It’s been, for me, a week of highs and lows. Our Novena to Our Lady of Sorrows came to an end with the great Passionist Feasts of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on Monday and Our Lady of Sorrows on Tuesday. Going by the feedback we received, it was well worth holding the Novena this year, even with all the Covid-19 restrictions, and hopefully it will have been a very blessed time for anyone who took part in any way. Father Antony worked incredibly hard and it struck me yet again what an extraordinary introduction he has had to priestly life since his ordination last December. Even for experienced old timers like myself, such an intense experience of preparing liturgies and homilies as we have had, not just for the Novena, but since lockdown began last March, is not easy. Since we began the streaming of Masses from the Oratory from that time, the intention was always to provide something of substance that could support and nourish people during this difficult time, but little did we think that, six months on, we would still be doing it, and no sign of it coming to an end. It was great to have Father Gareth back with us to play his part too, and, even though he has had to return to Merthyr Tydfil for a short time, he should be back with us more permanently by the end of next week. Throughout it all, we were supported by the prayers of Father Justinian who continues to do well since his stay in hospital at the early stages of lockdown.
I was also very aware, as the Novena drew to a close, that this marked the occasion last year of the closure of St. Mungo’s for the refurbishment work to be done, especially the provision of a much-needed new floor. At that stage, Masses moved to St. Paul’s Hall, and that’s where we remained from then until the middle of December. Much as we longed to be back in the church, our time there was actually quite enjoyable, with a much more intimate atmosphere being created in the much smaller space, people sitting beside people they had never sat beside before, and getting to know people they had never spoken to before, and, certainly, there wasn’t even a hint, or even the remotest possibility of social distancing. In the church, though, almost from day one, issues cropped up requiring additional works to what had been originally planned, such as the requirement to replace the 70-year old heating pipes, and the necessity of rebuilding collapsed dwarf walls, holding up the timber, which had crumbled over the years; and there were times when I looked in at the gaping hole in the floor, that looked as if it might soon reach Australia, and wondered if it had been wise to ever set out on this journey at all. Thankfully, it all ended well, the church is more beautiful than ever, and it has become a symbol for me, that we will eventually get through this present Covid-19 crisis as well, and that, at the end of it, something worthwhile will have been gained, and learned.
The low point came for me the day after the Novena ended. I was catching up on some administration at the church, and doing some post-Novena clear-up. Then I had to walk into town to attend to some business. I came back to the church, then drove out to the house to join Father Antony for the Mass of St. Ninian from the oratory, remembering my visits to Ninian’s cave over the years, a special place. I returned to the church for the Wednesday Prayer, Adoration and Reconciliation. It was only then that I realised that I didn’t have my mobile phone. Extensive searches took place, and continue to take place, in and around the church, out at the house in Bishopbriggs, inside the car I was driving, but all to no avail. When I ring the number it just goes dead. Were it just a phone I wouldn’t be worried, phones can easily be replaced, but, despite the fact that I am not a social media person in the slightest, mobile phones these days carry a lot of information, professional and personal, and I feel it’s a bit like having your house broken into, a sense of having been invaded, personally intruded upon, as I wonder who might have it, and what might they do with it. Also, my driving license was tucked inside, so there has been a nightmare of reporting and trying to limit any damage that might be done, and seeking to replace what was lost. Even St. Antony seems lost. So, protect yourselves and your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives.