Last Saturday, after celebrating the streamed Mass from the Oratory at Bishopbriggs, I left the house to do a bit of shopping before heading into the church for the evening Confessions. While I was in the supermarket the heavens opened and, very quickly, the roads seemed to be flooding on the journey into St. Mungo’s. Later on, it would be noted that no city’s drainage system could have coped with the sheer volume of rain that fell in such a short space of time. On arriving at the church, I immediately went to inspect areas of the old house, corridors and halls that were prone to water coming in, even after many attempts to resolve the issues by a number of my predecessors. What was new this time, however, was that water from the main connecting corridor had seeped under the door at the back of the church, creating a rather substantial puddle on the tiled floor. Before we could open for Prayer and Confessions, the two volunteers who had arrived for duty, had to get working with mops and buckets, and we had to cone off that area of the church for the evening. On Sunday morning other volunteers had to do a bit more work until eventually we could remove the cones and open the area up. I was so grateful, once again, for the selfless commitment of our volunteers.
I was thinking back to my time as parish priest in St. Gabriel’s, Prestonpans. The church is quite a modern church, and one of the first to be built in Scotland to reflect the liturgical changes after Vatican II. On certain days, when there was torrential rain, and the wind was blowing in a particular direction, water would stream down onto the sanctuary, very near to the altar. No matter how often we went up on to the roof, and no matter how hard we tried, we could never find the source of this water, and so we just had to live with it. On other days, of course, with the rain just as torrential, but with the wind blowing in a different direction, there was never a problem.
I remember, during the time I spent in Botswana in 1993/94, there were prayers being offered continuously for rain, as there had been no rain for a long time and everything seemed very dry. Botswana, of course, is home to a great stretch of the Kalahari Desert. Interestingly, the currency of Botswana is the pula, but pula literally means "rain" in Setswana, the language of Botswana, because rain is very scarce, and is therefore considered valuable and a blessing. The pula is also the national motto of Botswana. As it so happened, while I was there, and living in the Passionist Novitiate house just outside the capital of Gabarone, the rain came, and there was such joy among the people. So, whenever I am tempted to complain about the rain, I just remember that precious time, and the joy of pula!
On my way home from Botswana, I spent two weeks in Nairobi, in Kenya, to pay a visit to our Theology house there, and to catch up on a former student colleague of mine, who was the director of the theology students. I had only arrived when he was diagnosed with malaria, which confined him to barracks for most of the time I was there. So, one day I set out on my own, to walk the dusty road to Karen, named after Karen Blixen, the author of Out of Africa. Her farm and former home, now a museum, still occupied the land, and I remember sitting under a tree, enjoying a cup of tea when, once again, the heavens opened, and the rain fell in torrents. The rain fell for about an hour and then the sun came out again. I started walking back to the Theology house, which had taken me about an hour in the first instance, only to discover that the road had been largely washed away and was now quite indistinguishable. I had to follow my nose on the way back, going astray once or twice, and it was a great relief when I came to some recognisable landmarks that I knew were close to my destination.
Back in Bishopbriggs, we are getting ready for our Provincial Chapter, which we all hope to attend from 19th to 23rd July, which means that the church will be closed for those few days.
As always, protect yourselves, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.