FATHER FRANK’S LOG: 10th – 17th SEPTEMBER 2023
As I write the log today, we are getting ready in St. Mungo’s to begin our annual Novena to Our Lady of Sorrows. I would have preferred a few more relaxed days beforehand to get ready, but I had to go to Minsteracres at the beginning of this week for two days of meetings with the interim Passionist Provincial Council of the new, expanded St. Patrick’s Province. That resulted in my being absent when our live streaming service was launched in St. Mungo’s last Monday. Father Gareth was the first to go live at the 10am Mass, and it all seems to have gone smoothly. My first opportunity to welcome people on the world wide web was just yesterday, Wednesday morning. I had hoped to get a haircut beforehand as last Sunday, before Mass, a number of people had sensitively told me that I really needed one. However, I just didn’t find the time, and I celebrated Mass looking like a cross between Albert Einstein and Ken Dodd. Later in the day I did manage to get shorn, and so now I look more like a billiard ball.
I got to thinking then, that I could almost recount the story of my earlier life through the various phases of my head and facial hair. When I was growing up in Thurso Street in Partick, there was a man across the road in the same street who seemed to do the barbering for all the children in the area. On a regular basis we would be brought over to his house, settled into a chair with a board across it to raise us up; then, a bowl would be placed on our heads, and everything beneath the bowl was clipped away. I think we had the Beatles style before the Beatles ever had it. By the time I was into my teens we had moved to Drumchapel, and it was now the 60’s. Like most of my contemporaries, I grew my hair as long as I was allowed to grow it while attending St. Mungo’s Academy, and throughout those years I went to an actual barber. On leaving school I grew my hair even longer, and when I began to play in a folk group, I also grew a beard, after all, I had to look the part of a serious folkie. At this time, I was also trying to find work and I was being advised that nobody would give me a job if I continued to look so hirsute. I stubbornly kept my long hair and beard and, in fact, had no problem being accepted for a job, firstly in the Singer Sewing Machine Company in Clydebank, and then in the Olivetti factory in Queenslie. To their credit, my future bosses looked beyond the hair, even though they regularly teased me about it. Later on, I had a variation on my long hair and beard, when I took a notion to shave the beard away, just at the chin. This was the look I sported when I was best man at my brother’s wedding. It looked horrendous, and my sister-in-law delights in producing the photos now and again. Although, as they were both sporting matching perms at the time, they could scarcely talk. When I entered the Passionists, aged 24, my hair was still quite long, and I had a bushy beard. So too did my fellow Scot who joined at the same time, although he has since left. We had matching green quilted anoraks as well, and when we turned up at the Graan in Enniskillen on the 4th of October 1975, our four fellow postulants, all younger than us, three from Ireland and one from Nigeria, looked at us alarmingly, as if they had just been invaded by some marauding Scottish Highland Clan. At some point during that postulancy year, during the season of Lent, I got my haircut and shaved my beard off completely. One of the older members of the community didn’t recognize me at all until about three days later, thinking that I was a new postulant to whom he hadn’t been introduced. Since then, only once did I grow a beard again, and then shaved it off immediately as it looked awful, So, this is how it is since then and now, folically challenged, and just needing a three-and-one now and again, and an eyebrow trim, to keep me looking respectable. Just to say that my best barber ever was Father Antony.
I will take a break from the log next week to focus on the closing days of the Novena.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.