As I write, Father Antony is getting ready to travel to Northern Ireland for a few days. On Saturday 5th September his classmate, Aidan, will be ordained in the Passionist Church of Holy Cross in Ardoyne, Belfast. I don’t know if any of you will remember Aidan as one of the deacons at Father Antony’s ordination last December. Aidan was due to be ordained last May, in time for our Provincial Chapter in June, but the ordination was postponed due to Covid-19 lockdown, as was the Chapter. Continuing restrictions mean that attendance at the Ordination Mass will be limited to close and immediate family members only. A handful of Passionists will attend but only our Provincial, Father Jim Sweeney, and Father Antony, will be able to concelebrate with the ordaining bishop. Fellow priests will not be able to lay hands on him, or offer him the kiss of peace, as is normally part of the Ordination ceremony. The following day, Father Aidan will celebrate his first Mass in his home parish of Carnlough, County Antrim, (which is also the home parish of Brendan Rogers). His first Mass will also be restricted to close and immediate family members. Father Antony will preach at that Mass, after which Father Aidan will go and say a prayer at the grave of his parents, and then return to give his first blessing. As with all things these days, it will be a very different experience from that which was first anticipated by Aidan and his family but, at the end of the day, we will have a new Passionist priest, and that’s the most important thing. Father Aidan will then move from Mount Argus in Dublin, where he is based at present, to take up his first official posting at the Passionist Retreat Centre at Tobar Mhuire in Crossgar, County Down.
Last Saturday morning I was out walking, and I happened to be passing St. Matthew’s Church in Bishopbriggs just before 11 a.m. Like St. Mungo’s, the church there has been undergoing quite extensive refurbishment. The work was just about finished when lockdown came last March, and the builders had to down tools. The intention had been to try and open for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion on 10th April, but obviously that didn’t happen. Now that the builders are back working, and the tail end jobs are almost complete, the church will happily re-open very soon. As I passed the church I wondered if Canon Hill, the parish priest, might still be around after the 10 a.m. Mass in the hall. It turned out that he was, and he kindly gave me a guided tour of the newly refurbished church, which is beautiful. New aisles have been added and the church furnishings are all bespoke. There is a lovely brightness about the place and I’m sure that the parishioners will be very happy with all that has been achieved. St. Matthew’s was Father Antony’s parish, and is still his mum’s parish. With the refurbishment work going on, and then the Coronavirus, Father Antony hasn’t yet had the opportunity to celebrate Mass in his home parish, which he would love to do, but hopefully we can look forward to that happening in the near future.
Father Gareth has been settling back as if he has never been away, although he will need to leave us again during the Novena to bring his mum to some important medical appointments, but that will only be for a week and then he can come back and settle in properly. The house in Bishopbriggs, the church, and the parish office, have quickly become noisy again as Father Gareth brings his own unique presence to bear. However, while Father Antony and myself have gotten used to working within the new protocols for public worship, Father Gareth has been finding it all very strange and, being such a big man, celebrating the streamed Masses, from such a small space in our community oratory at home, is very much a challenge for him.
So, now we get ready to begin the Novena next Monday. Just to remind you that the full programme has been published on the website and, if you’re reading this, then you clearly have access to that. On the programme page you will also see a link to a page where you can make out a petition for the Novena, if you wish, and submit it to me. We will pray for all of the intentions we receive at every Novena Mass, or Service. Let’s pray for many blessings.
So, as always, protect yourselves and your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives.