I am on catch-up today as I have just returned from meetings in our Passionist Retreat Centre in Crossgar, County Down. It was a meeting of the local superiors and leadership teams in each of our locations, as we try to move forward on the priorities we set at our Provincial Chapter last July. It was a productive meeting and a good opportunity to meet with each other face to face again. While there, I had a good chat with Father John Varghese, the Passionist from India, whom we are waiting to welcome to St. Mungo’s once we have received Home Office clearance. He can’t wait to come but, for the time being, he will carry out ministry in Holy Cross, Ardoyne, for which he has already been cleared. If there could be such a thing as an Indian Father Gareth, he might be it. He is a lovely character, and let’s hope he is able to come soon. I was also chatting with Father John Craven, who is the parish priest in Holy Cross and, needless to say, he is delighted to have Father Gareth, who is settling in well.
A few days before leaving I had yet another adventure with the car. Let it be said that, while I think I am a good and careful driver, I know next to nothing about cars, and that is especially true in these times when there is so much technology attached to them. On this occasion I was driving into the church when a light came on, accompanied by a message to inflate my tyres and re-initialize (whatever that means!). I had received this message before and I knew it was simply resolved by putting air in the tyres, and so, I resolved to do this sometime after the morning Mass. When I got to the church, I had a look at them, and they seemed not too bad. Around noon I headed to a local garage but, when I looked at the car then, one of the tyres was quite deflated. I decided my best bet was to put some air in and then head to the nearby Kwik Fit. By the time I got there the tyre was in shreds, but they weren’t going to be able to look at it until evening time. I rescheduled my day, getting good use out of my bus pass, until I eventually got the call offering the usual three options of a re-tread, a mid-range, or a top range tyre. I made my choice and then set out from Drumchapel, to where I had, by then, bussed it to perform my caring duties, back to Bishopbriggs before they closed. On arrival I was asked if I knew that I had lost my wheel trim. I didn’t know this, but I knew I had it when I first went to put air in the tyres and so, having paid for the new tyre, I left the car where it was and started to retrace my journey. It was dark by this time and I knew that my chances of finding it were slim, no matter how much I promised Saint Anthony, and, even if I did find it, it would probably have been smashed to bits by other cars having run over it. However, just as I got near to Springburn Cross, and was about to head for the other side of the road, I spotted my wheel trim sitting against someone’s garden fence, all in one piece. It was a miracle. I wasn’t sure whether to attribute it to St. Anthony; St. Christopher (patron saint of travellers), or St. Frances of Rome (patron saint of car drivers), but I was certainly extremely grateful to the very kind person who must have picked it up and placed it there. I was also grateful that, when I got back to Kwik Fit, just as they were shutting up shop, they generously put it back on for me, being just as amazed as I was that I found it.
All of which meant I was able to safely drive to Crossgar and back via the Cairnryan-Belfast ferry. There are lots of roadworks en route to Cairnryan and back as construction takes place to provide a Maybole bypass, which looks as if it will open soon. On quite a few occasions I came upon temporary traffic systems which advised me to stop here – and wait for the light, and I thought, well, there’s an appropriate theme for Advent if ever there was one. It was good to get home, very tired but safe, and all of us, thank God, are well in Bishopbriggs.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.