Last night, under the supervision of Father Justinian, I went through our kitchen worktop, fridge and cupboards, rooting out things that were way past their dates for safe consumption. At the end of it I had created a substantial pile of stuff and today, as I write, Father Justinian will be engaged in the task of disposing of it in a responsible way, making sure the right bins are used for each item of food and each container. It will be a tedious task, and a challenging one, but I think, even at 92, that he is relishing the challenge and, with his background in the hospitality and catering trade, before he joined the Passionists, a task that I think he will do wisely and well, and at his own pace. It’s truly extraordinary how much stuff can accumulate, but we look forward to beginning again, with the best of intentions, not to let it happen again. Those may be famous last words, but we will draw inspiration from Laudato Si, keeping care for the environment, for our common home, and also our own health, ever in mind.
Last Saturday, I also had to acknowledge that my favourite shoes had gone past their safe-to-wear date. I bought these shoes about 6 years ago, and they are probably the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. Recently, however, I had noticed that, on a rainy day, I was in danger of slipping and falling on the wet pavements, and this was because the tread on the sole of the shoes had almost completely worn away, and so there was no grip. Reluctantly, I headed out to buy a new pair. Buying shoes is never an easy matter for me, as I have very small feet for a man. Years back, I had a contact in a shoe factory, and I discovered that the shoes that fitted me best were the bigger sizes in a children’s shoe, and he would help me to source them. Since then, I have settled on a size 6 (EU39) in adult sizes, but most shoe shops don’t keep a size 6 in stock, and I have to order. I headed to the same shop I bought the last pair in. I picked out something similar from the rack, and then asked the assistant if it was available in my size. He asked me to pick out an alternative, so that if he didn’t find the first choice in the stockroom, he could search for the second choice while down there. About 10 minutes later he returned, not having found the first choice, but with the second choice in hand. I asked for a long shoe horn, as a bit of a bad back makes it difficult for me to bend down. I tried the shoes on and walked about the store for a while. They seemed just right, and so I purchased them, then and there, and I can only hope that they will serve me as well as the previous pair which, of course, I have not discarded, and will continue to wear on occasion.
On arriving to St. Mungo’s this morning, I was suddenly aware of so many items here too, in the church and sacristy, and in the old retreat house, that are well past their use by date. We have many liturgical books, some in English, some in Latin, that we will be unlikely ever to use again. We have books on Theology, Philosophy, classic literature, poetry, art, and so much more, that will hopefully find a good home in some library or archive in our Province, but will probably never be read again, except perhaps by some enthusiast from a future generation. We have vestments in the sacristy presses belonging to another liturgical era that will never be worn again. I could go on and talk about old paintings, old items of furniture, old crockery, old typewriters and computer screens, old printers, all now defunct. And now, in the restructuring of our diocese, as also in many other dioceses throughout the world, we are looking at old presbyteries and old churches that may have reached the end of their time as well. All of this under the umbrella of Evangelisation and under the title of – looking to the future, being faithful to the past. There is, I suppose, an inevitability about it all, but a sadness just the same, and yet, a hopefulness too. As ever, we trust in the Holy Spirit to blow where she will, and lead us in the way we are to go. Thankfully, Father Justinian is still well within his use by date, and I trust he is successfully getting on with the task in hand.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.