After an Easter break the Log returns this week. The Easter ceremonies were very special in St. Mungo’s and celebrated in true Passionist Spirit with the preaching of the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross on Good Friday night providing a moving complement to the main Sacred Triduum ceremonies. Father Gareth had celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper the previous two years, but as he is still supporting his mam in her illness, I was main celebrant myself this year, for the first time in St. Mungo’s. I have a few back problems, so I was a bit concerned about getting up and down for the Washing of the Feet, but I received the necessary grace and I found it very powerful and poignant. The Good Friday Service was led with due solemnity by Father Lawrence. At the Easter Vigil, after a wonderful RCIA journey, we joyously welcomed two people into the Catholic Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, and a beautiful baby was Baptized at the last Mass on Easter Sunday. Thanks be to God for all of it. Alleluia!
During Easter Week I wanted to catch up on a 3-part series on BBC2 called Road to Rome – some of you may have watched it. Eight people from different backgrounds, and from different faiths and no faith, walked part of the old pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome, ending up with a very moving audience with Pope Francis during which he seemed to find, as usual, just the right thing to say to each person in a way that touched them very deeply, and brought their journey to a fitting end, or perhaps, in some cases, a new beginning.
They had started their journey in Switzerland, crossing over the Great St. Bernard Pass into Aosta in Italy, stopping off at the Great St Bernard Hospice which was founded by monks in 1049 to care for pilgrims on their long and arduous journey to Rome. This hospice later became famous for the breeding and use of St Bernard dogs in rescue operations. As the group discovered, however, it’s a bit of a myth that the dogs carried barrels of brandy around their necks, but still, they are beautiful creatures.
I had once made this trip myself over the Great St. Bernard Pass with Father Paul Francis, except that we didn’t walk, we drove. We were heading for Turin in one of those periods when the Shroud was going to be on display. We were met in the city by an Italian Passionist who climbed into the back of the car, and I always remember that, with neither he nor Father Paul Francis being drivers at the time, I foolishly followed their instruction to take a left turn onto a 4-lane road in Turin with all the traffic, except me, coming in the opposite direction. All I could do was stop the car and let the irate Italians drive around me until it was safe to turn around, tooting their horns furiously as only Italians can; but I don’t blame them at all.
The only Catholic pilgrim in Road to Rome was Dana, Eurovision Song Contest winner for Ireland in 1970 with All Kinds of Everything. Dana was very good at putting across the Catholic viewpoint whenever it arose in the pilgrims’ conversations, and I was reminded of the time when Dana borrowed and played my guitar. It was at the funeral of a Passionist in Dublin whom she and her husband had been very friendly with. I was Student Director in Mount Argus at the time and was in charge of the Liturgy for the Requiem Mass. When encouraged to sing, something she hadn’t planned, Dana asked if I could provide her with a guitar, which I was happy and privileged to do. I remember that she sang Totus Tuus and Lady of Knock. I also remember how gentle and humble she was as she sang from the heart.
Of his meeting with Pope Francis, comedian Les Dennis said: he kissed us all, he hugged us all. It wasn't a stunt. We were there and he wanted to talk to us and wanted to answer the questions that we were asking... He was prepared to answer difficult questions and he was prepared to give us more time than I thought we would possibly get. It was an exceptional experience, one that I won't forget. It was life changing and will be etched on my memory