Where our Passionist community lives in Bishopbriggs, there is a wood behind our house. One of the advantages of this wood is that it is home to a rare breed of frogs, which means that nothing can be built on their habitat, which is a pond just beyond our garden fence. This wood is also home to a family of deer. When I first arrived in October 2016, the other members of the community informed me that I would see these deer regularly, especially as my bedroom window overlooked the wood. Fourteen months later I still hadn’t seen a single deer. They were more elusive than God and, unlike God, I had begun to doubt their existence.
Then, just the other week, I was on call on Friday night for the Royal Infirmary. At 2.30 in the morning I was awakened by the sound of the hospital pager which, understandably, emits a very loud bleep. After praising God for calling me at this hour, I phoned the hospital, and was put through to a nurse who told me what the situation was, where I was to go, and who I was to attend to. I quickly got dressed and took the oils and the host from our little oratory in the house and tried to tiptoe down the stairs and out to the car without waking the whole household.
My habit on such occasions is to park in the yard at St. Mungo’s and walk over the footbridge to the Royal. I arrived at the hospital within about half an hour of being woken, and made my way to Ward 65 where an old lady, originally from Donegal, was nearing her final breath. A good number of the family were gathered. They were obviously a family of faith and we gathered round the bed to say the prayers, and to give her the Sacrament of Anointing, although, being unconscious, she was unable to receive the Eucharist. After chatting for a while with the family, I then left them to begin to make my way back to Bishopbriggs.
My first task was to find my way out of the hospital – which is not as easy as you might think. Walking through the Royal Infirmary in the wee hours of the morning is a strange experience. Once you leave the wards and enter the corridors the place seems absolutely deserted, and of course the Royal is now so vast. For security reasons the external doors are locked and there are usually only one or two discreet doors to exit onto the street, but of course I couldn’t find them. At one stage I passed a security station where there was a half-drunk cup of tea on a desk and a transistor radio playing quietly, but my shouts of “hello, is anybody there”, met only with silence. I wandered the corridors calling out the same thing until, by sheer chance, I came upon a door where it seemed something was being delivered or removed in a white van, and I was able to escape to freedom.
It was a very frosty night and I drove slowly and carefully. About 4 o’clock in the morning I turned into our estate and, just as I turned off the main avenue, a deer sprang out of one of the gardens and ran on ahead of me. I stopped the car to watch, and soon it was joined by another deer, springing out of another garden. I continued to drive slowly forward and they both followed a path before me until I turned into our car port and they continued on ahead. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
I sat for a moment and smiled. They were lovely to see, and now I fully expect to be driving home after Midnight Mass this Christmas and see at least six of them, this time in the sky, pulling a sleigh, with a big man sitting in a red suit, laughing all the way, and arriving at a stable in Bethlehem to deliver the first of his gifts to a child in swaddling clothes. Have a very blessed Christmas. The log will return in a couple of weeks’ time. Meanwhile, here is Santa’s Christmas prayer:
On Christmas Eve the other night I saw the most amazing sight, for there beneath the Christmas tree was Santa kneeling on his knee. His countenance was different than that all-familiar, jolly grin; his head was bowed, and hand to breast, and slightly tucked into his vest. For there in a Nativity was Jesus and His family, and as I heard him start to pray, I listened close to what he’d say. “Lord, you know that you’re the reason, I take pleasure in this season. I don’t want to take your place, but just reflect your wondrous grace. I hope you’ll help them understand, I’m just an ordinary man, who found a way to do your will, by finding kids with needs to fill. But all those centuries ago, there was no way for me to know, that they would make so much of me, and all the gifts beneath the tree. They think I have some hidden power, granted at the midnight hour. But it is my love for you, inspiring all the things I do. So, let them give you all the glory, for you’re the One True Christmas Story.”