In an earlier Log I mentioned an Australian Passionist, Chris, with whom I studied in Rome, and who unexpectedly, and delightfully, surprised me by turning up at my ordination in St. Mungo’s in June 1983. I had no idea he was coming. Not having seen Chris for many years, I was working in the office at St. Mungo’s a couple of weeks ago when, out of the blue, I received a phone call. Lo and behold it was him, the man of surprises. “I’m in Amsterdam”, says he, “and I’ll be arriving in Glasgow later tonight”. This was the first I’d heard of it, so I was a bit torn between delight and panic. My life is very scattered at the moment between church refurbishment; jubilee celebrations, my brother’s illness, Parish and Passionist commitments, and just keeping the ordinary day to day stuff going so, on the one hand, this was going to be one more thing to try and make time for in an already crazy schedule. On the other hand, and this was far more important, how good it would be to see Chris again, reminisce about our time in Rome; and have a right old catch-up with each other.
Of course, there was still the problem of accommodation to be sorted out. As you may know, our St. Mungo’s Passionist community consists of 5 members living in a 4-bedroom house in Bishopbriggs. Where were we going to put number 6? On the night of his arrival Chris had booked into a B&B near St. Mungo’s so, on the following morning, while drinking coffee after the 10 o’clock Mass, we had a brain-storming session to find a resolution. Brexit seemed less complicated than this. Being very fit and adventurous, Chris had come equipped with all kinds of camping gear. It turns out he is on a 3-month sabbatical from his very demanding job as a college president, as well as being a member of the Provincial Council of the Passionists in Australia. His sabbatical is very open-ended and fluid in terms of his plans, other than that he hopes to re-connect with old friends and acquaintances, of which I was happily one. At first, in our deliberations, he was eyeing the floor of the office in St. Mungo’s as the likely place to lay down his sleeping mat. I had done this myself when we were snow-bound a couple of winters ago but, while it was okay for a night or two, it wouldn’t have been suitable for any longer as washing and cooking facilities are extremely limited. In the end, we decided that the best thing was for Chris to pitch his sleeping mat on the floor of our sitting room in Bishopbriggs, and so it came to pass. Welcomed by the community, Chris gratefully bedded down in our midst for a week before heading to Pluscarden for a few days retreat; after which he came back to Bishopbriggs for a couple more nights, before heading off to Dublin, where he was due to give some lectures to seminarians as a favour to another old friend, before continuing his adventure to who knows where. At this moment he is probably camped beside some billabong in the West of Ireland. May he journey on safely.
While Chris was in Pluscarden, I had to attend a Safeguarding Conference in Heriot Watt University. I had never been there before but, thanks to Google, I discovered that there was a train station called Curriehill within walking distance. I decided I would get the train early Saturday morning from Glasgow Central to Curriehill, find somewhere for breakfast, and then have a leisurely walk to my destination. However, Curriehill train station turned out to be in the middle of nowhere. All I could see were fields on all sides, and I started to wish I had brought Chris’s camping gear. Finding breakfast was a non-starter, and I had absolutely no idea what direction to head in, a bit like Chris’s sabbatical. Taking the advice of St. Francis of Assisi, I spun on the spot and then started heading the way I was facing, which turned out to be the wrong way. Thankfully I met an early morning dog-walker who pointed me back in the direction from which I had come, and eventually I arrived at Herriot Watt.
Lord, help me to live this day, quietly, easily. To lean upon Thy great strength, trustfully, restfully. To wait for the unfolding of Thy will, patiently, serenely. To meet others, peacefully, joyously. To face tomorrow, confidently, courageously. (St. Francis of Assisi)