Homily – Golden Jubilee

Remembering 50 years

The homily preached by Fr Willy Slavin on the occasion of his golden jubilee.

This year we have been asked to think back 100 years to 1914.  There is a great debate as to what actually happened.  And the eventual sacrifice – was it worth it?  Fast forward 50 years to 1964 and what was happening then?  The Second Vatican Council.  There is still a debate as to what started it.  The Catholic Church  – at least as we had known it – was being compared to great empires, even to General Motors.  But people were asking was that right? Most of us here, we can ask, the changes – were they worth it?  Those who remember the last 50 years – whether in marriage or single or in religious life – the sacrifices we have made to remain on the side of the church – have they been worth it?

I was ordained in 1964.   Unlike a centenary a jubilee biblically is an opportunity not only to remember but also to forgive and forget.  As it happens, the gospel appointed to be read in this day of Lent is about reconciliation.  Our lives have been affected for better and worse by the Council.  The debate continues.  Was the old model as successful as it looked?  Did it need fixing?  This is not an academic question.  There were nine of us in the Scots College ordination class of 1963-64.  To say nothing of the hundreds from all over the world who were ordained with us.  Of the nine, two are dead, and one is confined to a care home.  Three are grandfathers.  Some thought we had a cheek to change what we did.  Others thought we lacked the courage to go further.  A jubilee is a time to say sorry.

But Eucharist is Greek for thank you.  So for me thanks first of all for this housing estate built during the war for the Rolls Royce in Hillington and the school and parish which followed.  Thanks to family and friends, to all of you who made these fifty years possible, from Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Broomhill and St Michael, Parkhead with St Mary’s junior secondary, for Bangladesh and Barlinnie, to Justice and Peace groups and the Scottish Drugs Forum, to Notre Dame Child Guidance and Emmaus and finally to St Simon’s and St Peter’s.  It wasn’t all sacrifice to have belonged to the biggest and oldest multinational in the world!

On the card for my 70th birthday (when I had hoped to retire) there was a quotation from the Gospel of St John.  Jesus said to Peter: the time will come when someone else will dress you and take you where you would rather not go.  Everyone knows the idea of our allotted span being three score year and ten (70) comes from the Psalms.   But not everyone knows the next line which is – and 80 if you are strong.  We are the first generation to have seen this come true for ordinary people.  What are we to do with these extra years?

Let us remember first we are growing old in a world where the majority of mothers still cannot feed their children.  Do we think it is time to put our feet up and leave it to the humanists and secularist to try and save the world on their own?  I offer the thought that we should treasure these years as an opportunity to attain at last real wisdom.  To enter into what has been called the monasticism of old age where poverty, obedience and purity will lead us to more graceful living and a glimpse at last of the promise of a new life in Jesus Christ.

Fr Willy Slavin was ordained in the Lateran Basilica, Rome, on the 14th March 1964, and celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination in the parish of Our Lady & St George, Penilee, on 14th March 2014.