FATHER FRANK’S LOG: 14th – 21st JANUARY
A couple of weeks ago Father Gareth organised a simple lunch for one of the Passionist Young Team who was returning home to India. She was, of course, looking forward to seeing her family; she showed us some photographs of them, and of her church back home, but she was very sad to be leaving Glasgow, and to be leaving St. Mungo’s and the Passionist Young Team, which had come to mean a lot to her as a community of faith and friendship.
A few days later she was at Mass in St. Mungo’s for the last time and as I bid farewell to her again I caught a snippet of a conversation she was having with two ladies of the parish. I couldn’t possibly hazard a guess at these ladies ages, but let’s just say they weren’t members of the Young Team. I understood from what I heard that this girl was going back with these ladies for a post-Mass cup of tea, and that this had been a not uncommon occurrence since who knows when. Sometimes the cup of tea stretched to fish and chips, which had become a favourite meal for our Indian friend, and I imagine not one she would be getting too often back in Kerala.
I suppose what struck me most was that there was, in the parish, this simple act of kindness going on quietly in the background, and I wondered just how many more such hidden acts of kindness were going on in the parish that I was totally unaware of. Of course, there is absolutely no reason that I should be aware of them, parish priest or not, but still it delighted me to know that our parish as a family of faith, friendship and compassion, was alive and active, and known only to the God who sees all good things done in secret and blesses them.
It reminded me of a time when one of our old Passionists died, and in the aftermath of his funeral a story emerged that no one, except a very few people, knew about. It seems he went out one night to visit a house in the parish (not St. Mungo’s). He rang the doorbell and waited, quite a long time, for it to be answered. It turned out that he had gone to the wrong house and it was an old protestant lady who eventually opened the door. She apologised for taking so long and explained to him that at a fixed time every night she had to put eye drops in and she found it very difficult to do.
Afterwards, a local teacher who went for a walk most nights with this priest, wondered why at a certain time he started to excuse himself and leave. It turned out that, ever since that chance meeting, he had been going around to this old lady’s house every night and putting the drops in her eyes. Eventually the lady died, and not long after that the priest died too, and it was only then that the story of this quiet, hidden kindness came out into the open. I still feel very moved every time I tell that story.
In Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire, the troubled Blanche famously says “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” There is an echo of this in the mysterious story in the Old Testament, from the Book of Genesis, where Abraham receives three strangers as he camps by the Oak of Mamre. He serves them a meal, and as the conversation progresses he seems to be talking directly to God. This story was later captured in a famous Russian Icon where these visitors are depicted as angels, and as a metaphor for the three persons of the Blessed Trinity.
Let’s take to heart this verse from the Letter to the Hebrews which often accompanies this famous icon where it simply says:
“Never forget to show kindness to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels, without knowing it”.