Last Monday, 19th October, we celebrated the Feast of St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists. As with all things these days, it was a very different kind of celebration from the usual. I celebrated the Mass, which was streamed from the Oratory in Bishopbriggs, with Father Antony and Father Gareth joining me in what seemed to be a very small space for two such big men plus myself who, admittedly, is not so big. Father Justinian joined us online from his room downstairs. In the afternoon Father Antony and Father Gareth came into the church for the period of Prayer and Adoration, and to be available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, while I headed off to an appointment with the optician.
I am very, very longsighted, and I had been used to changing my glasses every couple of years or so, while I was living in Dublin. However, between one thing and another, it had been six years since I last changed my glasses, and the ones I was wearing now were so covered in scratches, with the anti-glare coating almost completely worn off, that I felt as if I was viewing life through a kind of fog, so the time had come to take action. Getting an eye test in these times is difficult too. Both the optician and myself were wearing the inevitable and compulsory masks. The optician stuck some tape to my mask to try and prevent my glasses, and the different lenses she was putting in to test my vision, from steaming up. The tape wasn’t very effective, and she still had to exercise great patience in constantly having to wipe everything she used. Still and all, I was very happy with the thoroughness of the test.
The next step was to choose a frame. My problem is always not being able to see what the frame looks like when looking through plane lenses. I always have to depend on the assistant to tell me if they look alright, and if they suit my wee pudgy face. I am also very limited in that only a certain size and shape of frame will take the very strong prescription I require, but eventually we got that sorted too. If you were to ask me now, though, what the frame I chose looks like, I wouldn’t have a clue. So, that will be a surprise for me when I come to collect them. My plan had been to go from the optician to my brother’s house in Drumchapel, to prepare his meal, and to do a bit of cleaning. I hadn’t counted, however, on drops being put in my eyes, and being told not to drive for a few hours. I had to leave the car in Morrison’s car park and, feeling a bit vulnerable, get a taxi, once I had found a driver willing to take me, and then get a taxi back to collect the car again, and still be in time for our celebration meal for the Feast of our Founder. We had decided on ordering food in, and we opted for Indian cuisine. I suppose we should have gone for Italian, given that our founder was from Northern Italy, but we enjoyed the Indian just the same, even though we felt a bit stuffed afterwards.
I entered the Passionists, in October 1975, just a couple of weeks before we were to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of St. Paul of the Cross, and now, in a few weeks’ time, we are due to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Passionist Congregation, dating it from the 22nd November 1720, which was the day that Paul Francis Daneo, later to become St. Paul of Cross, was first clothed in the black habit that was to become the essential garb of Passionists, along with the distinctive sign, a heart worn over the heart, bearing the name of Jesus, and the symbols of the Passion. Beginning on that day, this year, Pope Francis has granted a Jubilee Year to the Passionists, and we hope that all of our extended Passionist family, who are associated with us through our parishes, monasteries and retreat houses, will be able to journey with us and experience the many graces and blessings that will be available in this Jubilee Year. I remember it being said that very few religious orders survive into their 4th century; the first hundred years being years of growth, the second hundred years being years of consolidation, and the third hundred years being years of decline and dissolution. As we Passionists enter our 4th century we ask you to pray for us that we will last a long time yet.
So, as ever, protect yourselves, protect your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives.