For the past eight years I have exercised the role of Provincial Bursar for the Passionists of St. Patrick’s Province (Ireland and Scotland), and I have now been appointed for a further four years. One of the tasks of the Provincial Bursar is to present a report to the Provincial Chapter on the state of Province Finances, and this I did on 22nd June this year. As part of that report I reflected on the uncertainties surrounding the outcome of the Brexit Referendum, due to take place the following day, and the prospect of Donald Trump being elected President of the United States the following November. However, I confidently told the Chapter members, neither of those is likely to happen, and everyone agreed.
That night we went to bed in confident mood having watched Ireland beat Italy to qualify from the group stages of the European Championships – (how come they can do it?) The next day, 23rd June, the referendum took place and again we went to bed in confident mood – we had just elected our first Scottish Provincial, and early indications were that Brexit had been defeated and the Yes campaigners were ready to concede. When the actual result emerged early next morning, the final day of the Chapter, and also my 65th birthday, the members came down to breakfast like rabbits caught in the headlights, such was the level of shock and disbelief. We just never thought it would happen.
Like many others, there was for me a real sense of Deja vu last Wednesday when I went to bed believing that a Trump Presidency was highly unlikely, early indications being that Hilary Clinton was heading for the White House, only to wake next morning to news of a total reversal, and it was to Donald Trump that we were singing “Hail to the Chief”, the Presidential Anthem based, ironically, given Donald Trump’s Scottish roots, on a poem by Sir Walter Scott. We just never thought it would happen. Of course, we never thought he would get the Republican nomination in the first place, so we should have been warned.
It got me to thinking about other things I never thought would happen: a Scottish football team winning the European Cup; the Labour Party being wiped out in Scotland; a Pope resigning while still alive; Cadbury’s Dairy Milk being reduced in size (shame on them!). As the old Chuck Berry song used to say: “It just goes to show you never can tell!” Life is full of uncertainties, we just don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and I know of no better prayer in such circumstances than these wonderful words of Thomas Merton:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Amen.