Last Monday we Passionists celebrated a little piece of history when, as I have previously mentioned, the Passionist Province of England and Wales, previously known as St. Joseph’s Province, became formally and fully integrated into Saint Patrick’s Province, with the subtitle of “The Passionists in Ireland and Britain”. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, our time, on that day, the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, the brethren gathered by Zoom. We were joined by our General and his Council from Rome, as well as the Provincials of the Netherlands and Australia, because of strong links between us, two Passionist Contemplative Nuns, two Cross and Passion Sisters, and some lay representatives from the wider Passionist family. We began with a time of prayer which, despite the usual technical hitches, was very moving. Towards the end, the decisive moment came when our Superior General issued the formal decree transferring all of the religious, priests and brothers, as well as all the houses and assets of St. Joseph’s Province, to St. Patrick’s Province. He concluded with these words: “Entrusting the new reality of St. Patrick’s Province to the prayers of St. Paul of the Cross, we remember and thank God for the passion and perseverance of all those Passionists who faithfully kept alive the memory of the Passion of Jesus as the power, wisdom and love of God. In these times, we continue the journey with creative fidelity to the charism, and with hope and confidence in God’s promise and plans. May the Passion of Jesus be always in our hearts”.
The Feast of the Presentation of Mary was deliberately chosen for this occasion. St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, had a special love for this Feast because he considered it to be the anniversary of the day on which he first donned the Passionist habit, given to him in a vision by Our Lady, before entering into the 40-day retreat during which he wrote the first Passionist rule. That was in 1721. In 1737, he also named the first ever Passionist Monastery at Monte Argentario, north west of Rome, the Retreat of the Presentation of Our Lady and, in 1775, the year of his death, during his last Chapter as Superior General, Mary, under the title of her Presentation, was declared the first and principal patroness of the Passionists. St. Paul of the Cross always dreamt of establishing the Passionists in these islands, but it never came about in his own lifetime. His dream was later taken up by Dominic Barberi, who established the first Passionist house at Aston Hall in Staffordshire in 1842. Three years later he would receive John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church. Newman had specifically requested Dominic to do this. Newman is now a saint, and we hope that Dominic, now Blessed Dominic, will also be a saint before too long. Later that same year he gave a mission in Dublin that paved the way for the Passionists to spread throughout Ireland, then Scotland and Wales. Sadly, during that same year, he suffered a heart attack and died. At that time the Passionists in these islands were known as the Anglo-Hibernian Province. It remained that way until 1927 when, because of an increase in numbers, it divided into the two provinces of St. Joseph and St. Patrick and so, this new integration, because of a decrease in numbers, is, in a way, a return to what existed before.
Out at Bishopbriggs we celebrated our new province with pizza, while watching Wales scrape a draw with the USA in the World Cup. Father Gareth had to leave the room when Wales got the penalty. He only came back in when we told him they had scored – and I thought I was bad! We have also been ordering the various bits and pieces for our Christmas dinner online, just starter and main course, to be collected on December 23rd. I was told if we didn’t order now, it would all be out of stock, and I could see that this was true. It will be a joint effort (no pun intended) to cook it on Christmas Day. We will be missing our main chef of these past few years, Father Antony. God knows how it will all work out but, just in case, we are going to go out for a bite to eat together on St. Stephen’s Day. Have a blessed Advent!
As always, protect yourselves, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.