To anyone who reads this, I hope you are keeping safe and well, and adhering to the advice we have received on how to keep the coronavirus at bay. Each of us will find the way to do this appropriate to our own personal circumstances. We can’t take chances as we seek to express our solidarity with each other, to protect ourselves, to protect our loved ones, to protect other people, and, as Pope Francis once said, to protect Christ in our lives.
As far as my own personal circumstances are concerned, I am living in a kind of semi-isolation. I come into the church from Bishopbriggs each day, completely empty except for the presence of the Lord in the tabernacle. I celebrate Mass, placing all of you on the altar, and maintain a watchful check on the place. I am reminded of when I used to sit in the empty church as a child, this was in St. Simon’s in Partick, while my father did some maintenance work in the boiler house. I was always fascinated by the sanctuary lamp and by what it signified, that Christ was present in the Blessed Sacrament. I would look at the tabernacle and imagine that this must be what my soul looked like inside of me, because I believed Christ was present there too. It was only my child-like imagination, but it was very real to me.
After making sure I have kept any essential administration up to date, I then leave to go and cook and clean for my younger brother. I am allowed to do this as he is a vulnerable person and I am his primary carer. The other carers who were coming called me to cancel for the foreseeable future as they were only doing life and limb care, as they expressed it, and so they asked if I could compensate for their absence, and I will do everything I can to sustain that.
I have only had to do one shopping for my brother so far as his needs are very simple, taking care to keep a safe distance from other shoppers as advised. I haven’t had any problem getting the things I need for him, no need for panic buying, and I even managed to get four toilet rolls. While his medication is delivered, I did have to go and collect some repeat medication for myself, forming part of an orderly and well spaced-out queue on the main street in Bishopbriggs, while only two or three people at a time were let in to the pharmacy. It was all done in a good spirit, and I think I am well stocked now for the next couple of months. I also had some minor surgery cancelled which I have to confess did not upset me one bit as I wasn’t looking forward, either to the procedure itself, or to what I was meant to do to prepare for it – I will leave it up to your own imagination to guess what it was.
I have also had to make preparations for Father Lawrence’s funeral, choosing the coffin, selecting the grave to be opened in our Passionist plot in St. Kentigern’s, and putting together whatever kind of service it is possible to have for the small number of blood family and Passionist family who are able to gather. Sometime in the future, when this crisis is over, we will have a memorial Mass for Father Lawrence as there are so many people who are saddened by his death, a sadness heightened by not being able to say a proper farewell.
Out at the house there are now just three of us; Fr Justinian, Fr Antony and myself. Fr Gareth managed to get away before the lockdown to be with his mum in Merthyr Tydfil, probably the best place for him to be at this time. We are practicing safe distancing within the house and finding new ways of being together, new ways of reaching out to the sick and housebound, and new ways of keeping the Passionist Young Team in contact with each other, one of whom organised a shared prayer time through a video conferencing site called Zoom. So, we are all doing whatever we can, and perhaps, instead of isolation, we can talk about solitude, a tried and tested practice in the Christian tradition that can draw us into a deep communion with God and with one another. Let us hold each other in prayer at this time.
God is preparing a treasure of graces and blessings for you in solitude (St. Paul of the Cross)