VIRUS: BILL HEANEY’S NOTEBOOK COLUMN

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Palm Sunday procession to St Patrick’s in Strathleven Place, Dumbarton.

It was so quiet outside this morning that I was reminded of Lent and, more precisely, Holy Week when I was a child.

Those were the days of the redoubtable,  greatly loved but much feared parish priest, Monsignor Kelly, and a conservative Catholic Church in extremis.

Today would have been Palm Sunday when there would have been  a large procession through the manicured grounds of St Patrick’s church in Strathleven Place.

These processions were to bring to mind the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on the back of a humble donkey.

And when jubilant crowds were said to have strewn palm fronds in His path to welcome Him to the city, where a few days later He was to be hanged on a cross and crucified.

Today, in these terrible weeks of the coronavirus, there was no procession in the grounds and not a living soul occupied the pews of St Patrick’s.

CANON GERRY CONROY MAY 2008Thanks to the wonders of 21st century technology, Canon Gerry Conroy, left, a much gentler man than Monsignor Kelly, celebrated Mass on the magnificent marble altar in an empty church.

Not even the stipulation that people should stay at least two metres apart at all times made it possible to have a congregation at the service in St Patrick’s.

However, all around the town and far furth of it, in places such as Toronto in Canada, where that country also has been ravaged by this cruel virus, people gathered round their laptops and PCs to hear Mass from Dumbarton.

And Canon Conroy reminded them in his homily that we know not the day or the hour when God will call us, and to be prepared for that day. Good advice on any Sunday.

It was a beautiful service with beautiful music and kind words to reassure the far flung congregation that no matter who we are or what we have done Christ is always by our side.

That He knows every hair on our head and thought in our mind and that he will see us through this worsening crisis,

In St Patrick’s, the families who have been caught up in the coronavirus outbreak, including those whose loved ones whose lives it has taken, were remembered in the bidding prayers.

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Dedicated doctors and nurses saving lives during the emergency.

As too were the dedicated doctors – at least five of whom have already died – and fully committed nurses, some of whom too have succumbed to coronavirus.

Dumbartonians across the world and here at home prayed that we could cope and that God would see us and ours through this apocalypse now.

Some people will scorn this praying to and petitioning of a God they don’t believe in.

Many of us have struggles with religion and have great difficulty in remaining faithful, but it is said that “God’s house has many mansions” and that there a place for us all.

Forget about the hellfire and brimstone.

We are all in this together and if we are uncomfortable praying for each other, then we can at least help one another. We can try to be kind.

Many people in the community are already doing that.

Our shopping came this morning via those brave people who were prepared to go to work during this lockdown.

Think about the healthcare staff in the houses and the care homes. The staff in the shops and the van drivers who placed the food and milk on the doorsteps of the  elderly and infirm.

And those many others who are facing this pandemic alone.

You can’t go and visit your grandparents today, but you could telephone them on that mobile phone you have forever in your hand.

You will make their day by bringing a few moments of joy into this long, lonely and most probably boring Sunday.

That telephone call might even make your own day. When did you last speak to your granny or grampa? They would love to hear from you.

As the Desiderata says, you can bring hope where there is only despair and joy where there is only sadness.

At the same time, you can obey the Government’s instruction to stay at home and help to save lives by restricting the spread of this deadly virus, this modern day plague which now blights us.

You can also help to save the beloved NHS and the too often unappreciated heroes who work for it.

Stay at home. Please stay put in your house and see this through to the end when we can cast off the austerity and strictures that seasons such as Lent impose on us and celebrate at last.

We can also celebrate (and even give thanks for) the lives of those who have died at this awful moment in the history of the world.

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