As Archbishop Tartaglia reflected in his welcome to the congregation at St. Aloysius Church, Garnethill, this ecumenical vespers had its beginning in the ecumenical service held as part of the celebrations in 2015 of the 400th anniversary of the death of St. John Ogilvie. That service had been a beautiful experience and this ongoing celebration was part of its legacy and the Archbishop extended a warm welcome to Rev. Jeanne Roddick, Moderator of the Glasgow Presbytery of the Church of Scotland, Rev. Chris Foxton of the Methodist Church and Rev. William Young of the United Reformed Church.
The service had begun with a solemn procession of the clergy to the lovely shrine of St John Ogilvie, while a cantor led the congregation in singing a Litany of Saints, a reminder of St. John’s place among those who throughout the ages had witnessed to God by their lives. This theme was taken up in the prayer by Archbishop Tartaglia at the shrine, which confirmed that this gathering for the service honoured St. John and all witnesses to faith and courage. As the clergy then continued on to the sanctuary, the congregation sang Webbe’s “The Martyrs Living now with Christ”.
The homily for the service was given by Mgr. Peter Smith who was at his engaging best. He mused on why he had been asked to preach at this service and reflected that it could be because of his own recent experiences over the last year which, he said, had changed his outlook on life and death – but the story, he stressed, was not about him.
His recent severe infection should have killed him and this had made him think of John Fagan, the Glasgow man whose miraculous recovery from cancer had been attributed to the intercession of St. John Ogilvie. Not many people have had the experience of surviving the unsurvivable, and it had changed him; he had felt the power of prayer. However Mgr. Peter urged the need to get the perspective right on what had happened.
He repeated that the story was not about him, nor about John Fagan, nor even about St. John Ogilvie. It was about God and his power, who changes our lives and has never finished his work with us or with John Ogilvie. St. John is still therefore a powerful intercessor for Glasgow and the Church, who would see ecumenism as not just valuable but essential.
Mgr.Peter ended with a suggestion that we should be seeking another miracle through St. John Ogilvie, to help bring about the unity of Christians. John Ogilvie will desire that God’s will be done, so we should pray that we should be one and walk hand in hand. This reflection was a powerful centrepiece to the ecumenical celebration.
The Jesuit community and parish extended their usual warm hospitality to all at the end of the service and there was the opportunity to talk over a festive spread in the Ogilvie Centre to complete the celebration.