On 8th November Brother Antony and myself travelled over to our Passionist Retreat House in Crossgar, County Down, to take part in a reflection day for our Passionist Province. We had taken advantage of a 20% discount on Stena Line to get priority boarding on the Cairnryan to Belfast Ferry, and a place in the Stena Plus Lounge where there would be comfy seats, newspapers and nibbles, and, we presumed, a little more peace and quiet than throughout the rest of the boat. Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out to be the case.
It was the day of the first leg World Cup Qualifier between Northern Ireland and Switzerland, and in the Stena Plus Lounge there was a businessman of some kind, perhaps a sales rep, who spent the whole sailing on his mobile phone talking very loudly to clients to whom he had promised hospitality tickets for the match at Windsor Park. The gist of his call to his clients was that there was good news and bad news, and did they want the good news or the bad news first. It seemed that they all went for the good news first, because this call was repeated many times, and often more than once to the same client as the mobile phone reception on the ferry kept cutting out, and he would have to redial and start the whole conversation all over again.
The good news was that he had managed to acquire tickets for them. The bad news was that they weren’t hospitality tickets, they were just ordinary tickets, and they weren’t even the best ordinary tickets as they were way up in a corner at the top of one of the stands, although he wanted to assure them that the view would be okay. They were also e-tickets and so when he got to his office he could either email them to his clients or, if they preferred, they could come and collect them. He would be at the office until 5 o’clock.
By the time we got to Belfast we, and everyone else in the lounge, knew his name, his business, his mobile phone number, and the names of his clients, and we hadn’t had a minute’s peace and quiet the whole journey. I’m sure many people have had the same experience on planes, boats and trains, and perhaps Brother Antony and myself are not alone in finding it quite frustrating and annoying.
The Province Day went well. It’s always good to meet up with fellow Passionists from around the province, to catch up on all the news, to find out how everyone is doing, to have good conversations about how we feel things are going in each of the communities, and how the plans we agreed at the last Provincial Chapter are taking shape, and then to feed that back to the men back home who had to hold the fort, or who weren’t able to go to the gathering for age, health or other reasons.
Our return journey was thankfully more relaxing, although there was a strong wind and heavy waves that caused the ferry to rise and fall quite in the sea quite dramatically. At one point my glass of apple juice went skimming across the table, and there was a poor lady who, along with her friends, had been taking serious advantage of the bottles of wine freely available in the lounge to drink to her heart’s content, but who then, with the violent and stomach churning motion of the boat, had to recycle her Sauvignon Blanc into a brown paper bag. Not a pretty sight.
Brother Antony will be repeating the journey this weekend as he is bringing two Scots lads over to Crossgar for a Vocations Retreat, where they will join other lads from Ireland, north and south, who would like to find out a bit more about the Passionists, and about our way of life and ministry. These weekends are held a few times a year by way of helping young men on their faith journey, and in the discernment of how Christ may be calling them in their lives and in their own personal vocation. Just now and again it may happen, by the grace of God, that some of them feel Christ is calling them to become Passionists themselves. Here is our Prayer for Passionist Vocations:
Jesus, you gave your life on the Cross so that we could share in God’s own life and know his love for us. May the love that flows from the Cross transform our hearts, so that we can bring your love and compassion to those whose lives we touch, especially those who are suffering. Give the light of your Holy Spirit to those young people who have received the grace of a Passionist vocation. Inspire them to give their lives as Passionist priests, brothers or sisters, keeping the Memory of your Passion alive in their own hearts and in the hearts of others. May Mary, who stood by the Cross, be their example, and may Saint Paul of the Cross be their guide. Amen.