Last Saturday, 11th December, we Passionists celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Saint Charles of Mount Argus, the Passionist saint noted for his ministry of healing, hope and reconciliation. To mark this, the Vatican department, known as the Apostolic Penitentiary, has, by decree of Pope Francis, granted a Jubilee Year, and I quote: “by which St. Charles will be better promoted, so that in these times of great need, many will seek his intercession and intervention to find healing and hope in their difficulties, illness and suffering, through the power of Christ's Passion, which gave strength to Father Charles' life and nourished his ministry”. It’s a great privilege to receive this, especially as it overlaps with the jubilee year already granted to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Passionist Congregation.
When I became rector and parish priest of Mount Argus in 2001, I inherited the role of Vice-Postulator of the cause of Father Charles, who at that time was Blessed, having been beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. It was a role I carried lightly for some years until suddenly, quite out of the blue, word came that a second miracle, attributed to the intercession of Father Charles, had been approved by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, so paving the way for his canonization. I went into panic mode, this being totally new territory for me, and way out of my comfort zone. This was in 2007, and in the February of that year I made the journey to Rome with Father Paul Francis, where we would attend the consistory at the Vatican, at which Pope Benedict would announce the date for the canonization. This was very important information as I had people in Dublin, such as pilgrimage organizers, printers, publishers, media, and others, waiting for a phone call, so as to move into action to get all the things organized that needed to be organized. As an aside, when I had arrived in Rome the previous evening, having turned off my mobile phone on the flight, my mind had gone blank, and I couldn’t remember my pin number to turn it on again and, after three failed attempts, it locked. With the help of one of my confreres back at Mount Argus, I managed, after a period of anxiety, to get it unlocked again. I expected that the canonization would be at the end of the year, if not into the following year but, to add to my anxiety, Pope Benedict announced the date as June 3rd, Trinity Sunday, just a few short months away. Those few months were just a whirlwind of activity but, thanks to a great team of helpers, and despite torrential rain on the day, both in Rome and in Dublin, everything went well and according to plan. One of the benefits being experienced now was that I decided to have a streaming service installed in Mount Argus Church, so that devotees of Father Charles all over the world, unable to be in Rome or in Mount Argus for the occasion, could at least avail of the streaming service from wherever they happened to be. Little did I know that, thirteen years later, a pandemic would result in the streaming service being more valued and more availed of than ever.
After the Canonization, I spent a couple of years on the road as an itinerant preacher, trying to promote devotion to Saint Charles and make him better known, further afield. I also had a great team helping me organize pilgrimages to Father Charles’ birthplace at Munstergeleen in the Netherlands, where the shrine, at what was formerly his family home, has also, along with the shrine at Mount Argus, been granted a jubilee year to celebrate the bi-centenary. He was a good, simple, humble man of prayer, and a very willing instrument in God’s hands, to bring God’s forgiveness and healing to so many people, both during and after his lifetime. I could not commend him more readily, to add to your list of intercessory saints. Meanwhile, out at Bishopbriggs, we are all well, as we gently work and pray our way towards Christmas.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.