Last night I was the priest on call for the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. This was the third time I had been on call since lockdown began, and conditions for attending patients became severely restricted. I never sleep well when I’m on call, there is a part of me that is always expecting the pager to go off and I don’t want to miss it, even though it sounds very loudly and not hearing it would be highly unlikely. Last night there were no calls, nor the time before, but on the first night of lockdown I was called out in the wee hours of the morning and, as it turned out, it was to attend the sister of a long-time friend of mine. I anointed her and she died a few hours later. When the funeral eventually took place my friend and his wife were in isolation and he could only watch as the hearse drove past the window of his house for him to pay last respects to his dear sister. Strange times, and sad times too, in such cases.
I have added to my routine in the past ten days or so. Until now I have been mostly at home in Bishopbriggs, alternating with Father Antony to celebrate the lunchtime Mass streamed on YouTube. I go into the church most days to put some heating on for a while, check the post, do essential administration, and celebrate Mass, on the days when I am not saying the house Mass. I then head out to Drumchapel to attend to my vulnerable brother, and then back to Bishopbriggs for a quiet evening. I have now added a daily walk to my routine. Mostly I do this along the Forth and Clyde Canal, varying the direction in which I walk. One day, however, I took my walk in the Glasgow Necropolis next to St. Mungo’s Cathedral. Whenever I walk in the Necropolis I think of an old lady, some years ago, who told one of our Passionist priests who was visiting her in the Royal that, each night, she would look out of her window at the statue of the Sacred Heart in the cemetery, and pray her rosary. The statue of the Sacred Heart she was referring to was in fact John Knox. There is a lovely irony to that. On this occasion I took a lower path I hadn’t followed before and came upon the Jewish Enclosure with graves from 1832-55. The plot contains a number of adults, but also many children and stillborn infants. The inscription on the stone was the text that we listen to on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, when St. Matthew cites the prophet Jeremiah: A voice was heard in Ramah; sobbing and loudly lamenting; it was Rachel weeping for her children; refusing to be comforted, because they were no more. I found this deeply moving.
Father Justinian recently had a variation to his isolation when he received a call from Stobhill to attend for his Warfarin check. He had assumed that, because of his 89 years, this would be cancelled but, in the absence of any communication requiring him to shield, he was told to come. I think he enjoyed getting out for a bit, but now it’s back to walking in the garden. I suggested he do a Captain Tom and raise a few million, but he declined. Father Antony decided one day to go out for a long run. Next day he was soaking his aching muscles in a bath – he’s not as young and fit as he used to be. He did, however, reveal a talent for cutting hair. For some unknown reason, his mum had given him a gift of hair clippers some years ago, and so, Father Justinian and myself were happy to place our trust in him, and let him give us a trim. He made a very good job of it. So, thanks to him and thanks to his mum, whom he still speaks to from the garden on his nightly walks. Father Gareth and his mum are still doing okay down in the Valleys. I had an email from someone in the Czech Republic who wanted to send them a statue of the Infant of Prague. It turns out Father Gareth knew this person from his volunteer days, and so he was happy that I give her his mum’s address. So, the Infant of Prague is on his way, perhaps from Prague, to Merthyr Tydfil. The original statue was a Royal Wedding gift, and it can still make an appearance at Irish Catholic weddings where it is considered a good luck omen if the head falls off; it can also be put out in the open to solicit good weather. I remember this happening at our Retreat House in Crossgar before the annual garden fete - it didn’t always work though.
As always, protect yourselves; protect loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your life.