FUNERAL MASS FOR BISHOP VINCENT LOGAN 26/01/2021
It seems almost a cliche to say it, but every human person is a mystery. It’s not surprising though, as it is in God ‘we live and move and have our being’ and he himself is the ultimate mystery, and we have our origin in God. The Catechism reminds us that ‘we are most like unto God in our soul’, and since each one of us is unique in every way, to say we are a mystery seems almost like an understatement. And this mysteriousness is at so many levels. From the biological point of view, we are a mystery because we are formed by the mixing of our parents’ genes and by the environment in which we are planted. From a psychological point of view, we are formed by our parents by our families, by our siblings, friends and relations, by the circumstances of our lives and our loves, our knocks and our disappointments.
Most of us have had the good fortune to have been conceived in love and nurtured and nourished in love. Others, though, regrettably haven’t had that great start. And often, for those who are fortunate, there is one great thread of God’s goodness that powerfully shapes us. For most of us, this powerful goodness originates in the Faith passed on to us from our parents, a thread which runs throughout our lives and more than any other influence, arguably, shapes and guides the direction of our lives.
Also, for those of us fortunate enough to be baptised, as well as inheriting the common humanity into which we are created in the image and likeness of God, our baptism in Christ also confers on us divine filiation - sonship and daughtership in God - enabling us, as St Paul says, to call God, Abba, our Father. And we spend the rest of our lives on earth finding out what are the consequences for us of this wonderful gift: we never stop learning how to become a better son or a daughter of God.
All of this is true of Vincent Paul Logan. Vincent was born on 30th June 1941 to Joseph and Elizabeth Logan (nee Flannigan) into a committed Bathgate Catholic family and - like all Bathgate Catholic bairns – Vincent, together with their other four sons, inherited a strong faith from them. Of Vincent’s brothers James, John, William and Joseph. Only James now is still alive. Later also, Vincent’s four married brothers’ spouses (Esther, Maeve, Grace and Celia) and subsequently their families – nephews (Vincent and Joseph here today), Gerard and Edward, also Paul, now deceased, who like Bishop Vincent, tried his vocation also at Drygrange Seminary, and nieces Elizabeth, Margaret, Lisa and Anne-Marie - All members of this great extended family had their influence on Bishop Vincent throughout his life, just as today they mourn for him, assisting him by their prayers and Masses on the cleansing road to the Heavenly Kingdom.
But for a baptised Catholic man, who has in addition received a vocation from the Lord to priesthood, it is also his special relationships, outside the family - school friends, close friends met on life’s journey, fellow seminarians, priest friends and the pastoral and personal relationships a priest makes through his pastoral work, also continued to shape Vincent, up until almost the moment of his death.
From his earliest days, Vincent Paul Logan wanted to be a priest. His desire to attend and serve Mass daily, as a young boy with his mother and brothers after their dad went off to work, of course pointed him in the direction of a vocation to priesthood. As a committed Altar Boy, Vincent’s first desire to put himself forward as a candidate for priesthood resulted, as he says himself, in ‘being chased’ in 1952 by Canon Davitt his parish priest because he was too young - only 11. A year later
though, in 1953, he went to Blairs, our National Junior Seminary, at 12 and his journey to priesthood began in earnest. Drygrange, the seminary for the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh was the next step towards priesthood which he entered after Blairs in 1958. He was ordained priest by Archbishop Gordon Joseph Gray on 14th March 1964 in St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh.
Priesthood was his goal, his only goal; it was all Vincent wanted - and central to the priesthood for him, and central to his pastoral priorities later as a priest, and then as a bishop, was the centrality for the Catholic people of the Mass. The Eucharist, the daily celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the celebration of the other sacraments gave Bishop Vincent all the direction he needed for his main pastoral priorities. Among these, was an intense commitment to Catholic religious education. Though he did not choose it - it was Cardinal Gray’s ambition for Vincent - formation in catechetics was to be his next step. Cardinal Gray sent him to Corpus Christi College in London from 1966-7 during the heady days of student and theological unrest, to obtain a Diploma in RE. Following on from this, he led, successfully, in the Archdiocese, first the Religious Education programme for the faith development of the Catholic children of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, and he then Directed the Religious Education Office for a further 9 years, becoming Vicar Episcopal for Education in 1977. His collaboration at that time with the religious of the Sacred Heart in Craiglockhart College of Education, especially Mother McPherson, for whom he had a great affection, enabled him to build up the faith of Catholic teachers and schools, still very much at a time of Catholic expansion. In the purely pastoral sphere, Vincent was also curate in St Margaret’s, Davidson’s Mains for a short while, and then Chaplain to St Joseph’s Hospital in Rosewell, run by the Sisters of Charity of SVP, for those young people and children with learning difficulties; he was also Assistant in St Matthew’s parish there until 1977. Then, until 1981, for the first time, he was appointed Parish Priest by Cardinal Gray to St Mary’s, a small parish in Ratho outside Edinburgh. He had been ordained 13 years.
1981 was to be the year Vincent’s life took on a totally new direction. On 26th January, 1981, 40 years ago today in fact,
Fr. Vincent Logan was nominated Bishop of Dunkeld by Pope Saint John Paul II and, one month later, on 26th February, 1981 Vincent was ordained Bishop by his former Ordinary, Cardinal Gray, assisted by Archbishop Thomas Joseph Winning of Glasgow and his predecessor Bishop William Andrew Hart, to this Diocese of Dunkeld as its Bishop Ordinary.
So, at the young age of 39, Father Vincent was thrust into life as a bishop. He had had a good priestly and human formation in Edinburgh, and, as said already, Vincent had been forged and made ready by family, seminary and Archdiocese to take up the episcopal yoke. But it can’t have been easy for him. At that time, at 39, Vincent was one of the youngest bishops in the Universal Church, as indeed had been his ordinary, Cardinal Gray before him, who also at 39 had been consecrated in 1951. The pictures of Vincent on your mass sheet today, in his favourite Henri Matisse chasuble - saying Mass for his brother Joe and his wife Grace’s ruby wedding anniversary - in Vence in the South of France at his favourite Matisse Chapel of the Rosary, and in the other photo and seated at his desk - reveal him to be what many of the women of the diocese of Dunkeld at the time called him: the ‘dishy bish’ or ‘the boy Bishop’. A handsome young man.
Bishop Vincent had inherited a diocese that had been ruled by Bishop William Andrew Hart from 1955 for 26 years. At first, Bishop Hart was reluctant to give the diocese up for the first few years which must have been awkward for Bishop Vincent. Besides, Bishop Vincent was always conscious of his own weaknesses and inadequacies. He was neither a proud, nor an ambitious man. He only ever wanted to be a simple pastoral priest, a foot soldier! Brought up, as a faithful Catholic from West Lothian, a man from Catholic Bathgate (there they still say you can take a bairn oot o’ Bathgate but no Bathgate oot o’ the bairn), he was taught from his earliest days to rely on the power of grace to see him through the difficult challenges of life, and now, even more so, through his life as a bishop. He was taught to take others seriously, using his prudential judgement, but to rely on the help of grace when taking the most serious decisions in life.
Bishop Vincent’s pastoral priorities in Dunkeld remained remarkably similarly aligned to those skills he had acquired in St Andrews and Edinburgh: involvement with Catholic education; schools, universities and colleges. Helping to form good Catholic teachers, and seeking always to improve the quality of religious education and pastoral formation of his people. These remained the ambitious high-water marks for his ministry here in Dunkeld.
Vincent was far more interested in pastoral direction than in governance. He once wrote some eloquent interventions to be delivered by himself from the floor of the Synod Hall of the 2001 Synod of Bishops on the Episcopal ministry. As he said then, ‘such pastoral priority and concerns are far more important to the Bishop’s ministry than management of the Institution’.
These pastoral priorities began with the run up to the Diocesan Congress in the Caird Hall, at Pentecost 1984 with a Rally led by Cardinal Suenens. It was followed through with the Congress itself at Pentecost 1985. This movement illustrated Vincent’s priorities as he tried to bring the people of God together to celebrate discipleship and ministry in the church, both lay and clerical. And indeed this also helped to shape his future ministry as Bishop. The fruits of the Diocesan Pastoral Congress resulted in the adoption of the American Pastoral Renewal Process, known as ‘Renew’, which was launched in September 1988 and which rolled onwards through three annual ‘seasons’ until 1990.
Bishop Vincent‘s interest in Communications also helped to shape his pastoral direction as Bishop. He was keen to explore the connectedness which could result by the onerous work of producing a regular diocesan newspaper, the Dunkeld News, still happily in production! With this initiative, and with the help of Elaine, Bishop Vincent’s Personal Assistant and Press Officer. And by means of involvement in Local Radio, others, too, made their contribution. All this helped tremendously to push forward the announcement of the Good News in the diocese, in all its many different forms. At this time also, the development of many new forms of communication, including social media, was rapidly developing into even more effective forms of connecting people with the Gospel. With Elaine’s professional experience in journalism too, all of these new insights were set to the service of evangelisation.
Bishop Vincent’s focus was first and foremost on people: as a people’s Bishop. He was interested both in dialogue and iinter-action with the people of God in the parishes, at levels both spiritual and pastoral. For 30 years, Bishop Vincent led the
diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, and remained personally committed to its success, and to the spread of the devotion to our Blessed Lady, Health of the Sick, amongst the priests and people of the diocese. He also had had a great apprenticeship in this aspect of his pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese in Edinburgh, by the excellent example of Cardinal Gray and Bishop James Monaghan, also incidentally a bairn from Bathgate. The Logans, too, were regular participants in St Andrews and Edinburgh pilgrimages to Lourdes and its promotion of devotion to our Lady, and care of the sick.
In the Bishops Conference also, Vincent was a great influence particularly on the Commission for Priestly formation and formation for the Permanent Diaconate - but also in many other areas. Vincent was a Member, then Chairman of the Joint Commission between the Bishops Conference and Conference of Major Religious Superiors in Scotland. He was also Chairman of the Board of Governors of St Andrew’s College of Education, Bearsden from 1987-1991 and members of many other national bodies and institutions.
The Holy See also appointed Vincent a number of times as Pastoral Visitator of seminaries, both in the United Kingdom in 1996, and on Continental Europe in Malta in 1997. It was after a Visitation to the Seminary on the Island of Gozo in 1997, that I, myself, first became involved with him in this work, following up on those visitations by seminary retreats and follow-up meetings with members of seminary Staffs.
Bishop Vincent was Bishop Ordinary of this place for almost 32 years. He finally had his resignation accepted by Pope Benedict XVI, on the 29th of June 2012, though sickness and difficulties with mobility was already creeping up on him for a few years before that.
From that time, until 13th December 2013 and my nomination to Dunkeld by Pope Francis, Monsignor Basil O’Sullivan so beautifully and lovingly cared for the diocese, until I arrived as Vincent’s successor. Bishop Vincent and Mgr. Basil were always close, respecting and supporting the other long before Mgr. Basil became Diocesan Administrator, sede vacante, ever since the time of the terrible murder of 16 children and their class teacher on 13th March 1996 at Dunblane Primary School. Mgr. Basil and Bishop Vincent were the first priests on the murder scene that day, and both of them were to hold that fateful day in their memories, as annually they remembered the bereaved, the murdered children and teacher, and the dreadful legacy of the bad memories and nightmares which resulted from it ever since. From that day, Vincent held Mgr. Basil in even greater estimation, and as Vincent on the TV at the time said: ‘in spite of his own pain, Mgr. Basil was there ever afterwards for the whole community: This was the care and compassion of the priesthood at its best, he said. We shall never forget that fateful day at Dunblane Primary School’.
