Last Friday night parish priests and parish coordinators received an email from the Vice-Chancellor of the Archdiocese to provide an update on Covid-!9 restrictions for acts of public worship. There was nothing particularly new in the document, but I detected a definite change of tone, a harsher tone, not from the Vice-Chancellor, but from the Government. Essentially, it was a reminder to parish priests that we would be committing a criminal offence if we did not enforce the Government guidelines with regard to face coverings; social distancing; numbers control; track and trace details; and infection control. Initially, it got me down a bit, not because I disagreed with the guidelines, but because I was imagining the consequences if something went wrong, with St. Mungo’s having to close doors, and other churches having to close doors too, because of St. Mungo’s, just as we were beginning to get going again. This is the tenuous nature of the times, and the reality we are living in. We have also come to realise how tenuous things are with regard to pubs, restaurants, and the like, and of course, football, with the exploits of the Aberdeen Eight, and Boli Bolingoli, meriting a yellow card from the First Minister, and the Sword of Damocles hanging over us, of a possible red to come.
The thought of potentially committing a criminal offence isn’t pleasant, but it didn’t bother me, as I know that we are doing our absolute best here in St. Mungo’s to get things right. In a more light hearted vein I recalled that I already have a criminal record, of sorts. When I was eight years of age I was “booked” by the police, along with my older brother and four friends, for playing football in Thurso Street in Partick, outside the old Spillers Mill. Usually we had a lookout who signalled to us when the police were in sight, and we would make a run for it, but, on this occasion, we were caught out by two plain clothes policemen. In the Glasgow gangland era I would have thought there might have been greater priorities than us, but there you are. The six of us, two Keevins’s and four Kelly’s, all from up the same close, had to appear before the Children’s Panel, and we all received a 5 shilling fine – which was a fair bit of money in those days for our parents to pay out. After our ordeal we had to return to school at St. Peter’s Primary in Partick. My brother’s teacher treated it lightly enough, but my own teacher was most displeased, especially as I was the teacher’s pet. This was mainly because I served Mass every morning before school at St. Simon’s Church in Partick Bridge Street, and I always got my R.E. questions right. On this basis, I was considered honest and trustworthy enough to be sent out each day to get her lunch. This was always the same routine. I would walk down to the local grocer’s shop on Dumbarton Road and ask for a quarter pound of red cheddar. The big block of cheese would be sitting on the counter and I would gaze in fascination as the grocer got the cheese wire and sliced through the block with consummate ease. He would then, with a flourish, throw the cheese on to the weighing scales and, almost always, it would be a quarter pound exactly. I was continually amazed at how he could always get it so spot on. He would then wrap the quarter pound of red cheddar up in greaseproof paper and put it in a brown paper bag, take the money from me, ring it up on the big till, give me the change, and I would bring it back to my teacher. Day in, day out; week in, week out, I performed this task diligently, and I can only imagine this was the reason she was so disappointed in my crime. Still, it didn’t stop her from sending me out for the red cheddar.
In reality, everything seems to be going smoothly enough, and people accept all that has to be done in a good spirit. One positive aspect of the booking system is that, when people arrive for Mass, and have to be ticked off on the check list, we are putting faces to names that we weren’t sure of before. There is a good sense of community, in that we are all in this together, making the sacrifices, looking out for each other, and the variety of face mask designs has become the topic of great conversation and fun, even though nobody actually likes wearing them. Out in Bishopbriggs there is not a lot to report, except that two of our neighbours, one diagonally to the left of us, and the other diagonally to the right, have both had their cars stolen recently, and there have been reports of other cars being stolen, usually in the wee hours of the morning, throughout the estate. The police have been at the door asking did we see or hear anything, but, with Father Gareth still away, only Father Justinian sleeps at the front of the house, while both Father Antony and myself sleep at the back of the house, where all we hear is the croaking of frogs and the chirping of birds in the woods, so, we weren’t much help. I don’t think any of our cars are worth stealing, but we are certainly being more careful about making sure that no keys, or anything of any value, is left inside them. Apart from that we are good. So, as ever, protect yourselves and your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives.