I spent the first couple of days of last week out of church and office. On Monday I attended a Safeguarding Conference in Carfin, arranged by the Conference of Religious in Scotland, and on Tuesday I travelled down to Minsteracres to attend a Board Meeting of the Trustees of our Retreat Centre, having myself become a trustee since the Passionists in England joined the Passionists in Scotland and Ireland last year. As you may know, I am a bit of a luddite, and one of the instruments of technology I do not possess is satnav in the car. When going on a journey where I am not 100% sure of the way, I usually resort to Googling AA route planner and printing off a page of directions, and yes, I know that I am using technology there as well, but somehow having a piece of paper in my hand to follow makes it seem less so.
My main problem is that I only skim over the instructions, and can have a certain misplaced confidence that I have accurately taken in the information. As it was, on the journey to Carfin from Bishopbriggs, I took the ramp on to the M8, from the M80 at Robroyston, going East instead of West. When I finally realised my mistake, I was half way to Edinburgh, and in a logjam of traffic due to an accident. Thankfully I had left early and there had been an hour allowed for registration, so I arrived at Carfin just on time. On the journey to Minsteracres I overshot the turn off on the M6, which had changed since I last drove it many years ago. I dislike long drives now, and the last time I travelled down I went by train, but there so many cancellations and changes that I decided to drive this time. When I realised my mistake, I had to drive almost to Wigton to be able to turn back North on the motorway, instead of going further South, but, once again, I had left early and still made it bang on time for the meeting.
In Carfin, there were quite a few attendees from England and, as we broke for Mass, I met a priest whom I hadn’t seen for nearly 40 years. Back in the 1980’s we were both Vocations Promoters for our respective Religious Congregations. At that time there would be a team of religious, male and female, who would undertake to go into a secondary school and conduct what we called Caring Church Weeks. These were always very challenging, but very enjoyable occasions. Aside from the spiritual side of things, some of the male religious would put together a 5 or 7 aside football team and challenge a team of male pupils to a lunchtime match. We had a set of Brazil football strips provided by one of the religious who had served many years in Brazil. I’d like to say we played like Brazil, but even the fact that we were young enough and fit enough to play at all shows just how different those times were. The priest whom I met at Carfin was a regular member of the team, as was I, and he was still able to recount with pride a particular goal that he scored. His face was beaming as he did so.
At Minsteracres, we were bidding farewell to one of the board members who will soon be emigrating to Australia, where she has two daughters and a number of grandchildren. She had first got involved in Minsteracres many years before as a volunteer in the shrubbery, and then, over the years, her many other gifts came into play as well. She has made a wonderful contribution to the retreat centre and she will be sadly missed. She will miss Minsteracres as well. Places like Minsteracres tend to attract wonderful volunteers, so generous with their time and talents, without whom the place could never function, and she was one of them.
The worst thing about being away, even for a couple of days, is the amount of stuff waiting to be attended to on return. Like every other profession, administration has taken over, and so that’s what I am up to at present, even as we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Ascension.
The Passionist brethren are all well, thank God, and uplifted by some glimpses of sunshine.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.