When I returned from my retreat in Schoenstatt last week, Father John informed me that there had been a couple of urgent phone calls. When he told me the first name, it rang a bell from many years back, as someone who had been more a friend of my older brother, the doyen of Scottish sports journalists, than a friend of mine. I wondered if it could possibly be the same person. There was only one way to find out and that was to make the call. Sure enough, it was the same person. As it turned out, he hadn’t seen my brother since 1988, when the doyen was heading down to London to report on Wimbledon, and he hadn’t seen me since 1975, the year I left to join the Passionists. In the general chit-chat he told me that he had a lovely image of himself and myself at Celtic Park the night that the team triumphantly returned from Lisbon with the European Cup in 1967. I asked him was he still an Elvis Presley fan, because my abiding memory was that he tried to look, dress, and comb his hair like the King, who was his great idol. The main reason for him contacting me, though, was to ask for prayers about a particular situation. He knew that I was a priest, and somehow, he discovered that I was in St. Mungo’s, and so it was that, 47 years after he last saw me, he made contact. It was one of those moments, for him, of realising that faith never leaves you, and that in certain situations there is no one else to turn to except God, and he saw me as some kind of gateway to God. A couple of days later he came to see me in St. Mungo’s. Now 73, I had to look closely to see the Elvis clone I remembered, but we had a really good chat, and no doubt we will repeat it again. Meantime, prayers are guaranteed. When I told my brother, he couldn’t believe it.
The occasion of telling my brother was at a family gathering at the house of one of my nieces. It was a farewell gathering for my other, younger niece and her family, before they moved to Dundee. They are only moving for 9 months, an academic year, as my niece has to do a year at Dundee University to fully qualify for Catholic Primary School teaching. The reason she is going to Dundee is that she was waiting on the result of a maths test, and only they would give her a provisional acceptance pending the result. As it turns out, she learned this week that she got an “A”, and so, off they go. It would have been too big a wrench to be separated from her husband and two children, so they decided to all move – an adventure. My niece has had a few career changes over the years. She was a nurse for many years, then an air hostess, before becoming a special needs class assistant journeying towards teaching. We had a great night of food and drink, memories and stories, to see them off.
The other call mentioned by Father John had been from the archbishop’s office. As you may know, Archbishop Nolan is gradually making his way round all the priests in the archdiocese so as to have a personal and pastoral chat. I’ve actually been looking forward to it, So, sometime soon, he will come to St. Mungo’s to talk with myself, and then I will take him out to Bishopbriggs to meet and talk with Father Justinian and Father John. Father Antony will have gone by then and his replacement, which I hope to be able to announce next week, will not yet have arrived. I have been quietly impressed by the way Archbishop Nolan has gone about things since his appointment, and I look forward to meeting him properly, having, up until now, only shaken his hand and welcomed him. He has a tough job on his hands.
Back at the ranch, Father Justinian is looking forward to accompanying Father Antony to Belfast to attend Brother Conor’s final profession. They will bring with them a young man from here who has expressed an interest in the Passionists. Hopefully, the experience of the Profession will inspire him to think on it more deeply and, if it’s God’s will, take the plunge.
So, as always, protect yourselves, protect your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives.