Practical “Koinonia” – Sharing our Homily Ideas
An appeal to all ACP members:
During our recent ACP AGM in Dublin several priests told me how the frequency of Funeral Homilies makes it difficult to say anything new or fresh. The same applies, less urgently, to the wedding homily, as a recurring duty. It was suggested that my “Homily Resources” on the ACP website could be expanded to include a sub-section of homily types for special occasions (mainly funerals and weddings). This strikes me as a good idea, so long as I’m not expected to produce the material myself. I’ll happily serve as an assembler of homiletic material supplied by yourselves- if you are willing to supply the raw material.
Fr. Pat Littleton wrote “here are a few sample homilies for funerals. What I have in mind is something short … that could be glanced at in a minute and could then be taken as a building block to follow up with references to the person who has died and references to our hope in Jesus etc. Do you think would others be willing to share one or two ‘building blocks’ that they have found helpful? If not a good idea … then no problem!”
What I’d like to do is invite all our ACP members to send me some samples of how you actually celebrate funerals and weddings, including anecdotes and homily outlines. I would do some editing and sorting, and put the material online on our website as a resource.
Contributors should tell me whether I may attribute the material to them, or if they’d prefer to remain anonymous. The main point is to offer as wide a range of homily approaches as possible, to help our members bring something fresh to their celebration of funerals and weddings. I appeal to all ACP members to consider sending me at least a paragraph to add to this resource.
Below are some Funeral outlines and Wedding homilies that I collected from Fr. Tom Cooney OSA, Fr. Flor McCarthy SDB, Fr. Tommy Lane and Mgr. John O’Connell. If I get positive feedback from ACP members about this, more current homilies will hopefully be added.
Here, for +Diarmuid Martin’s homily at the mass for deceased priests on Nov. 13, 2012
Sunrise, Sunset (Flor McCarthy)
There are two very special moments in every day, namely, sunrise and sunset. It is easy to take the presence and benefits of the sun for granted when it is overhead. But at its rising and setting, these are so clearly revealed to us that we cannot ignore them.
Take the sun’s rising. Having extinguished the stars, ever so slowly, ever so gently it eases itself over the rim of the world. Up, up it comes from the great beyond, scattering light and radiating heat to the four corners of the earth.
We are amazed at how large it appears. It is at its largest when it sits on the horizon, joining heaven and earth. It is no exaggeration to say that at this time it appears twice its normal size. It seems to pose there fleetingly, as if to show itself to us in all its brightness and freshness, before it starts to climb the sky and get on with the business of the day.
And take the sun’s setting. Down, down it goes. Its rate of departure can be measured by the fading light and waning heat. As it retreats it appears to grow in size. It is at its largest when it meets the horizon.
As at its coming, so at its going it seems to pose briefly on the edge of the world, as if to show itself to us in all its completeness one last time. Then, re-lighting the stars, it slips slowly and silently away into the great beyond from whence it came.
Just as sunrise and sunset are very special moments in the day, so birth and death are very special moments in the life of a human being. At these moments we realise that each person is absolutely unique. At birth something comes into being that never was before. At death something passes away that will never be (on earth) again.
People also seem larger to us at these two moments. We may take them for granted at other times but not at these two moments. At these two moments we are given a glimpse of their true worth and of the benefits they bestow on us.
At birth and death we regard them not only as precious but sacred as well. Heaven and earth are joined together. We feel we are in the presence of mystery. Each person is a mystery. Each person is a gift from God.
We could now talk about the qualities of the departed one and the blessings God gave us through his/her life.
The sun has gone down for the last time on the life of N. It is from God we come when we enter life, and it is to him we go when we leave it. May God guard his (her) going as he guarded his (her) coming.
And what lovely parting words he said to them. He told them that he loved them, and urged them to love one another. He spoke to them about the meaning of his life and death: ‘I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.’ ‘But I will return, and your hearts will rejoice.’ In other words, death would not be an everlasting parting.He left them a priceless legacy – a peace this world cannot give.
Our loved ones who have gone from us have not disappeared into nothingness. They have departed for that other shore, the shore of eternity. They have merely gone to God, and God is very near to us.
Parting Time (Flor McCarthy)
Today we are saying goodbye to our sister (brother) N. If we Had no bonds with other people, the hour of parting would not be so sad. But who would want to live alone?
Life is full of partings. No matter how close our relationships with our loved ones are, we still have to part with them from time to time. Sometimes parting can be very painful. The closer the bond we have with someone, and the longer the period of separation is likely to be, the more we feel the pain of parting.
Why is parting so painful? Because it is only when we have to part with people that we realise how much we love them. ‘Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation’ (Kahlil Gibran).
In fact, the full worth of a friend may not become apparent to us until she (he) has actually gone from us. ‘What we most love in our friend may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain is clearer to the climber from the plain’ (Gibran).
Now what is true of ordinary partings is even truer of the parting we call ‘death’. Death is the most irrevocable parting of all. This time our loved one will not be returning.
In the case of sudden death, we are not even given a chance to say goodbye. We would dearly love to take leave of our loved one warmly and tenderly, in a manner befitting a final farewell. Now we will never get a chance to say all that was in our heart. We will never get another opportunity to tell the loved one how much she (he) meant to us.
The Gospel shows us that Jesus shared with us the pain of dying and of parting with his friends. His friends, for their part, were plunged into gloom at the thought of his leaving them. But he said to them, ‘You have sorrow now, but I will see you again
Going Home (Flor McCarthy)
During the day the birds fly about in many different directions. But when evening comes, their wanderings cease and they find a destination. They begin to fly towards something definite. They fly towards home.
Take the rooks for example. Darkness is falling on the fields and streets. In half an hour or so it will be night. In the fading light the rooks are coming in. Now that night is approaching, they are heading for the familiar grove of beech trees. They come in ones, twos, and whole batches. After a lot of circling and raucous cawing, they finally settle down for the night. Their journeying and labours are over for another day. They can rest now. They are home.
We too need a home. To have a home is not just to have a house. It is to have a set of close ties with people who accept us for what we are, and who give us a feeling of belonging. But in spite of all the buildings we put up and roots we put down, here on earth we do not have a lasting home. All we have, as Paul says, is a kind of tent. At death the tent is folded up.
Hence, it is not only on earth that we need a home. We also need a home to go to when death brings down the curtain on the day of our life. Without such a home, life would be a journey to nowhere.
At the Last Supper, Jesus knew that the night of death was coming on. He had no doubts about where his life was leading. He said, ‘I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.’ (John 16:28). Jesus saw his death as ‘going to the Father’, and for him that meant going home.
He also said to his apostles, ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ This means that we have an eternal home to go to, namely, the Father’s house. For Christians this world is like an inn; the world to come is like home.
Here one could talk a little about the life of the departed one.
For a child, home is not so much a place as a relationship of love and trust. A child can move around a lot and not feel homeless, as long as the parents are there. It is the same for those who have a close relationship with God.
Harvest Time (Flor McCarthy)
On the day of the harvest there is no room for anything but the truth. On this day the straw is set aside. The chaff is blown away by the wind. The weeds are consigned to the flames. The only thing that matters is the grain. This, like sacks of gold, is taken away and stored carefully in the barn.
Death is like harvest time. On the day of death everything suddenly becomes very clear – good and evil are as distinct as wheat and weeds. At death it is not the amount of money or possessions that a person has amassed that matters, these, like the straw and chaff, have to be left behind. What matters is the good a person has done.
On the day of death we recall everything good about the departed one, which is not difficult because at this time it stands out. It is gathered together in a sheaf. That good was there all the time, but we may have overlooked it, or it may have been partly obscured by the weeds.
Sometimes farmers reap only a fraction of what they have sown. Outside forces (birds, bugs, poor soil, drought, etc. ), over which they have no control, rob them of part of the harvest. So it is with the harvest of life. People can do their best and have very little to show for their efforts.
Hence, we must not judge people by results. It is the striving that matters. It can happen that a person who has accomplished very little is a better person than another who has accomplished a lot. At the end of life, it is not what we have done that matters, but what we have become. ‘When your last hour strikes count only on what you have become.’ (Antoine de Saint Exupery).
What of the weeds, by which I mean a person’s faults and sins? Let us consign them to the flames of God’s mercy.
We could point to the harvest of goodness which, by the grace of God, the departed one succeeded in reaping.
In the final analysis, what is gathered into the heavenly Father’s barn is known only to him. But God is infinitely more understanding, compassionate, and generous than we could ever imagine.
The Seed Must Die (Flor McCarthy)
How beautiful it is to watch shoots of young wheat swaying in the wind and dancing in the sun. But how strange is the process by which these shoots come into being.
First of all, the grains of wheat have to be buried in the cold earth as in a tomb. Then they have to die. If they didn’t die, no new life would come forth. But when they die, from the grave of the old grains shoots of new wheat miraculously spring forth. In time, each of these shoots will produce a whole earful of new grains. It’s an amazing paradox – life coming through death.
The way of salvation is similar. It is Christ who tells us this. Just as the grain of wheat has to die if it is to bear fruit, so there is a sense in which we must die if we are to live fully and fruitfully.
We are like seeds dropped by the hand of God into the field of life..Under his watchful gaze we break through the surface and open ourselves to the sun and the rain. But having opened ourselves to receive we must also open ourselves to give. For to give is to live.
Those who live for themselves, will stagnate. Those who live for others and for God, will grow and bear fruit. But to live for others means to die to self, something that doesn’t come easy to human nature.
Jesus not only told us about this but gave us an example. He died to all forms of self-seeking, giving his life in our service. When the actual moment of death arrived, he surrendered himself into God’s hands. And God rescued him from the tomb and gave him new life. Thus, the hour of his humiliation became the hour of his glory. The hour of his death became the hour of his greatest fruitfulness, for it was his death that won eternal life for us.
(For a Christian the process of dying to self begins at baptism when, as Paul says, ‘we were buried with Christ.’ And it was also in baptism that our new life begins. ‘Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so that we too might walk in newness of life.’ In baptism we became a new creature able to live in the freedom of the children of God).
We could talk about the departed one, and maybe point out how this mystery was realised in her/his life through sacrifice and self-giving.
Those who die to self will find the moment of actual death easy. The hour of death will become an hour of glory. It is by dying that we are born to eternal life.
We are confident that God, who brings forth wheat from seeds buried in the heart of the earth, will rescue our sister (brother) from the power of death, and bring her (him) to the fullness of eternal life.
You Do Not Belong to Death
Dear friends, we are united with you today in sorrow at the death of N. The reality of death, with all its pain and sense of loss, confronts us at this moment. But as we are united in sorrow, we are also united by something else… our Faith. Confronted with the reality of death, we must allow ourselves to be confronted with the reality of our Faith. The reality… not a “maybe” or “I hope so” or fantasy or wishful thinking, but a reality. Our Faith opens our minds to the whole picture about life, death, and what happens after death. Only in the light of our Faith can we begin to understand what has happened to N. and how we are to keep going from here.
When in our Faith we speak about heaven, and resurrection, and the next life, we do not speak about these things primarily because they give us consolation and strength. They certainly do that, but the primary reason we speak of these things is because they are true. God has spoken His Word to us; we hear it in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church, and we respond to it by saying, “Yes, I believe; it is true.” God has broken the silence about death, and told us that He has conquered it. Death was not part of God’s original plan; it came into the world because of sin. Death is not from God; death is from turning away from God. Yet God did not leave us in death’s power. He sent Christ, who died and rose again and conquered death. God has spoken to the world through Christ, and told us that He wants to give us victory over death in and through Jesus Christ.
Because of this, Christians are not silent in the face of death. Many people, on coming to a wake or funeral, do not know what to say. Death seems to have the last word. But we who believe are not silent. We speak. Christ is risen. Death has been conquered.
Many people think that the story of human life is, “Birth, life, and death.” For Christians, it’s different. The story is not “Birth, life, and death,” but rather, “Life, death, and Resurrection.” Death does not have the last word; life does. Death is not the last period after the last sentence of the last chapter of the human story. There’s another chapter to come. Death is not the end of the human story; it’s the middle. The end of the story is Resurrection and life that has no end. The farewell that we give to N. today is a temporary farewell; the burial we give N. is a temporary burial. He/she will live. He/she will rise.
The ceremony today contains many reminders of this, and it points us to the fact that N. was baptized. We sprinkled the casket with holy water at the beginning of the ceremony… This recalls the waters of baptism that were once poured on N. The white funeral pall is a reminder of the white garment placed on the newly-baptized… a sign of the new life of Christ given to the Christian. This candle is the Easter candle; it is present at every baptism, and symbolizes the Risen Christ. When N. was baptized, the life of the Risen Christ was poured into his/her soul. He/she began to share, here on earth, the life of heaven. At baptism, God rescued N. from the power of death; He literally snatched him/her from the dominion of death and transferred him/her into the Kingdom of Christ – a kingdom of eternal life. Christ said to N. on that day, “You do not belong to death. You belong to me.”
A Christian does not merely die. A Christian dies in Christ . Those two words, “in Christ,” make all the difference in the world. We belong to Him by baptism, and we live in Him by a life of prayer, obedience to His teachings, and faithfulness to the sacraments of the Church. If we live in Christ and die in Christ, we will rise in Christ.
In the midst of all this, should we grieve? Yes, sisters and brothers, it is OK to grieve; it is natural, because we love N. Even Christ wept when His friend Lazarus died… and He wept even though He was about to bring Him back to life. Yes, we as Christians grieve. But we grieve with hope. It is OK to be sad today that we do not see N. anymore, but it would be wrong to think we will never see him/her again. It is OK to grieve, but it is wrong to despair. Christ is alive. We pray today for N. that he/she may complete the journey to heaven. Pray for him/her every day, and for yourselves. Look at him/her today and say with faith, “N., you do not belong to death. You belong to Christ, and so do we.” Amen.
God’s Love is not Turned Off
Brothers and sisters, we are united with you in this moment of sorrow at the death of N.; and we find ourselves in Church now because the Church has something to say to us in this sorrow. Christ our Lord has something to say to us today; let us listen again to His words.
The Gospel tells how Jesus went to a wake. His friend Lazarus had died and Jesus went to console Lazarus’ sisters. Notice what Martha says to Him. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Can you imagine saying that to someone who came to console you? “If you had been here, N. would not have died.” We would never say that… unless the person we were speaking to had power over life and death. And in this case, Martha was right. Christ does have power over life and death. So she goes on to say to Him, “Whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” She’s giving Him a hint. “Raise him up, Lord. Bring my brother back from the dead.”
Christ tells her, “Your brother will rise.” The Jews believed in a resurrection of the dead at the end of time, and Martha says that she believes this. We too, as Christians, proclaim that on the last day God will raise the dead.
Why is this true? Let’s go back and ask where we were 100 years ago. Where were we? Where was N.? Nowhere. Could we have brought ourselves into existence? Did N. knock at God’s door one day and say, “OK, God, it’s time for me to be born.” No… N. did not do that, because he/she wasn’t there to ask. Why and how did we come into the world at all? We might say, “Our parents came together, and we were conceived and born.” Certainly, our parents were necessary for us to be born… But not even that answers the question, because when our parents came together, we did not have to be born… The child born could have been any one of millions of possible brothers or sisters of ours. It didn’t have to be you or I or N.. Why, then, are we here? The only answer, ultimately, is that God loves us. It is His love, His choice, that brought us and N. out of the nothingness we were in 100 years ago, and into this world. He loves us, and so we exist.
But now that N. has died, what happened? Did God change His mind? Did God stop loving him/her? Did God’s love run out? No, sisters and brothers. And here’s the good news: God’s love brought N. into existence, and you can’t turn God’s love off. God hasn’t changed His mind. God STILL loves N.. And because God still loves him/her, he/she still will live. The love which brought him/her out of nothingness will bring him/her back from the dead. You can’t turn God’s love off. That is why there is a resurrection on the last day, and that is why we can take strength from God’s love today.
Then Christ goes even a step further… He says to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” In other words, “Martha, the reason there will be a resurrection on the last day is because of me. I am the Love and Life of God, and if you believe in Me, you can start sharing the life of the Resurrection now.” Dear friends, this is what Christ says to us today. He is here. He is speaking to us. He is offering us His victory over death. The whole point of our religion is to put us into contact with Christ so that He can share His life with us – a life that conquers death and lasts forever. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Some people believe in heaven but say, “Well, I will live my life in the here and now and then, when I die, if God wants He will bring me to heaven… but I won’t think about that now.” But Christ teaches us that we are to think about it now. God will bring us to heaven when we die, but only if we take hold of heaven while we live. That is the whole purpose of our life, and of our Church. We are to receive Christ’s life by faith, by prayer, by living according to the Commandments and the teachings of the Church, and by receiving the sacraments of the Church, especially Confession and Communion. In this way eternal life is ours.
What Christ asked Martha, He asks us today. “Do you believe this?” We respond with her today, “Yes, I believe.” He asked N. that question, and N. said “Yes, I believe.” We now pray for N., that this faith will lead him/her to the full glory of heaven. Christ raised Martha’s brother Lazarus from that grave. He called his name. “Lazarus, come out.” Because N. called on Christ’s name, Christ will call N.’s name again as well, and in His immense love will say, “N., come to life. I did not create you for the grave, but for myself. You have accepted me by faith while on earth. Come, now, and share my life… forever.” Amen.
For a Young Wife and Mother (names altered)
Our most heartfelt condolences to Patricia’s bereaved husband Jack, and their children, Jim, Vincent and Sheila; to the parents of Patricia, Ken and Emma; to her brothers, Michael, Tom and Shane; and to all the relatives and friends.
Last Monday morning began as a typical day in the life of Patricia Ryan. She was up early to put breakfast on the table, to supervise the washing and dressing of the children, to prepare herself for work, to check if she had the necessary items for Sheila’s day care center, and to check if Vincent had his books. Then, after a hug from her husband, she packed everything, including her children, into the car. She gave a kiss and a hug to Sheila at the kindergarten and a kiss and then dropped off Jim and Vincent at their school. Only then, with her mothering tasks completed, did she drive off to her job. She had been going through this routine five days a week for many years. She was a well-organized and confident woman. Her day always started with dispensing the love and care of a wife and mother. She seemed scarcely aware of how much she was giving of herself. It was all part of her calling as a mother, a wife, and a wage earner.
Anyone would have expected that Patricia had another good forty years ahead of her; that she would live to see her dreams and ambitions for her family fulfilled. Naturally, she wanted to see her children through school and college, to see them happily married, and in due time to enjoy spoiling the grandchildren with love and affection, while in retirement with her husband, Jack.
But last Monday, Patricia was on her way to work when tragedy struck. Every time we enter the speeding traffic in the early morning rush hours, an accident is possible. Events on the road are often beyond our control, regardless of our own care when driving. We live in a world of speeding steel, overshadowed by the danger of mechanical failure and human error. Bad road conditions, poor maintenance, tired drivers – it can be one of many causes. At any rate, as she drove to work, another car ran into Patricia’s car, head on. The cost was heavy, in terms of grief and loss. Three children lost an adored mother; a young husband lost his darling wife; her parents suffered the loss of their only daughter.
Free will and the eventualities of life are allowed by God to exert their force and consequences, to follow the laws of cause and effect. Accidents are not positively willed by God, but play their part according to the laws of nature. Death, at whatever time it may come, plays its part in the unfolding drama of our lives. And yet, St. John’s Gospel records Christ’s intervention in the death of his friend, Lazarus. Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, while waiting for Jesus to come from Perea, the country beyond the Jordan, experienced four days of sadness and grief. When Jesus finally arrived, Martha showed her distress in a rebuke to Christ, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Christ had a higher purpose, unknown to Martha, Mary, and his followers. He wanted them to have unshakable proof of his power over death. He declared, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Then he proved his power over death when he declared, “Lazarus come forth.” This Gospel has a personal message for us: Yes, it’s okay to die. By death we gain our heavenly Father and an everlasting home. He comforts us with the assurance that through him, we too will have a personal resurrection and eternal life.
Many Christians have been sustained by this faith, in times of bereavement. That brave woman, Rose Kennedy, endured more than the normal amount of grief and pain with the deaths of her four children. The mother of the former U.S. president once expressed her positive faith in these terms: “I feel sure that God never gives a cross to bear larger than we can carry. And I have always believed that, no matter what, God wants us to be happy. He doesn’t want us to be sad. Birds sing after a storm. Why shouldn’t we?”
May the angels lead the soul of Patricia, a faithful Christian wife and mother, into paradise. May the soul of Patricia Ryan and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
For a deceased Young Man (Reception of the Body)
Welcome to our Church, as we receive the remains of our dear young friend, Peter Nolan. A sad, sad occasion when we consider Peter was such a young man, only 36 years old. He had lived life to the full and only took ill at Christmas. Even with the best medical care and always hoping for a return to health, sadly he died on Sunday last, with his family at his bedside.
When a young person like Peter dies, all of us are bothered by the question: “Why?” Why did he have to die? Why did God let it happen? My honest answer is, I just don’t know. But maybe an image can help.
If you go down to Dollymount Strand, stand and look out to sea, our human eyesight can only see as far as the horizon. But I know and you know that beyond that line of the horizon lies a vast area of sea and land, stretching around the globe. In a way I feel life is like that. Now while we are here on earth we can only see in a limited way but I believe the Good Lord has a much wider vision and sees life in a much wider context.
So this evening we ask the Lord to take Peter safely home to be a peace for ever. It is appropriate that his remains stay here in our church for a night, before his burial. As a young boy Peter often came here to be with his grandfather Denis Fitzpatrick, who was a Knight of the Shrine all through his adult life.
We extend our deepest sympathy to his parents Pat and Tom, his brother Garry and Keith and the extended family and friends. We pray that the Lord will console them and give them strength to bear their heavy loss. Peter may your good soul rest in peace..
