note, we woke up to snow. As the day went on the snow disappeared, so we had no concerns about the journey home. However, once we had disembarked the ferry at Cairnryan, around 10.00 p.m., we discovered that on some sections of the road back to Glasgow there was an aftermath of snow from earlier in the day. This was particularly bad around Girvan and, of course, the infamous Fenwick Moor. While this was a source of concern to me, it was a source of absolute delight to Father Antony who truly loves driving in snow, ice, blizzards, hailstones, and whatever else presents a challenge. On those parts of the journey, I just closed my eyes and put my foot through those imaginary brakes on the floor, when he decided to overtake massive lorries and trucks. I was thinking of Father Lawrence, God rest him, who would have made numerous cries of panic in such a situation. In truth, I had every confidence in Father Antony, and we arrived home safely at midnight.
As ever, protect yourselves, your loved ones, and others, and protect Christ in your lives.