We’ve had some beautiful, sunny days this past week, and it’s good to see people in lighter, brighter clothes, with their spirits lifted, which, God knows, we need in these troubled times. But while I love to see the sun, I am also very wary of it, which is a lesson I have had to learn slowly and harshly over the years. Let me tell of you of just three instances. In 1969 I was a parishioner of St. Laurence’s in Drumchapel. I had just left school and, while seeking for longer term employment, I was working for a catering supplier, firstly as a delivery boy, and then as a fondant maker. I finished up in the late summer and took my first ever trip abroad, when myself and seven other young men accompanied our parish curate on a camping trip to France and Spain. The curate had acquired an old van and had fitted it out with discarded corporation bus seats. It wasn’t luxury, but it did the job. We drove down to Dover and took the cross-channel ferry to Calais. Our intention was to spend a few days in Lourdes after a stop-over in Rouen. After our time in Lourdes, we drove over the Pyrenees to spend the main part of our holiday in Lloret de Mar. When we arrived in Lloret de Mar the weather was overcast but, after we pitched our tents, we headed off to the beach. Overcast or not, the sun was lurking behind those clouds and, that same night, I tossed and turned in my sleeping bag, and ended up getting into the van to try and sleep sitting up. My problem was that, on either side of my back, near to the shoulders, there had developed two of the biggest blisters you could ever imagine, and boy, they were painful. Even putting a shirt on my back for the next few days was agony. I was eventually rescued by three Irish nurses who arrived to pitch their tent quite near to us. They splattered vinegar on my back and, unbelievably, it did the trick. I hadn’t experienced any miracles in Lourdes but, for me, the sheer relief from such pain was a miracle in Spain.
Did I learn the lesson? Unfortunately, and foolishly, I didn’t. In 1972 I went on holiday to the Isle of Barra with some friends I had got to know through the Passionist Retreat House at Coodham, in Ayrshire. They are still friends to this day. It was the Glasgow Fair fortnight but, even so, the weather was scorching. Perhaps I was complacent in that this was the Outer Hebrides and not Spain. I didn’t lie on any of the beautiful beaches on Barra, but just strolling around the island I managed to get badly sunburnt on my head and ended up with sunstroke. Surely, this time, I would have learnt my lesson? But no, some years later, in the late 1980’s, I was on holiday with a fellow Passionist on Achill Island, on the west coast of Ireland. Once again, the weather was beautiful. We headed to Keel Bay, where there were some basking sharks. I had a gentle dip in the water and then sat on the beach and read for a while. I thought I was well covered up and lathered in Factor 50+ sun screen (children’s version), but, very, very foolishly, I hadn’t covered my feet, and they ended up badly burnt and swollen. After the holiday was over, I was due to fly to Glasgow for some family time at home. I had to travel back in flip-flops, and I spent most of that time in serious pain, and being tended to by a family member who was a nurse. So, by this stage, I have managed to get burnt quite literally from head to toe and, at first sight of the sun, I now go into Dracula mode to avoid it.
I was recalling last Sunday how St. Augustine used the analogy of the sun to explain the Holy Trinity, saying that the sun is like the Father, the source of everything. The sun, sending out its rays, is like the Father sending his only Son into the world. Finally, as the rays of the sun touch the earth with light and warmth, this is like the fire of the Holy Spirit. Taken together, they are a Blessed Trinity, and an undivided unity. Perhaps I can pass myself off as a great mystic, having been burnt up by the Triune God on at least three occasions. Enjoy the sun while it lasts but, unlike me, be wise and careful, and take all the necessary precautions.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.