I am writing this log the day after the sad and unexpected death of our Archbishop, Philip Tartaglia. I was in the car heading up to my brother’s house, earlier than usual, as I had a Zoom meeting to attend that afternoon, and a streamed Lectio Divina Service to attend from the oratory at Bishopbriggs in the evening. It was my brother’s birthday so I wanted to spend a little time with him. The parish phone had been transferred through to Father Gareth and, shortly before my arrival at my brother’s house, I saw a call coming in on the blue tooth in my car from Father Gareth. It was he who told me the news, having just been notified by the Archdiocese, and I felt an immediate sense of shock and sadness. Since my return to Glasgow in 2016, I have always experienced Archbishop Tartaglia as a thoroughly nice and decent man, doing an immensely difficult job. He was forever a friend to St. Mungo’s and in recent times had presided over the 150th Anniversary celebrations of the church, and also celebrated the ordination of Father Antony. We reminisced at times on how we were born in the same year, and began secondary school at St. Mungo’s Academy at the same time, although he quickly moved on to seminary at Blairs. I suppose part of my shock at his sudden death was the realisation that we were ages with each other, and that our time on this earth is limited, and can come to an end at any time. Mainly, though, I am saddened at his death and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and those brother priests who were closest to him.
When I left the house today there was a few centimetres of snow on the ground. Last Friday I had enjoyed a beautiful walk in the snow. I left the house and made my way into the woods at the back of our estate. As mentioned before, there is a pond there which is home to a rare breed of frogs, thereby protecting that area from further development, but the pond that day was completely frozen over. I wondered what the frogs did in such a circumstance, but there was no sight or sound of them. I continued through the woods and out the other side, then made my way to the fen at Low Moss. I walked through the fen as far as I could but I was conscious that I had to be back in time to celebrate the 12.15 p.m. Mass from the oratory. I decided that, rather than walk further and risk getting lost in the woods behind the prison, as I had done before, I would just stand for a while, observe the beauty, and listen to the birdsong.
I looked contemplatively to my left, and then after a while turned to my right. Just as I turned, I saw two young deer leaping towards me across the fen. Becoming aware of my presence, they immediately stopped and stood absolutely still, as did I. For a couple of minutes there was a stand-off. Who would blink first? The deer, in fact, blinked first and bounded off in
another direction, disappearing completely as deer seem able to do. No matter how long I stood and looked they never came back into view again. It has always been my experience that, in places where deer are purported to be, whenever I look out for them, I never see them, and that I only catch glimpses of them in sudden and unexpected moments. My experiences of God can be a bit like that as well, but the sudden and unexpected glimpses are like gold.
The return journey through the woods near home had a slightly scary moment when I lost track of the path and found my left foot going through the ice at the edge of the pond.
Yesterday, of course, was the Feast of Saint Mungo. Fr Antony and Fr Gareth celebrated the Mass from the Oratory while I celebrated a solitary Mass in the church itself, uniting myself with our parishioners who weren’t able to be in their own sacred space to celebrate the feast of the patron of our church, our school and our city. It’s moments like these that increase the longing for life to return to some kind of normal. How good it would have been to celebrate the feast together, people and priests, as normal. In the evening we had a nice meal prepared by Father Justinian - Marsala chicken, new potatoes and peas. Fr Justinian will get the Covid Vaccine on Saturday. He has been keeping well, thank God, as have we all. Our thoughts and prayers remain with you who have continued to encourage and support us during this time. So, as ever, protect yourselves, your loved ones, and others, and protect Christ in your lives