This weekend marks the second anniversary of Father Gareth and myself arriving in St. Mungo’s to take up our roles in the parish. It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since then. In some ways the time has passed very quickly, and in other ways it seems like we’ve never been anywhere else. The warm welcome we received at the beginning has never waned and, if anything, people are even more encouraging and supportive than ever, even though Father Gareth’s jokes have never changed in all that time, so we are very grateful for that. Since then, of course, Brother Antony has arrived in the community to make a great contribution and, together with Father Lawrence and Father Justinian, that makes five of us.
As I’ve said before, we like our accommodation in Bishopbriggs, even though there are now five of us in a four-bedroom house, with a downstairs den having been converted into an extra en-suite, and most of the time the commute to and from St. Mungo’s is not too arduous, and, while not ideal, we are used to our meal times being a bit ad hoc, especially when we try and sit down all together. However, when Father Gary was here recently conducting the Novena to Our Lady of Sorrows, we experienced more fully the limitations of our situation. In the first instance we had no visitor’s room to give him, and so I asked a neighbouring parish priest, whose brother is married to my niece, could he put him up, to which he kindly agreed. On the day Father Gary arrived I collected him at the airport and brought him to St. Mungo’s to get a sense of the church as he would begin preaching the next day. We then went shopping to get him a few things for breakfast and for a night time snack, should he feel so inclined, and I brought him to his temporary abode to get him settled in.
Every morning either myself; Father Gareth or Brother Antony would go and collect Father Gary after breakfast and bring him to the church to prepare for the mid-day Novena Mass. We would then have to decide where to go and get some dinner. For the first couple of days we manged to eat out at Bishopbriggs. On the Sunday we had kindly been given two hospitality tickets for a charity match at Celtic Park and so Brother Antony and Father Gary were able to feast themselves on the buffet before and after the match. On the Monday we went to the local pub near St. Mungo’s where I ordered sausage and mash. When it came there were five big Cumberland sausages embedded on a mountain of mash – I hadn’t realised there was a Monday special that I think was intended for Desperate Dan. The others had something more manageable. We went back there on the Friday when we all had fish and chips. The other meal times were spent in various little cafes eating pasta or burgers, whatever was cheap and tasty, and we made the most of the sausage rolls at the closing buffet in the hall after the final Mass. It was a week in which we probably upheld Glasgow’s reputation for (un)healthy eating, but, in the end, we turned it into an adventure and we had some great chats and laughs together before Father Gary would have a little rest and get himself ready for the evening Novena Mass. Occasionally after the evening Mass we would indulge in an ice-cream on the way home and take time to discuss how things were going.
Father Gary, it has to be said, was very amenable and fully appreciated our situation and, in the end, I would say he actually enjoyed the chaos, the improvisation, the company, the encouragement, and the support. Perhaps the highlight for him though, apart from the Novena itself, in which he was genuinely fulsome in his praise of the faith of the people who attended, and the affirmation he received, was on the closing day, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, when, in between the two sessions, he was able to fulfil a lifetime ambition and, once again accompanied by Brother Antony, take in the Celtic Park Stadium Tour.
Let’s finish with the Selkirk Grace: Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit.” (Robert Burns)