As I write I am aware that the last public Mass celebrated here in St. Mungo’s was seven weeks ago today, on the Feast of St. Joseph, and it is still very difficult to say when the next public Mass will be. Those who join us for the Masses streamed from our oratory in Bishopbriggs each day may have heard me tell of a dream I had last Monday night. I dreamt I was celebrating Mass in St. Mungo’s with a small group of people, well-spaced out as required, when suddenly the doors burst open and a big group of tourists poured in and started to fill up the benches. In a panic I tried to tell them that it could only be two people to a bench, but to no avail. That then segued into a similar dream, and while I am not conscious of being overly anxious about this, it is obviously playing around in my mind as discussions continue between the bishops and the government as to when, and with what restrictions in terms of public safety, our churches might safely open again. It’s not easy.
Yesterday I conducted a cremation for one of our parishioners who had died of the virus, but who also had other serious underlying medical conditions. Only 10 people were allowed into the crematorium chapel where the seats had been arranged to comply with current guidelines. Other people gathered outside. Before the service started, I met a neighbouring parish priest who had conducted the service beforehand. He also happens to be my niece’s brother-in-law. It was good to see him and to have a brief exchange on how things were going. Neither of us was stuck for things to do, but at the same time we were longing to be back in our churches. I also heard from another parish priest for whom we had provided cover while he was recovering from surgery at the end of last year. He was kindly enquiring how we were, and in fact we ourselves had been thinking of him and hoping he was able to use the quieter lock-down time to make a fuller recovery. Next week I will have a burial with similar restrictions to the cremation. I was thinking of how each year we have a Mass in November to remember all those who died and were buried or cremated in the previous year, and how important that will be next November to provide an opportunity for families to grieve together, but that’s presuming we are able to gather for Mass by November, which is by no means certain.
The latest from Father Gareth is that he and his mum are well and that they are watching a lot of biblical epics on television. Father Gareth loves his old films and I would say he is piling up a few biblical stories, according to Hollywood, to regale us with when he gets back to celebrating Mass in St. Mungo’s. We can’t wait! Getting the shopping in, he says, has become increasingly more difficult as there seem to be fewer and fewer buses in the Valleys, but they are managing. Having praised Father Antony’s hairdressing skills last week, we have been wondering how Father Gareth’s hair is doing as when it gets longer it tends to go very curly, which he doesn’t like, so he may be a bit of an awesome sight at the moment. I have to humbly take back what I said last week about Father Antony’s age and condition, after his first jogging venture, as he is now running much more regularly, even in the hottest of weather, and looking fit and tanned. My own running days are definitely over, but I have been trying to get my walk in most days, even if only to counteract the over-indulgence in chocolate. Father Justinian is trying to keep up his daily garden walk, but he has also discovered a cosy spot at the side of the house where he can sit out in the sun and be sheltered from the breeze, so, as long as the good weather lasts, he will take advantage of that.
Meantime, we continue streaming our daily Masses from the oratory and, during Eastertide, we hope to provide a couple of special services. One will be a Service of Reconciliation, incorporating an act of perfect contrition, as we know people are still concerned about not getting to Confession. The other will be a Taize-style prayer focussing on Mary, praying with the disciples in the upper room, waiting for Pentecost. We hope you can join us. As always, protect yourselves, protect your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.