FR. FRANK’S LOG: 15TH - 22ND OCTOBER
I’ve gone to a lot of places during these first few weeks in St. Mungo’s where I’ve had to give my name, whether it was buying a phone, joining the library, or registering with the dentist; and I’ve now gotten used to the fact that when people hear that my name is Keevins, and then ask me how to spell it, the next question is liable to be: “Are you any relation to Hugh Keevins?” My older brother, for those who don’t know, is a rather notorious sports journalist, mostly retired now except for his work with Radio Clyde on Superscoreboard and on the dreaded phone-in, for which he seems to have earned the nickname “Victor Meldrew”, although it’s also true that even his wife Janet, his children and his grandchildren call him Mister Grumpy. Often I’ve felt like doing a Simon Peter and protesting “I do not know the man”, but then I remember that he is in fact a fine journalist with a good sense of humour and a lovely singing voice, and its only with affection that the family call him Mister Grumpy, because I know of few men who have greater love and devotion to their family than Hugh, and he is also one very decent human being. So, I admit it – I am Hugh Keevins’ brother.
I haven’t yet gone to the barber for a haircut but when I do, even though I won’t have to give my name, I’ll still have an anxiety that at some point the barber will ask “What do you do?”, and it will pass through my mind to say that I’m an accountant, as I was in a previous existence; or that I’m a double bass player, which I also was (although I wasn’t all that good at it), most memorably touring Scotland with Billy Connolly during the 1971 Upper Clyde work-in to raise money to support the families of the workers, a cause close to my heart as my father had been made redundant from the shipyards in the late 1950’s. But eventually I’ll own up and say “I’m a priest” and where the conversation goes after that is anyone’s guess – although I do try to make sure there is no razor close to my throat when I say it.
This week we celebrate Mission Sunday and in the call for us all to be missionary I am aware that for many people today, whether among colleagues in the workplace; among friends and acquaintances in a social setting; or even among family and extended family, it can be hard to own up and say, without fear of a negative reaction, “I’m a Christian; I believe in God” or “I’m a Catholic, I go to Mass”. Sometimes to be missionary is simply about having the courage and the honesty to say who you are and what you stand for. Jesus knows how hard this is too, and that’s why he says: "I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.” (Matthew 10:32)
As I’m writing this on the Feast of St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, and have been reflecting upon the Cross, I’m reminded of this quote from a wonderful book called “Unapologetic” by Francis Spufford, (the title speaks for itself). He says: “Some people ask nowadays what kind of a religion it is that chooses an instrument of torture for its symbol, as if the cross on churches must represent some kind of endorsement. The answer is: one that takes the existence of suffering seriously.” (Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: (subtitle) Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense).