On the day of writing this log it is, in Scotland, the Feast of Our Lady of Aberdeen, but in our Passionist Calendar we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady, Mother of Holy Hope. It was on this day, 9th July, in 1857, that Father Charles Houben, now Saint Charles of Mount Argus, the Passionist saint noted for his ministry of healing, first set foot on Irish soil and came to reside in Mount Argus, the Passionist monastery in Dublin that was to become synonymous with him. The image of Our Lady, Mother of Holy Hope shows Mary holding the child Jesus who has a cross in his hand, reflecting the teaching of Saint Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, that ‘the whole life of Jesus was a cross’ and that “the life of a disciple of Jesus means remaining on the cross with Him”. The original picture came into the possession of Saint Paul of the Cross in 1773, two years before his death. His successor as Superior General of the Passionists had copies made and it became the custom for each Passionist religious to have one of these prints in his room. Interestingly, the image was first brought to the English-speaking Passionist world by Cardinal, now Saint John Henry Newman, who was visiting Rome in 1847 and, when he was returning to England, the Passionist Superior General at that time gave him copies to bring to Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Passionist priest who had received Saint John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church two years previously.
So, Father Charles already had a great devotion, and often prayed to Mary under that title, but the fact that he arrived in Ireland, from England, on that particular feast would have served to heighten his devotion, and intensify his prayer, as he tried to settle into a very new, difficult and lonely situation. He was, of course, from the Netherlands, where devotion to Mary, the Mother of Holy Hope is very strong among the Passionists, and indeed the Passionists in the Netherlands gather under the title of the Province of Our Lady, Mother of Holy Hope. When I was Master of Novices for North Europe, I used to love visiting the Passionists in the Netherlands, as I always found them very friendly and welcoming. The first time I visited them was at the Mother House in Haastrecht, (not to be confused with Maastricht which is further south, and famous for the treaty that established the European Union in 1992, and also as the birthplace of Andre Rieu, who holds fabulous concerts there every summer, not far from the birthplace of Father Charles at Munstergeleen). I was shown to my room and invited to join the community in the recreation at 5.30 p.m. where, I was told, they gathered every evening to pray for the Pope. I was mildly surprised at such prayerful devotion to the Pope who, at that time, was John Paul II. However, it turned out that praying for the Pope was a euphemism for having a pre-dinner drink and chat, which was very pleasant indeed.
The Netherlands, being very flat, is a great place for bicycles, although one member of the Passionist Community preferred roller skates for getting around and, in the winter, he would take to ice-skates, and travel by the frozen canals to wherever he had to go. Haastrecht is only 5 kilometres from Gouda, famous for its very nice cheese, and so, one day, I borrowed a bicycle to go into Gouda and have a look. As I picked up speed on the road I saw a set of traffic lights up ahead turning to red and suddenly realised that the bicycle had no brakes, and so I had to make a rather ungainly and undignified stop with the soles of my shoes, ending up curled up on my side, with the bicycle on top of me, so as not to be battered by traffic on the crossroads. I later discovered that peddling backwards was the way to engage the brakes. I never was much of a cyclist, and I certainly didn’t try the roller skates or ice skates. I made it to Gouda and calmed my nerves by enjoying some nice strong coffee and appelstrudel.
Not much to report from Bishopbriggs. We are all well and hoping to have Father Gareth back with us soon, as things return gradually to a new normal. In the days ahead we will try to assess today’s rather complex new guidelines from the Government on communal worship. As always, protect yourselves and your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives.