The parish is the local Church, united to Christ, and united to each of the members in Him. The parish is the focal centre of the Sacramental life and it is the anchor to which are tethered so many of the momentous events of life – birth and baptism, education, marriage, death and burial, and – from time to time – ordination to the Priesthood and consecration into the religious life. And not forgetting the weekly Mass every Sunday, where the parish gathers around the Altar to celebrate the Word and the Eucharist as one community. From time to time, it is good for the parish to do something a little out of the ordinary and earlier this week, that is what our local parish of St Ambrose, Baillieston, did by spending the day at Carfin Grotto, Scotland’s national Shrine in honour of Our Blessed Lady.
The Blessed Virgin must have been smiling upon us, as the sun shone the entire day – a rarity for Scotland in the month of June, where we are more used to rain; indeed, it was rain for every other day of this week. The sunshine was glorious and lifted the mood of the thirty or so parishioners who had inscribed their names onto the list which had been placed at the back of the Church several weeks ago. The bus journey there was filled with much laughter and chatter, all of us looking forward to what the day would bring.
Alighting at the Grotto, each person made their way to a particular place – some, for a much needed cup of tea in the Pilgrimage Centre; others, to quietly walk around the grounds, or to visit one of the Chapels and Shrines which make Carfin such a beautiful and holy place, a little oasis of peace and tranquility in the midst of a world filled with so much noise and distraction. These moments of spiritual ‘time out’ are definitely good for the soul and much to be recommended.
The ‘heart’ of Carfin is the little glass Chapel, dedicated to Our Lady as the Maid of the Sea. There, the Lord waits each day, exposed in the Monstrance, silently welcoming all who come to visit Him and to spend a little time in His presence. Moments such as these are surely a foretaste of Heaven itself, a tiny glimpse, perhaps, of what awaits on the other side of eternity.
It was in this little ‘heart’ that our parish group gathered later in the afternoon, for the celebration of Mass along with our parish Priest, Father Tom Devlin. He spoke about the readings of the day and focussed on the idea that sometimes, in particular places and at particular times, prayer takes on a certain efficacy – he said that Carfin is perhaps such a place, and this day was such a time. I think we all agreed with him.
One of the joys of a day such as this, is that we are reminded of the community aspect of the parish – so often, we think of ‘Church’ at the broadest level, that institution which has so transformed the world over the past two thousand years; today, however, our focus was on the little Church in our particular corner of the world, and of the people who make it what it is. Bonds were strengthened, smiles and laughter were shared, and community was deepened.
Returning back to the parish on the bus at the end of the day, we were all the same people as we had been at the start of the day – but we were also changed, just a little bit, by the grace of the day and by the sharing amongst us. Hopefully, we will take that grace back with us to our local Church and put it to good use.