The Jesuit community of St. Aloysius celebrates the Feast of St. John Ogilvie on 10th March each year with great joy. This year there was an added uplift to the celebration as it marked the 399th anniversary of John Ogilvie’s martyrdom, the last celebration before the 4th centenary which will be marked in a special way.
The service was led by Bishop-elect John Keenan, together with members of the Jesuit community, with musical support from the St. Mungo Singers. As the congregation, including a substantial representation from the Knights of St. Columba, gathered, the choir sang Botor’s joyful “Misericordias Domini”, and Blessed John Henry Newman’s “Lead, KindlyLight”.
Bishop-elect Keenan then led the procession to the shrine of St. John Ogilivie to light the candles there, as the congregation joined in singing James Quinn’s “O Light from Light”. The celebrants then continued to the sanctuary as the well-known Ogilvie hymn “On the Battlefields of Scotland” filled the church. Fr. Curtis, parish priest of the community, welcomed everyone to the service, with a particular welcome for the Bishop-elect in what must be for him a very busy month.
The Vespers continued with the singing of psalms 114 and 115, and the Canticle from the Letter to the Philippians (“Thought Jesus Christ was in the form of God”). After the scripture reading from 1 Peter, Bishop-elect Keenan gave the reflection. He recalled how Blessed John Henry Newman had called the seminarians in the English College in Rome the flowers of the blood of the martyrs. The church in Scotland is a serene church at present but it was born from people like John Ogilvie.
This year, he said, is not only the 399th anniversary of Ogilvie’s death but also a very important year for Scotland – the year of the referendum. John Ogilvie loved his country. After his conversion to the Catholic faith, he had wanted to come back to Scotland to share that faith, its radicality and its challenge. For him it was a matter of life or death – he wanted his fellow Scots to live life to the full on the basis of the Gospel. Despite an initial rebuff of his efforts, he had come back to try again, and so should we. For us the challenge is what kind of country do we want to live in. It is not just a political issue, but also a spiritual issue.
Bishop-elect Keenan also drew attention to the fact that John Ogilvie was only 17 when he converted. The challenge to us is to take a positive of young people and recognise that they don’t want a diluted version of the faith, but its fullness. As the congregation digested his words, Noel Donnelly played some reflective music on the clarsach.
The final part of the service began with the singing of the Magnificat, followed by prayers for Scotland, its political and civic leaders, its churches. Prayers were also said for all who suffer persecution, for the sick and for our dead. The choir concluded the Intercessions with the motet “Istorum est enim” based on the words of the Apocalypse and its vision of the martyrs.
Before the final blessing, the plainsong Salve Regina was sung, and the service closed with the singing of Noel Donnelly’s John Ogilvie hymn and the Taizé Gloria.
The Jesuit community provided their usual warm hospitality in the Ogilvie Centre afterwards and there was the opportunity to see an extract from the recent play based on John Ogilvie’s life and to talk about possible events for 2015. One optimistic person suggested inviting the Pope to celebrate the 4th centenary of the martyrdom of his fellow Jesuit, and why not think big!