It’s good to be making a return to the Log this week, although I must say I was glad of the short break as well. My energies were low after my Covid isolation, and as our return to the church came just in time for Holy Week, there was little opportunity to ease in gently. It also meant that Father John, who was at last able to begin ministry in St. Mungo’s, had a baptism of fire. Leading up to Holy Week, Father John, Father Antony and I, sat around the table at home to cast lots. The reason was that on Holy Thursday night in St. Mungo’s we usually have a Holy Hour at the Garden of Repose with a series of short reflections on the experience of Jesus in Gethsemane. Also, on Good Friday Night, as Passionists, we traditionally preach the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. I wrote out the themes for the Holy Thursday reflections, and for the Seven Last Words, on pieces of paper, folded over twice, and put them into separate containers. We then, each in turn, had to draw out pieces of paper from the containers to discover which reflection we had to give, and which words from the Cross we had to preach on. It seemed to be a fair and transparent way to do it, and it created a bit of light-hearted drama as well, but Father John was in a bit of a panic, especially as I had also appointed him to lead the Good Friday Service. We advised Father John that, because of the long Gospel on Good Friday, he should keep his homily short. He was surprised at this as, in India, he said, this must be, by far, the longest sermon of the year. Not in Scotland, friend!
It was also a baptism of fire for Father John, in that more people than ever seemed to avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Holy Week. We had factored in some extra times for Confession, and just about every session ran well over time, leaving us fairly exhausted at the end of it, but at the same time feeling it had been very worthwhile. It was great, too, that the main Holy Week ceremonies, the Sacred Triduum, were just about back to normal. On Holy Thursday, at the Mass of the Last Supper, with Father Antony as the main celebrant, we were able to incorporate the Mandatum, the Washing of Feet. We had no problem getting 12 good people to volunteer, but I noticed that a few of them winced a bit as the water seemed to be warmer than expected. It reminded me of when Father Gareth was doing baptisms. He would set up the font after the 12 o’clock Mass and there would be steam rising from the font. I would panic, of course, and say that he couldn’t pour water that hot over a wee baby’s head, but he always said it would be fine by the time the service started. Thankfully, he was right.
On Good Friday we were able to venerate the Cross, even if we couldn’t kiss or touch, but it remains one of the most moving experiences of the year for me as young and old, and even babes in arms, come forward and adore this most overwhelming expression of God’s love for us, revealed in the Cross of Christ. At the Easter Vigil we had also restored the Service of Light at the beginning, with people holding lighted candles for the singing of the Exsultet, and then later for the renewal of Baptismal promises. Of course, there are still things we can’t do, like Holy Communion under both species, but we are getting there, thank God.
As indicated in the last Log before the break, on Easter Tuesday, Father John returned home to India to participate in his Province Chapter, to make a retreat, and to visit family. There was a late panic as his flight to London, the first stage of the journey, was cancelled, but he managed to get another flight. With Father Antony having to be away on other duties, Father Frank Trias has been thankfully helping out again. Father Justinian enjoyed a visit from old friends from Germany, whom he had met in Taize 40 years ago. I am plodding on.
As ever, protect yourselves, protect your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives.