For most of this past week Father John and myself have been in Crossgar for a Passionist Province Assembly, an event that happens annually in between Chapters; and an event which enables us to maintain an ongoing review as to how we have progressed with the commitments and priorities that were identified at the last Provincial Chapter in 2021, and to deal with any new issues that have arisen since. The next Provincial Chapter will be in 2025. The purpose of this Assembly was described as: To Review our Province Programme - Commit to the Synodal Way – Discern Next Steps. Meantime, Father Gareth held the fort here in Glasgow, and kept a watchful eye on Father Justinian, or perhaps it was the other way around. Towards the end of June, Father Gareth and Father Justinian will attend our annual Province Retreat, during which time I will hold the fort. Father John will be at home in India during that time. Such assemblies are always fraternal occasions as well, meeting up with our Passionist colleagues in other houses, most of whom we won’t have seen since the last assembly. We are also still getting to know, a bit better, the brethren from the old St. Joseph’s Province who formally became part of our St. Patrick’s Province on 21st November 2022. Needless to say, my travels didn’t go smoothly. We had a long ferry delay on the way back because of what were described as operational issues. With cancellations earlier in the day, our ferry was packed, and we were placed down in the very bowels of the boat. When we were eventually sailing into Cairnryan Harbour the captain apologised for the delay and said that earlier technical issues as part of a refit had now been resolved, more or less. More or less!! That didn’t instil much confidence.
Before heading to Crossgar, I celebrated a Mass which had been requested by members of the Cameroonian community here in Glasgow. In my first year back here in St. Mungo’s, I had three members of the Cameroonian community on the RCIA programme, and received them into full communion with the Catholic Church at the 2017 Easter Vigil, so, that was the connection that led to this Mass request, which was to remember, in thanksgiving, a number of their deceased parents. A large gathering turned up for the Mass, adding great colour and life to the occasion. After Mass I was given what was, for me, an unusual Mass stipend, although not unusual for them. The Mass stipend consisted of 3 dozen eggs; two pineapples which were the size of small trees; a watermelon the size of a beachball, two dozen bottles of still spring water, and a 5-kilogram bag of basmati rice. It was all gratefully received and made for a nice change, although I wouldn’t want the same for every Mass, so don’t be getting any ideas. At present the pineapples and watermelon are ripening, and no doubt, over the next while, I will be setting aside my high cholesterol concerns and enjoying some scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, poached eggs, perhaps even fried eggs, and the occasional omelette. If I come out to celebrate Mass clucking one day you will know why. But I thank them for their kindness and hope that their memorial celebration after in the local village hall went well.
It reminded me of my first visit to Botswana in 1994. I arrived on a Saturday to our novitiate at Forest Hill, near Gabarone, the capital. I was still unpacking in my rondavel when I was told that one of our brethren, who had care of a parish nearby, was on the phone. He invited me to a celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation at his place on the following day. I readily accepted, imagining this to be a nice introduction to a different liturgical culture, which indeed it was, but perhaps more than I was ready for. The Mass was in the open air, in searing heat, and there were hundreds of people there. It lasted 5 hours, partly because there were lots of people who wanted to say a “few” words of thanksgiving at the end. At the Offertory there was lots of food brought to the altar for a communal celebration afterwards, including a live goat and a few live chickens. In many ways it was wonderful, and something I will always remember but, I would have to say, I am glad that my Cameroonian friends last Sunday stopped short at bringing any live beasts to St. Mungo’s as, being named after St. Francis, I would have had to bring them back to Bishopbriggs to join the community as brother goat and sister chickens, and what would Fathers Gareth, Justinian and John have made of that?
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.