At the end of the Log last week, I mentioned that I would be attending the 1st Anniversary Mass in St. Andrew’s Cathedral for the late Archbishop Tartaglia, which would also be the diocesan celebration for the Feast of St. Mungo. It was a very cold night, but I decided to wrap up warm, leave the car at the church, and walk down to the cathedral. I enjoyed the walk, the sharp cold clearing a few cobwebs from my head. It didn’t clear all the cobwebs, however, as, when I arrived at the cathedral, I met a masked clergyman coming out, who kindly informed me that we were to vest for the Mass in the curial offices. As we walked the short distance together, I innocently said to him, “Sorry, you’ll need to remind me who you are”. It turned out he was a rather well-known bishop. I was quite relieved then when, as we approached the curial offices, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese met us and remarked on how difficult it was to recognise people behind their masks. I was equally relieved that, once we were inside, the bishop was directed to the dining room to vest with the other bishops, while I was directed to Eyre Hall to vest with the other priests, as that gave my embarrassment a space to dissipate.
It brought to mind a previous occasion in Dublin, when I was amongst the invited guests at the consecration and dedication of a Russian Orthodox Church near to Mount Argus, where I was rector and parish priest at the time. I was placed near to the altar. To my left was a Church of Ireland bishop whom I recognised and greeted, and to my right was an impressive looking clergyman whom I didn’t recognise. I produced what must be my stock phrase in such situations, “Sorry, you’ll need to remind me who you are”. He turned out to be the Papal Nuncio, and this time I didn’t have the excuse that he was wearing a mask.
Returning to the cathedral, I can’t remember the last time I was in such a gathering, so it was good to see some of the clergy whom I knew, and to be able to catch up on how we were all doing. There was an air of poignancy as this was the first occasion on which we had been able to mourn this good man’s passing together. Archbishop Conti was the main celebrant. He spoke nicely about Archbishop Phillip, his predecessor, and also about St. Mungo. The prayers for the Mass of St. Mungo refer to him by what was his proper name, Kentigern, and I couldn’t help but notice that, every time Archbishop Conti spoke the name Kentigern, he pronounced it with a soft “g”; while, at the Prayers of the Faithful, the deacon pronounced it with a hard “g”. My own inclination would be towards the hard “g”, but then, when I started out at St. Mungo’s Secondary in 1963, at the Duke Street Annexe, called St. Kentigern’s, if memory serves me well, we pronounced it with a soft “g”. Any thoughts out there?
When the Mass was over, we didn’t hang around. On the way out I spoke to a fellow priest whom I did recognise, even with his mask. But then, a few days later, he sent me an email, apologising for not having recognised me – so that made me feel a whole lot better. I walked back to the church and picked up the car. On the way home, not having eaten, I stopped off at one of the local chippers in Bishopbriggs, called Frank’s, no bias intended, and got myself a small fish supper. I went back to the house, made a big mug of tea, lashed the butter on thick to two slices of soft white bread, and had a feast, reminding myself to take my cholesterol tablet before going to bed. It wasn’t quite the celebratory meal we would have had in years gone by for the Feast of St. Mungo, but I enjoyed it immensely. Fathers Justinian and Antony are well; Father John still waits patiently in Ardoyne, and Father Gareth sends his regards.
As ever, protect yourselves, protect your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.