At the beginning of last week, I made a brief trip over to the North of Ireland for another round of leadership meetings for the newly expanded Passionist Province of St Patrick (Ireland and Britain). It was a full day meeting on Monday and, being unable to find suitable flights, I had decided to travel by ferry on Sunday night, then return by ferry on Monday night. I would have liked to stay over, and have a more relaxed journey but, as we were celebrating Confirmations here in St Mungo’s on the Tuesday night, I had thought it would be wiser to get back the night before. I also prefer, when possible, to do my driving in daylight, but that wasn’t to be. The drive to Cairnryan on the Sunday was uneventful. However, as I was enjoying a cup of tea in the terminal building, after checking in for the 19.30 sailing, I noticed an item coming up on the television screen announcing the imminent arrival of Storm Debi, with a prediction of winds up to 90mph. Where did Storm Debi come from? I hadn’t heard of that one before. It seems that every other day there’s a new storm on the horizon. I wondered if my crossing would be affected, as it was already going to be late enough when I would arrive at our Retreat Centre in County Down. It had been less than two weeks since the nearby town of Downpatrick had been under 4 feet of water in a previous storm, causing untold damage to many homes and businesses, so my concerns were real. As it turned out, the ferry left on time, The captain warned of some turbulent waters but assured us that the ships stabilizers would be operative, and that we should just take care if moving around the boat. I found myself a nice seat and stayed there, reading my book, for most of the journey. The ferry arrived in Belfast on time and I was driving up the avenue of Tobar Mhuire (Mary’s Well) at around 10.30pm, which was great. There was a very welcoming log fire burning in the sitting room, so I spent a short time with the brethren, enjoying a nightcap and a chat, before heading to bed, in readiness for the next day’s serious business.
Our meetings, I imagine, had a similar agenda to the meetings of most religious orders and dioceses at this time. How do we manage our diminishment? What choices need to be made? How do we move forward hopefully and creatively? How do we do this in a Synodal Way, in collaboration with those who share in our charism, both lay and religious? What is the Holy Spirit saying to us? Where is the Holy Spirit leading us? What do we need to do to respond? It was a good day overall. Gradually, the Passionists of Ireland and Scotland, and the Passionists of England and Wales, are coming to know and trust each other more and more, meaning that our conversations are more real and honest, and this was very much reflected in this gathering. At 5.00pm the meeting finished, and I got on the road immediately to Belfast for the 19.30 return ferry. Storm Debi was still lurking, but to no great effect as far as my journey was concerned. On arrival at Cairnryan, I made great progress home, thinking I would make it before midnight, but then, just 3 miles from the Glasgow City Centre, I was dazzled by a multitude of traffic cones and road closures for late night works. I just couldn’t find a route home. I ended up on the south side of the city and came through the Clyde Tunnel, onto the Clydeside Expressway, only to be faced with more traffic cones and road closures. I headed north and somehow ended up on Sauchiehall Street. I couldn’t believe how busy it was in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, which it now as, being after midnight. Eventually, I made it back to Bishopbriggs. I, almost obsessively, have to unpack after every journey before going to bed but, on this occasion, I was far too tired. I just crawled under the sheets and fell fast asleep, seeing storms and traffic cones in my dreams – or was it my nightmares? Tuesday was mostly about getting ready for the Confirmations which, despite the usual chaos in the hour or so leading up to the celebration, went very smoothly, thanks to the calm guidance of Archbishop Nolan, and to the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.