In the middle of November my sports reporter brother will help us to raise funds by hosting a Super Scoreboard night here in St. Mungo’s. At the moment we are getting tickets printed in the hope that we can fill the hall and have a very enjoyable night. I am hopeless at that side of things and find it quite stressful, so I am always very grateful for those volunteers who step forward and offer their help.
My most stressful experience of trying to sell tickets was 10 years ago in Dublin when we were preparing for the canonization of Father Charles of Mount Argus. I had the notion of commissioning a new hymn for the occasion and I decided to approach Liam Lawton, a priest based in Carlow who was the most prominent writer of liturgical music in Ireland at the time, and probably still is. I liked his music very much and we sang a fair amount of it in our Mount Argus Folk Group, so who better to ask!
I contacted Liam and we arranged to meet for a coffee in the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin which was easy for him to get to from Carlow, and for me from Mount Argus. As an aside, the Red Cow was also known as the Mad Cow because, at the time, it was approached via a roundabout where the traffic was invariably chaotic and an absolute nightmare to try and get on and get off in one piece. However, we both negotiated it safely and sat down at table.
He wanted to know all about Father Charles, about his ministry of healing, hope and reconciliation, and also, about what our plans were leading up to the celebrations. At the end of the conversation Liam had agreed to write the song and also to put on a concert of Sacred Music in the church before the canonization, during which he would introduce the song for the first time. And so it was, in the midst of all the other hectic preparations for the celebrations, both in Rome and in Dublin, I had to try and promote this concert and sell 900 tickets to fill the church. Thankfully, a great team of volunteers helped me to do just that.
The hymn, “Come to Me”, was beautiful. He finished it just in time for the concert and sang it at the end, accompanying himself on piano. I remember feeling very moved by it. We had a limited number of CD’s made where the hymn was coupled with another of his compositions, “Sing of a Lady”, with the refrain – Ave Maria, hope of all our days – which we chose because of Father Charles’s great devotion to Mary as the Mother of Hope. A few years later Liam put the hymn to Saint Charles on his beautiful album, “Healing Song”.
I recently had another reminder of that fateful year when I was at a celebration with a couple whom I have been friendly with for almost 50 years, ever since I met them at our Passionist Retreat House at Coodham in the late 1960’s. Their first grandchild was born in 2007 and, without knowing anything about the canonization, they had decided to come over for a family trip to Dublin and have me baptize their new grandchild in Mount Argus. Until they arrived I hadn’t known that the child was to be called Charlie, and of course Father Charles’s nickname in the community was “Poor Old Charlie”, so when they saw all these banners in the church proclaiming a new saint for Ireland whose name was Charlie they were delighted and we had a great laugh about it. I hadn’t seen much of Charlie since but when I met him last week, now a fine strapping lad at 10 years of age, it brought it all back to me.
Here is the refrain of that beautiful hymn to Saint Charles:
Come to me with all your burdens, come and place your heart in mine,
Come and tell me all your worries, hope in you will never die
For I am full of Compassion, do not be afraid
Come to me with all your burdens, I will never walk away.