We waited with baited breath early this week to see if Father Gareth would make it back from Merthyr Tydfil. Having received the official go ahead to travel, and being satisfied that his mum was in a good place, he made his plans to travel by train last Tuesday. Of course, with Covid-19, anything can happen in the space of a few days, and so we weren’t taking his anticipated return for granted. Then came Storm Alex with torrential rain and warnings of floods and travel disruption. Wales was badly hit and, of course, on the list of the worst affected places, covered by an amber warning, was Merthyr Tydfil. We wanted the return of Storm Gareth, not the disruption of Storm Alex. Then on Monday we had a text to say he would see us the following day and, lo and behold, sometime after 8 o’clock on Tuesday night, he swept through the door as if he had never been away. Great to have him back.
For myself, it was a cheering end to what had been quite a stressful day. Most of the day had been spent in Zoom meetings involving our Passionist Provincial Council; our Local Superiors throughout the Passionist Province (Ireland, Scotland and Paris), and the Province Chapter Commission. With the Chapter having been cancelled last June because of Covid-19, we had to discuss how the Province should continue to function, and what issues had to be addressed, and how, during this interim period. The Chapter has now been rescheduled for next July but, of course, there is no certainty that it will be able to take place even then.
In between times that day I was being contacted by various newspapers and other media outlets. You will no doubt be aware that there was a high-profile incident involving someone who had attended Mass in St. Mungo’s, and read at that Mass, a couple of Sundays ago. I had no wish to comment on the specific situation except to confirm that this person did attend Mass and that she did read, but also to say that St. Mungo's takes the safety and protection of all its parishioners and all who attend very seriously whenever the church opens for any reason, and that we apply all the protocols meticulously to that end. As most of you will be aware our website clearly says that anyone feeling unwell, or who has any Covid symptoms, should not come to the church, and that there is no obligation to attend Mass during this time. We follow all the guidelines to the letter. At the same time, we appreciate how important it is for people to be able to come to the church for Prayer, for Adoration, for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and for Mass, during this difficult time, and the great comfort and consolation this can bring to people. It’s a reminder that we are all in this together, co-operating with one another, to keep each other safe, and to protect each other as best we can, and complying with these protocols, and heeding the guidance of our wonderful volunteers, is essential to that.
Last Saturday we celebrated 1st Holy Communions with 10 children from both St. Mungo’s and St. Roch’s Primary Schools. Once again, it was a very different 1st Holy Communion celebration from any other year. With the church being restricted to 50 people, each child could only have 3 people with them, and the rest of the number was made up of teachers and volunteers. The children were not able to sing, read, say prayers or bring up gifts, and yet, somehow, by God’s grace, it was a very prayerful, simple, and moving celebration, and this was commented on by the parents and others who attended. The children had waited a long time for this, the Communions having been postponed from last May, but, at the end of the day, they were very, very happy, and it showed on their faces. This weekend I will have another wedding to celebrate and then, the following weekend, another Baptism. Church life goes on, one way or another, and God is still at work in the lives of us all. Out at Bishopbriggs, as mentioned, we have Father Gareth back with us; Father Justinian is well, and Father Anthony and myself look forward to piling as much work as possible on to Father Gareth’s big shoulders which, from experience, we know he will be all too willing to bear. So, more than ever; protect yourselves and your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives.