A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a Passionist who had died in our English Province, a man whom I had known since my student days and who, despite the very different paths our lives took as Passionists, he going down the worker-priest route, and me taking a more traditional Passionist ministry pathway, I had the greatest respect and admiration for. I also found him to be a very engaging and enjoyable companion whenever our paths crossed. When I finished that log, I went into my emails to send a copy to the person who uploads it to the parish website. No sooner had I done that than an incoming email popped up from the Provincial of the Passionists in England, giving details of this man’s funeral, which was to take place in the Passionist Monastery at Minsteracres on the Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. My immediate thought was that this was not coincidence, but providence, and that I should go to this funeral, which I duly cleared my schedule to be able to do.
The day of travelling didn’t start too well. Storm Chiara had passed but storm Dennis was still lingering, and I decided to get on the road early, so as to take the journey slowly and carefully. Before getting on the road, however, I had to get some shopping in for my brother, for whom I am the primary carer. I left his house after delivering the shopping but then, just as I was leaving the Clydeside Expressway to get on to the M8, an orange light appeared on the dashboard of the car, clearly warning me of something untoward. I didn’t think it was anything too much to worry about as it was a fairly new car that had just been through its first service, but equally I didn’t fancy embarking on a long journey with an orange light showing, and so I diverted to St. Mungo’s where I asked Father Gareth if he would swap cars with me and, being a very obliging man, he duly agreed. I swapped my things over into the boot of the other car and got on the road again, but then, before I reached the turn-off for the M73 to head south, I realised I had left my mobile phone on the front seat of the first car. Not wanting to be without it for two days, in case any emergencies arose, I turned back to St. Mungo’s yet again. By this time, Father Gareth had gone to the bank with the Sunday collections. We tried phoning him numerous times from the office but he wasn’t answering. Our receptionist said that when he left for the bank, he had said he wouldn’t be back that day. We both knew, however, that his pattern was often to head into ASDA after the bank for an all-day breakfast, so I decided that I would head for ASDA to see if he was still in the café. I got there quite quickly but there was no sign of him. I had a look in the bank, but I knew he would have gone from there. Without much hope, I decided to take a walk through the shopping centre in case he was having a mooch. Hardly had I entered the centre when I saw the unmistakeable figure of Father Gareth, surveying the world around him, and eating a big tub of ice-cream – his dessert after the all-day breakfast. I’m always glad to see Father Gareth, but even more so on this occasion. I retrieved my phone from his car and began the journey south once again, about an hour and a half later than intended.
I still arrived in Minsteracres in good time for the removal. I paid a visit to the monastery cemetery to visit the graves of old friends from my time there, 1992-96, and whose funerals I hadn’t been able to get to when I was living in Dublin. The removal was well done, with a moving reflection from a man from CAPS (Catholics for Aids Prevention and Support) to whom my friend had given years of service, standing at the foot of the cross as he saw it. Afterwards, over food and drinks, I enjoyed good conversations with old friends, before retiring, exhausted from the day, for an early night. The Mass next day was also a fitting tribute, with a fellow Passionist worker-priest rendering a beautiful homily. After the burial in the monastery cemetery, at which I thought I was going to freeze to death, I didn’t linger too long at the buffet meal, but got back on the road to Glasgow, hoping to get through the relentless downpour, before rush hour. It was a horrible journey, but thankfully I made it back safely, and I was very glad I had made the effort to say farewell to a fine Passionist. R.I.P.