Fr John Eagers is a priest of the Diocese of Paisley and a former Spiritual Director of the Scots College. In 2015 he celebrates 25 years of priesthood and as a special guest of honour at the Saint Andrew’s Day celebrations, he offers this reflection on the importance of the College feast…
On Monday the feast of Saint Andrew will be celebrated throughout Scotland. However, in many parishes the celebrations will be somewhat muted and for many people it will be just another day. In the Scots College it certainly isn’t just another day. From my recollection of having celebrated twelve feasts of Saint Andrew in the College, it is one of the most important days of the year.
The celebration of the feast of Saint Andrew in the College is a celebration of many things: It is a celebration of our faith and the purpose of the college in training future priests for Scotland. It is about friendships illustrated by the presence of rectors from other colleges and universities; the presence of friends of the College, as well as ambassadors and other dignitaries. Saint Andrew’s Day is about tradition and memories.
The way in which Saint Andrew’s Day is celebrated reflects the identity of the College, which aims to prepare students to serve as diocesan priests in Scotland, and which is dedicated to the patronage of Saint Andrew. The high point of the day is the celebration of Mass. As well as the presence of the College community, there will be friends and guests from Rome and former students now serving as priests at home. Among them will be a number who are celebrating jubilees of their priesthood, and this year I will be one of them.
Traditions evolve, and one of the more recent traditions (though it has been on the go for a good number of years now) is to invite those former students who are celebrating a jubilee to return for Saint Andrew’s day. As a member of staff I always looked forward to welcoming our jubilarians, and now as a jubilarian I look forward to being welcomed.
I first experienced Saint Andrew’s Day in 1983. It was a bit of a culture shock. It was the first time I had experienced a social occasion on such a scale. We had a large, relatively speaking, student population, of about 45 seminarians, all from Scotland. The guests included Principessa Doria Pamphilia and her husband Frank, a Cardinal or two, bishops, ambassadors, rectors from other colleges and a number of professors from the Gregorian University. It was also the first time I met a youthful, warm and wonderfully entertaining Monsignor Charlie Burns. Fortunately, each celebration of Saint Andrew’s Day I have been present at since then, either as a student or as Spiritual Director, has been graced with his presence.
Saint Andrew’s Day in the College doesn’t just happen. For weeks beforehand students, staff (including those who work for the college), and the sisters are busy with preparations. The building sparkles, the menu is set as are the tables, and endless choir practices take place – at least they did when I was a student. As someone who can’t sing I constantly asked to be exempt, under the pretext that I was a distraction for those who could. My requests were always ignored. During my time as Spiritual Director I was still expected to attend choir practices and again my pleas to be excused were ignored.
Saint Andrew’s Day in the Scots College is a wonderful event. It is a celebration of faith, of tradition, and of friendship. It is a celebration of memories, and I am grateful, that in the year in which I celebrate 25 years of priesthood, I will once again be present in the College for this wonderful feast.