On 26th February 2021 - next month - Vincent would have celebrated the 40th anniversary of his Episcopal Ordination and consecration - an amazing achievement through God’s grace. But it must also at times, I’m certain, have meant bearing a heavy cross. I can’t help thinking that for many of those 40 years, though bishopVincent’s episcopal pilgrimage in Dunkeld must have known much joy, he must also have suffered much sadness. It is not possible to be a Successor to the Apostles in the Church today and not also to share in the Lord’s Passion and Crucifixion. Forty years marks out in time a long pilgrimage with Jesus, as a shepherd of souls after the Good Shepherd. And it is certain that modern day Successors to the Apostles,
today’s bishops, will both enjoy and suffer, sharing the same joys and sufferings as the Master himself. Bishops become the targets for much anger and opprobrium: any one actively seeking to become a bishop must be mad!
For me personally, one of the most consoling things in our beloved Catholic Faith is that from the greatest Popes down to the poorest and most needy and marginalised member of the faithful, the purpose and prayers of a Catholic Christian funeral are the same. Death is the great leveller for all of us.
At a Requiem Mass, the holy sacrifice is offered for our sins, not as a thanksgiving for all that we have achieved, not to laud us, or to say what a great person we are. Not even to celebrate our life, as so many outside the Church tend to do nowadays. We come before God alone, and humbly, seeking his forgiveness for our sins, as well as implicitly acknowledging the triumphs of his grace in us. Whatever good we have done on earth is his work; whatever sins we have committed, is ours.
As Saint Augustine so beautifully encapsulates in his Confessions: ‘You have created us for yourselves, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You’. God is the beginning and the end of all - who we are, and what we are. He has created us; we are ‘God’s work of art’, as St Paul says, and as we die and return to the Lord who made us, we are still an unfinished work of art. And Bishop Vincent understood this profound truth. Saint Augustine the Bishop knew what it was to live a life of grace, but also to fall away in sin and perhaps we can all look to him as a very good Saint for sinners, for sinners we all are! We stand before God at this Mass to pray for Bishop Vincent and for all of us, for the moment of our own death is unknown to us. ‘Almighty God, you offer us a steer through life, picking us up as we fall, and leading us always, as the Scriptures say: “with the leading strings of love”’.
As for me, I can only stand in awe today and admire a man who for 40 years as a bishop has persevered as priest and bishop until death. A triumph that is due, though, to God alone, not to our own human strength. Like all of us, Bishop Vincent will have made his mistakes; for that he stands before the judgement seat of God. But that’s surely true for each of us, and we entrust the soul of Bishop Vincent to the mercy of God thanking God for all his blessings.
We present Bishop Vincent to the Lord and return him to the God who first made him. He returns to the loving embrace of his parents and the brothers and relatives and friends who have died before him. We, his relatives, colleagues and closest friends who grieve for him present here today, but also those watching via Live stream, place him in our prayers. We think, with great compassion today of Bishop Vincent’s many relatives: Vincent and Joseph, nephews here today, and those unable to be here. We think also of the friends who supported him - especially for Elaine, Ali and Tom, Kevin and Paul and for the many priests and religious of the diocese who worked with Bishop Vincent; for the people of this diocese for whom he was prepared to serve and to love for God sake. For those who cared for him in his last months – his lovely carer Lianne, the excellent carers and Manager Sheena at St Mary’s care home; Vincent’s doctors, Simon and Robin who lovingly cared for him, and for all his neighbours, and all those who will remain unknown to us, but known to God.
Vincent, as first you heard in your Ordination ceremony as a priest: ‘Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the company of your Lord. May our prayers, Masses and sacrifices today, go with you.
+ Eternal rest grant unto him and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen!
+ Stephen Robson Bishop of Dunkeld 26/01/2021