Last Saturday we bade farewell to Father Pat Rogers CP, one of the preachers for our Novena to Our Lady of Sorrows. We enjoyed having him at the house in Bishopbriggs and we hope that people enjoyed him during the Novena. I’m sure Father Pat wouldn’t mind me saying that he falls into the realm of those we might describe as eccentric genius. There is no doubting his extraordinary intellect but he can also be a little unpredictable at times. In the early part of my diaconate year in Rome, back in 1982-83, Father Pat was there as a simultaneous translator for the Passionist General Chapter. He asked me if I would like to join him for an early morning run before proceedings began and I said yes. So, the next morning, we togged out and jogged down the hill from the Passionist Monastery of Saints John and Paul towards the Coliseum. We circled the perimeter of the Coliseum and then I realised that Father Pat was heading towards the Roman Forum, a tourist attraction which contains the ruins of several important, ancient government buildings. A guard stepped out and blocked his path, hand held out for the admission fee. Neither of us had any money in our jogging gear and so Father Pat tried to convince him in his excellent Italian that we were only going to run through and not look at anything. The guard was unimpressed and turfed us out.
We had a bit more success when he took me along and bluffed his way into a press conference for the man for whom Maximilian Kolbe gave up his life in Auschwitz. This was the night before Maximilian Kolbe was due to be canonised. When we entered the small press room Father Pat put down a tape recorder on the table while Italian, and other journalists, looked at him and wondered who he was. When his credentials were questioned he offered to translate from Polish into English, a service that wasn’t really required, which was just as well as, despite being multi-lingual, Polish wasn’t one of the languages that Father Pat spoke. The upshot was that we were allowed to stay for the interview but not record it. A third incident does not concern me but it is frequently recounted by one of our Passionist colleagues who was invited out for a drive with Father Pat. On the way back, Father Pat suggested a cup of tea and, when our colleague agreed, he found himself being brought to a blood donor’s centre to get the cuppa for free, or at least in exchange for a pint of blood. So, all in all, I think the time he was with us was enjoyable, but peacefully uneventful.
We did not have to say farewell to our second Novena preacher. Brother Antony Connelly CP now moves into our home in Bishopbriggs as the 5th member of our Passionist community. He had to wait until Father Pat departed to be able to take ownership of his room, and he has spent the last few days arranging the space as he wants it, moving in his possessions, and putting up shelves for his books, so that he can start to get settled in. He is also gently easing himself into a chaplaincy role in the local universities and colleges, something to which he is well suited, being a graduate of both Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities. Like Father Pat, Brother Antony can also be described as an intellectual, but as to whether he is eccentric or not we will have to wait and see, but I don’t think he is. I have told him I am getting great sleep since he came because last thing at night I am reading his Undergraduate Dissertation from Heythrop College, which is entitled Christian Ethical, Anthropological and Soteriological Considerations of Transhumanism. I don’t even understand the title, but I have no doubt that it is very good. If intellect can be compared with reason, then, as also men of Passion, Father Pat and Brother Antony might appreciate this thought from Kahlil Gibran:
Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul… For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction. Therefore, let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion; that it may sing; And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.