FATHER FRANK’S LOG: 11th – 18th MARCH
My bedroom window in Bishopbriggs overlooks a wooded area and a pond which is home to a rare breed of frogs. While I hear these frogs constantly, I have never actually seen any. Only Father Gareth, when he was parking the car one night, claims to have seen one that had come through the fence and into the estate. There are also deer in the woods, and I told the story recently of, after over a year of never catching a glimpse, coming across a number of them, romping through the estate, as I returned from a middle-of-the-night sick call to the Royal Infirmary. I have since seen two of them, now antlered, grazing in the woods.
I can now, however, report a more unusual sighting. Before the recent snow, in the middle of another very cold spell, I looked out of the window early one Saturday morning, and I saw two beasts walking across the frozen pond. At first I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, but as they drew closer I could see that they were, what I can only describe as giant foxes. They were the size of wolves and their coats were, if not black, then a very, very dark brown. I watched them for a while and, when I heard Father Gareth come out of his room, which is next door to mine, but overlooking the street, I called him in and asked him to have a look. He was as mesmerised as I was.
I think that the other members of our community were more sceptical. And then, one night, as Father Gareth was driving home from the church, and nearing the house, he came upon one of these giant foxes on the path in front of him. He arrived home almost in a state of terror, being of a delicate disposition, and told anyone who would listen that, up close, this beast was even bigger and more ferocious looking than when he was watching it out of my bedroom window. I believed every word he said, but the others remained sceptical, and Brother Antony, being a local lad, seemed to suggest that giant beasts of one kind of another were fairly normal in Bishopbriggs.
At the risk of sounding fanciful, and having far too vivid an imagination, I must confess that this wasn’t the first time I had come across a larger-than-life version of an animal. When I was doing my 30-day retreat at Manresa House in Clontarf, in Dublin, back in 1987, I would walk early every morning on Dollymount Strand, which is a part of Bull Island, a specially protected bird sanctuary and nature reserve, which has since become a special area of conservation under the EU Habitats Directive. On one particular morning, about 6 a.m., as I clambered over the sand dunes to get to the strand, I was suddenly face to face with a huge hare, and, I kid you not, it was the size of a small kangaroo! Once again, I stood mesmerised as we gazed at each other, and then the hare scampered off. Being on a silent retreat I couldn’t go back to talk to anyone about it until we were on one of our two break days, when we were allowed to chat, and even go out for a few hours with the other retreatants. My story, however, met with the same reaction as that of our Passionist community to the giant foxes. Perhaps Clontarf is twinned with Bishopbriggs and giant beasts are quite normal.
Very soon, when we enter into the Easter Season, we will meet many different people in the Gospel stories, some of whom will see and believe; some of whom will believe without seeing; and some of whom will see and still not believe. All I can say to my doubters is, I know what I saw, and I will not withdraw my testimony.
Here is the chorus of a beautiful hymn to Christ by David Haas, inspired by 1 Peter 1:8:
Without seeing you we love you. Without touching you we embrace.
Without knowing you we follow. Without seeing you we believe.