A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give an interview to the Scottish Catholic Magazine. It was in connection with a series called “A History of Scotland in 100 Parishes”, and they wanted to do a feature on St. Mungo’s. The interview was over the phone and lasted about half an hour. In the course of the conversation, we went off on a number of tangents that the interviewer found quite interesting. One had to do with why the old parochial house is called St. Mungo’s Retreat. I know that can be a bit confusing, and every now and again I receive phone calls, emails, or letters from people asking if they can book in to make a retreat. But it’s not a Retreat House in that sense.
It goes back to when the Passionists were first founded by St. Paul of the Cross in the 18th century. The Passionists were a prime example of what is often referred to as the mixed life, in other words, embracing a model of religious life that is a mixture of both the contemplative and the active. In the founder’s mind, if there were a community of twelve Passionists, then he envisaged that for an extended period of time, six of them would go out from the Retreat on apostolic activity, primarily as itinerant preachers, giving missions, especially in the most deprived areas of the country, and teaching people how to meditate on the Passion of Our Lord as a work of infinite love. While those six were out on the apostolate, the six at home would be living an intense contemplative life, finding their identity at the foot of the Cross, allowing the Passion of Our Lord to deeply touch their lives because, if it did not touch their lives, then, according to the founder, they would have no right to preach it to anyone else. When the time came, the six out on mission would return, in other words they would retreat back to the monastery. It would then be their turn to live that intense contemplative life, while the other six took their turn going out on mission, having been nourished for the task by their intense, extended period of contemplation at the foot of the cross.
In truth, it never quite worked out that way in practice, but still, to this day, we Passionists have a strong contemplative dimension to our lives. We are not monks, but we do try and take the monastic dimension of our lives seriously. In some places throughout the world, it is much more pronounced than others. When I read the article in the Scottish Catholic which, for the most part, was true to our conversation, I thought it may have given the impression that we were still trying to live according to that idealised 18th century model of St. Paul of the Cross here in Glasgow but, unfortunately, that would not be realistic. It also suggested we were back to the old schedule of Confessions, but, for the foreseeable future, we are still on our revised schedule. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, however, is considered a vital part of our ministry of compassion, and an expression of that infinite love and mercy of God that flows from the Cross. Accurate information on Confession times is only to be found on our parish website, and on various places where it is posted outside and inside the church.
There is always a risk in giving interviews. The editorial process always seems to make it read differently from what you remember actually saying. I was thinking of this last weekend when Fr. Antony, recently appointed as Vocations Director for the Passionists in Scotland,
England and Wales, was speaking at all the Masses in St. Mungo’s for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Back in the 1984, when I myself was Vocations Director in Scotland, I contacted the Scottish Catholic Observer to insert an ad in the paper for a feature they were doing for Vocations Sunday. When the paper came out that week, they had inserted my name as Father Kevin Keegan CP. Kevin Keegan, a very famous footballer, was at that time seeing out his career with Newcastle United. Perhaps if I had just left it, I might have engendered more interest in the Passionist Vocation. At present we await Fr. John Varghese’s return from India next Tuesday, when he will at last have a chance to fully settle in to his ministry.
So, as always, protect yourselves, protect your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives.