Last Saturday I celebrated my first wedding since lockdown began. Other weddings had been postponed until next year, especially with hotel and reception venues cancelling, but this couple were determined that the wedding would go ahead, if at all possible. The most important thing, after all, was the marriage, not the reception. Over the weeks and months since the pandemic took hold, the couple and myself were watching for the First Minister’s announcements each Thursday, listening for a hopeful word that weddings could go ahead, even with restrictions and limitations. Eventually that word came and we knew, barring a second spike, that the wedding could proceed, albeit with a maximum of 20 people, and a raft of protocols to comply with. The paperwork proved a challenge as well. Two dioceses were involved and chancellery staff in both were working from home. The registry office was on lockdown too but re-opened just in time to allow the necessary civil requirements to be attended to. The night before the wedding there was torrential rain with thunder and lightning, but on the day itself the sun was shining, albeit with a bit of a breeze. All went well, with only 10 people in all present, including the bride and groom – well, 11 if you include myself. There was a BBQ afterwards in the family garden, after which the couple managed a few days away, glad of some peace and quiet after the tension and anxiety of the previous months, and no doubt, whenever it becomes possible, they will gather a larger group of family and friends to celebrate belatedly what was a very lovely and happy occasion.
We have reduced our streaming service a little bit from St. Mungo’s, as Father Antony and myself were finding things a bit stretched since public Masses resumed in the church. So, on the two weekdays, Tuesday and Thursday, when we have Mass in the church, we don’t have Mass streamed from the community house in Bishopbriggs, but that still leaves five days when we do have streamed Mass. We know that the main purpose of these streamed Masses is to provide a service for people who are still in isolation, for one reason or another, and who therefore cannot come out to Mass as they would like. However, we have also made a lovely connection with people in Ireland, North and South, and in a number of other countries as well, who seem to have formed a small, virtual community, of prayerful communion with each other, and we don’t want to let go of that too easily. When life gets back to some kind of normal, we will have to think carefully, and consult, on how this virtual family of faith might continue, in some fruitful way, going forward. There is a sense in which the church will have changed as a result of this pandemic, and as a consequence of how we have had to adapt and respond to the challenges that were posed. Not everything will be exactly as before, and if there are positive opportunities to emerge, we will do our best to take hold of them. We have also added an extra day to our availability for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which takes place during the times that the church is open for personal Prayer and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This is now on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2-4 p.m., and on Saturdays from 3-5 p.m. It is heartening to see how people have responded to this, and while, as I mentioned before, there were some tears shed in the first weekend when we returned to public Masses, there have also been tears of shed by people who have felt bereft in not having this Sacrament of Healing available to them, and who can now return. If only more people could come to an appreciation of the blessings this Sacrament can bring.
At a more mundane level, the football season has resumed, and I had to rely on a parishioner to inform me that my older brother, the doyen of Scottish sports journalists, has made a return to the written word with a certain Sunday newspaper. When I checked this out online, the vitriol was already outpouring from some of the sad and mad people who think social media is a vehicle for their own particular bile. Big brother is a brave man for making himself vulnerable to that yet again – as if Super Scoreboard wasn’t enough. But he is a good writer, who uses intelligent thoughts and words, with real punctuation, almost a lost art, and I will look forward to reading his articles. On another sporting note I was amused by John Higgins’ comment that coming out at the World Snooker Championships to no audience was a bit like going to Mass. As for we Passionists, there is not a lot to report. Father Antony, having cut the hair of father Justinian and myself, has now cut his own hair, and not before time, he was beginning to look like the Cure d’Ars. The date for Father Gareth’s return has now been agreed for 25th August, all going well with his mum, and we still look forward to that.
As ever, protect yourselves and your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives.