Fr. Andrew McMahon ofm: friend + film companion
(See previous article)... It didn't take long before I was recommending films to Fr. Andrew and taking him to the cinema to see them, after which we would discuss them over a pint and a bite to eat. He seems genuinely grateful that someone such as myself would want to take the time to open his mind up to new cinematic treats (just don't mention "Inception" or science fiction to him!! ;-) And it wasn't long before he was phoning me up with the latest tale of woe over his computer and asking me to bail him out, which, of course, I gladly agreed to do, in return for food and drink!
Last March, he invited me to do a party piece (a couple of Irish drinking songs + a bit on the clarinet) at the Friends of Park Place St. Patrick's Night, amongst a variety of "turns" that included Irish dancing, song, recitation, instrumental music... I also joined Andrew and a longtime friend of his for a rendition of "The Irish Rover". Later that evening I ended up getting booked to do a paid gig singing + playing guitar at someone's 70th birthday party in Portsmouth which ended up being a nice little earner!
He celebrates Mass every Sunday at Park Place, and though it is not a Parish as such, people come from miles around to hear him preach. Through him, I have got to know former musician friends of my Dad from the area (his folk band for which he played drums) and also made new friends - for example, at his 75th birthday meal the other week. He had been speaking to some of those who come to his Mass about the films we would watch and discuss. One such person asked me if I would be willing to start a Film Club at Park Place, as many people who go there would be very interested in such a venture.
I had developed an interest in films myself by attending option courses in film appreciation at Centre Sèvres in Paris (the home of the "Ciné-club") and joining 2 Parisian Ciné-clubs during my 4 years studying Theology + Philosophy there in the '90s (the courses + clubs run by the same retired French film critic, Jean Collet, who himself became a firm friend of mine). This led to me teaching A-Level Film Studies in Liverpool for 8 years and now teaching GCSE Film Studies for the first time here in Southampton. So, to be asked to run a monthly film club myself I considered to be rather an honour. We are having a preliminary meeting with the interested parties before Christmas, to make sure that my choices of films are appropriate for the clientele, amongst other things, and then look to have our first gathering in the New Year. A few of my pupils are hoping to get involved too, which would be great.
A couple of weeks before Easter I intend to bring our school Choir, Orchestra, rock bands, ensembles and soloists to perform a charity concert at Park Place to raise money for the Indian sisters' missions and for my congregations schools in Haiti.
As you can see, bumping into him during the day retreats has enriched my life in unforeseen ways, on top of finding a loyal, affectionate spiritual guide and friend.
He is someone who can count people like Lawrie McMenemy (most famous and revered Saints manager - with the possible exception of Ted Bates - of all time) and Matt Le Tissier (most famous and revered Saints player of all time without exception - and occasional England international... Glen Hoddle, hang your head in shame!!!) as close friends, but who treats each person he meets as being of equal worth and dignity.
He has green fingers and a typically Franciscan love of and reverence for nature, a wicked sense of deadpan humour (very "pince-sans-rire" as the French would say), a cuddly old sheepdog named Laddie, an iPod Touch (mainly for listening to spoken word cds which he gets me to transfer onto the iPod for him), a tv aerial that annoyingly plays up just as a goal is about to be scored when you are trying to watch Europa League games between Liverpool and whoever, and most importantly a deep, I would say Christ-like, pastoral sensitivity which draws people to him.
Thank you for everything, Andrew. Do you want to see a film next week?