It’s been a strange kind of week. To cut a long story short, my brother went into hospital yet again last Friday and came out again on Sunday; the post for St. Mungo’s was collected from the depot without fuss in the early hours of Saturday; Father Justinian was taken into hospital on Monday night, tests still ongoing, but tested negative for Coronavirus; I conducted the burial of a 93 year old at St. Conval’s on Tuesday, with just four other people present, but I found it very prayerful just the same; and I celebrated the 19th anniversary of my mum’s death on Wednesday. She died on May 27th, 2001. I had taken over as Rector and Parish Priest of Mount Argus in Dublin at the beginning of that year, and it just so happened that, in Ireland, May 27th was the Solemnity of the Ascension. I had just come off the altar after celebrating the Family Mass when my brother, the one mentioned above, called to say that our mum, whom he lived with and looked after, had died suddenly and unexpectedly that morning. I won’t go into all the details but in the hours I had to sit around with my thoughts, before getting on a plane to Glasgow that night, I found it poignant that, on a day when I was preaching about one kind of presence of Christ coming to an end - his bodily, physical presence; but only to be replaced by another kind of presence - a presence in Spirit; something very similar seemed to be happening with my mum. And while I would have wished to hold on to her bodily, physical presence, her presence in spirit has always seemed very near and very real throughout the years. The Ascension has never been the same since.
So, at present, there is only Father Antony and myself at home. It’s hard to believe that, just before lock down, there were five of us in our four-bedroom house in Bishopbriggs, and now, for the time being anyway, there are only two of us. On Tuesday night we celebrated and streamed a Taize style prayer service, inviting those praying with us online to unite with Mary and the Apostles in the upper room, preparing for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The music on that night was simple and reflective, but for some of the Masses streamed from the oratory I have found myself using hymns from my old Charismatic Renewal days, mostly because they have catchy melodies and simple words, and are therefore, hopefully, easy for those joining us on the internet to pick up and sing. Whoever sings, prays twice. Afterwards, I sometimes receive e-mails from people, telling me how nostalgic it made them feel, and some of you may remember, back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, there was a thriving charismatic prayer group taking place weekly in St. Paul’s Hall in St. Mungo’s, the grace of the Holy Spirit outpouring all over the place. While it has not been part of my life for many years now, I will always be grateful for my involvement in the renewal from the beginning of my student days, when, because I played guitar, my student directors had me travelling with them to different prayer groups around the country, until just before my ordination, by which time my prayer life had taken on a more contemplative bent. But I think a new love, excitement, and appreciation for the scriptures, and a vivid awareness of the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, can be traced back to those days, and so they will always be remembered fondly.
As mentioned, Father Justinian is at present in hospital; Father Gareth is still in Wales with his mum with not much to report, the Child of Prague is still on the way – perhaps quarantined somewhere for a fortnight; Father Antony is still running around Cadder golf course and keeping touch with his mum on his nightly walks. My life has been a bit scattered as you can see. I had two late nights, one when I fell asleep on the chair while reading a book and woke at 1.00 a.m.; the other when I mistakenly put my towels on a long wash, instead of a short wash, number 5 instead of number 6, and, because we have one of those washing machines which they say can unexpectedly catch fire, I didn’t want to go to bed until the cycle was over and I could turn the machine off, and once again that turned out to be at 1.00 a.m. Fortunately, on both occasions, I slept well afterwards. What will this week bring?
As always, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your life.