It’s impossible to get away from John the Baptist in these Advent days, and I have a soft spot for him, as I share a birthday with him on 24th June. I have two friends who also share that birthday, one of whom is called John, and the other is called Sean, both after John the Baptist. I, however, was called Francis, after my father, and after Francis of Assisi, to whom there was great devotion in my family. John the Baptist, I would imagine, was a bit of a spectacle in those days and, at a time when things were tough, and there weren’t a lot of distractions, I’m sure he could be good entertainment value as well. He always brings to mind for me the great mission preachers of latter years, the Passionists, the Redemptorists, and so on, who could sometimes be a bit dramatic in their sermons and, when they weren’t being too scary with hellfire and brimstone, could be very entertaining and, especially in those bygone days before television, going to the mission could be a good night out.
I remember giving a parish mission in Balloch with the late Father Michael Doogan, rector and parish priest of St. Mungo’s in the 1970’s and into the 1980’s. Father Michael was a great preacher and, at his best, could he be very dramatic and entertaining. On the very first Sunday of the mission, I remember he was preaching on the blind beggar, Bartimeus, and he was at this flamboyant best. The people seemed to love it, but the old monsignor, who was parish priest, was not so impressed. After the sermon he got up, scowled, and then said to the people – I thought I’d booked a mission, not a circus. After that, he left us in the care of the curate, and we never saw him again. It turned out to be a very good mission.
Parish Missions have not disappeared completely, but I would suggest they are few and far between compared to the old days, and I have good memories of conducting them, also of the companions that I gave those missions with, and of the people and priests who welcomed us into their parishes and who attended the mission faithfully. I was probably more of a gentle Francis of Assisi in my preaching, than a dramatic John the Baptist, so perhaps I was given the right name after all.
There will be no Father Frank’s Log for the next few weeks. I wish you all a very happy and holy Christmas, with every blessing for the coming year. The year is coming to an end with lots of issues; the cold weather, the various strikes, and the cost-of-living crisis. As well as that, there are many indications that Covid hasn’t gone away. None of us knows what 2023 will bring but, whatever it brings, God will be in the midst of it with us.
If there is a purpose to Father Frank’s log, it is quite simply this, that, in all the various circumstances of life, the rough and the smooth, the serious and the silly; the happy and the sad; the sublime and the ridiculous; the expected and the unexpected; God is there, God is in all things, and God is present at all times. I have always found that, and, in my own stuttering way, that is what I try to convey in the log, in a light-hearted way. Faith sometimes has to be lived with a smile on its face. Perhaps even more so in troubled times.
Thank you for reading the log, whether that’s weekly on the website or monthly in the Flourish; and thank you for the affirmation and encouragement I receive. I will look forward to resuming the log very soon as life goes on, and so does God.
Meantime, and, more than ever in these difficult times; protect yourself, protect your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.