Father Frank’s Log is back on track after a short break for our annual Novena in honour of Our Lady of Sorrows. As always, it was a time of grace and blessing for those who took part, whether here in the church or, for the first time ever, online. The Novena was bookended by two guest speakers, both called Father Aidan. Father Aidan O’Kane, a classmate of Father Antony, is known affectionately as the baby priest in the province, but only because he is the most recently ordained, just 3 years ago. Father Aidan Troy is a senior priest in the province, a former Provincial and General Consultor, and he will be 53 years ordained come December, so there is a 50-year gap between them in terms of priesthood. Each of them was very different in style and content, but both did a great job, for which we were very grateful.
The day after the novena closed was the Feast of St. Ninian. The gospel for the feast was the sending out of the 72 disciples, in pairs, to proclaim the Good News, the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I had dropped Father Aidan Troy to the airport early in the morning and, as I was gathering thoughts for the lunchtime Mass, I was reminded that when I first joined the Passionists, Father Aidan had, at that time, the title of Director of Missions. This meant that, whenever a parish priest in Ireland, Scotland, or even further afield, wanted to book a parish mission, conducted by the Passionists, they would contact Father Aidan, in those days either by letter or by phone, and make the request. It would then be his task to appoint missioners and send them out, most often in pairs, to proclaim that same Good News that was entrusted to the disciples. Father Aidan would draw up a mission list which was sent around the various houses in the province, and the men would look to see if their name was on the list. If so, where were they going? When were they going? Who were they teamed up with? There was usually a senior missioner and a junior missioner on the team, and it was the junior’s task to bring the mission cross with them, which would then be carried ceremonially into the church at the opening of the mission, and erected on the sanctuary, remaining there for the duration of the mission as a reminder of our core charism – We preach Christ Crucified.
When I was ordained in 1983, I was assigned to be part of an itinerant mission team. I can remember looking at the mission list and seeing my name on it for the first time. I was being sent out like a disciple, firstly to the city of Derry in Northern Ireland, teamed up with Father Germanus McGrinder; then, in the couple of years that followed, to Prestonpans with Father John Craven and Father Brendan McKeever; to Househillwood with Father Paul Francis; but also, with Father John Mary and Father Andrew Kennedy, whose task was to help with confessions, and with the visitation of the sick and housebound; then to Balloch with Father Michael Doogan; also, to Rutherglen with Father Michael Doogan; then to Moodiesburn, again with Father Paul Francis. I remember that during this Moodiesburn Mission, after the evening service, we watched the end of the Scotland v Wales World Cup qualifier on the night that Jock Stein died. The parish priest was a friend of Jock’s and he was devastated to watch this unfold in front of his eyes on the TV. Those were formative times, and many other missions followed before I was moved into a different kind of ministry as a Formation Director and Novice Master. Sadly, this traditional Passionist ministry has diminished greatly now, because of a shortage of priests, but also because of a changing church. We seek new ways in these times, of being faithful to preaching Christ Crucified as a work of infinite love.
It's time now to catch breath after the Novena, and to catch up on all the bits and pieces that were set to one side during it. Father Gareth is at present caught up in freshers’ week at the GCU university and the CGC college; Father John has successfully renewed his visa for another 3 years, and Father Justinian is still the healthiest man in the house.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.