At 6 o’clock last Saturday evening began the most bewildering 24 hours of my life. As I looked up from the book at the end of the first hymn I saw friends from around the country, some of whom I had said goodbye to only a few hours before with the hopes of seeing each other at the Catholic Men’s Society conference in September. I then realised that my simple plan for celebrating the Golden Jubilee of priesthood quietly with the parish at each mass, but including everyone I would have liked to be here in prayer, had faded away.
If I could not invite everyone, I had reasoned, I would not invite anyone for fear of leaving anyone out but everyone would be present in my prayer at our parish celebrations of mass.
What happened was wonderful: so many people had been contacted, the word spread, the secret kept, and I guessed nothing. There was a party after each Mass: Saturday evening, at the Rosary Church and St Joseph’s on the Sunday morning – so many people I was delighted to see and could never have guessed would be able to come.
On the Sunday evening, I came out of confessions expecting the usual quiet 6.00 pm mass. Alison (the brilliant organiser) said: “Some of your friends are in the sacristy.” The local priests and some of my Rosminian brethren were waiting for me! The choir was here again, my family from Wales (on the inside of the story) were still here, and we had another blessed and happy evening. Overwhelming.
It was all beyond anything I could have planned or hoped for. I was allowed to see the letter that had gone out around the country – not so much an invitation, but a welcome if people could come.
I was overtaken, overwhelmed, by brilliant planning and organisation, wonderful co-operation and a secrecy that held. I knew and suspected nothing, and thus was totally unprepared for the wonderful weekend that we celebrated – a precious memory for the rest of my life (and for eternity – you can take memories with you, you know: it’s only possessions we leave behind).
Thank you, everyone, who helped to make the weekend so wonderfully happy for me.
God bless you,
(9th July 2017)