Mass For a deceased Young Man: “Why?” (Tom Cooney)
I once saw a large picture on a wall in a convent in New Ross entitled The Return from Calvary. The artist was trying to convey a message that is relevant to all of us gathered here this morning for the funeral Mass for Peter. The picture shows Our Lady being led up the steps of a house on the arm of a young man, obviously St John. Mary, the broken hearted mother is facing toward the left, yet all the other faces in the picture, St. John and three or 4 others, are looking back to the right, where on a hill one can see three crosses, starkly in the background. The expression on their faces is one of horror. WHY, WHY, WHY did a young man like that have to die? Jesus after all he had done for his people – why did he have to die? The artist seems to capture in Mary a particular sense of faith, that somehow in all of this death, pain and loss, God is taking care of things. We just don’t understand now, Yet all will be well.
As we heard in the Gospel Jesus did rise from the dead on Easter Sunday and promised to share his new life with his followers. That is our faith, in death we believe life is changed not ended. We will share his life for ever. The point is made so eloquently by Paul in his letter to the Romans, “Nothing can come between us and the love of God, made visible in Christ Jesus Our Lord.”
Today we come to say our farewell to Peter, to thank the Lord for his life and the many hours of enjoyment he gave to people through his work as a sound engineer over the years at the Abbey, the Peacock and other theatres. It is an opportunity as well to say thanks for his love of life and the friendship he gave to so many people, in so many places. Yes in the spirit of the first Reading (Book of Wisdom) a person like Peter who lives life to the full and dies before his time will indeed find rest. It is with confidence that we ask the Lord to take him safely home to be a peace. And we extend our sympathy to his father and mother Pat and Tom, his brother and all the extended family and friends. We pray that the Lord will give them the strength to bear their great loss.
Peter you will be missed. We send you forth with the old Irish blessing.
May the road rise with you,
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm on your face.
Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand. Amen
For Philomena, Wife and Mother (Tom Cooney)
Prayer service in the home
We gather here this evening in the house that Philomena made a home, for Noel and herself and all the children, Mary Brigit, Catherine, Anna, Fidelma, Dolores, Noel and Edwina. We come to remember her and to say thanks to God for her 52 years of life as a loving wife and mother. Philomena was only 52, she was born in the middle year of the 20th century. The question may rightly be asked, Why did she have to die so young? As I have had to say to others over the past few weeks, I don’t have a proper answer to this, the hardest of all questions. But there is an image that may help us come to terms with her parting, is that of the horizon. If you look out from the coastline you can see what is on the water for a number of miles out to sea, but you know and that beyond that horizon are miles of water and of foreign lands that the human eye can’t see from the shore. Life is like that. While we are here on earth our vision is limited, and maybe it is just as well. But we know that God can see all that vast area of sea and land, for the whole world is in His hands. We know that our God is a loving God, a caring God , all we can do is leave Philomena in his care, knowing that with God she is safe.
Even so, her parting is a great loss, a great sorrow, and she will be sadly missed. Missed by the family, by her brothers Seamus and Richard, Auntie Breege and all the extended family . Tonight as we gather here I believe she would want us to remember her, with gladness rather than sorrow. Let us see this as an opportunity to share our memories of Philomena. It’s a gathering in the home she loved, and Philomena loved nothing better than sharing all the news and items of interest with family and friends. Even the last few weeks in hospital she was hosting visitors, yes Philomena was hospitable until the end..
I think that she would want me to say to all gathered here in her own home that she is at peace. Now she has no more pain and she was ready to meet the Lord.
In one of her harder moments in the hospital she asked the nurse “Tell me, am I dying” The nurse said “Philomena I think your are.” Later that morning Auntie Breege came to see Philomena and Philomena told her “I will be in heaven before you.”
Our sympathy to Noel and all the family on their loss Philomena in her own way will be looking after you in death as she looked after you all in life. May she rest in peace.
Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.. Amen.
For Jessica, a great old Lady (Tom Cooney)
Anybody coming to this church, as Kate did over the years, will notice the two large statutes at the back, of St. Augustine and his mother St. Monica. Those statutes can help to remind us why in fact we are gathered here this morning. When Augustine and his brother, with their mother Monica, were in the seaport town of Ostia, near Rome, waiting for a ship to take them back home to North Africa, Monica fell seriously ill. Augustine later records in his Confessions how upset both he and his brother were to see that she was clearly dying. Before she died, Monica uttered those immortal words that made such an impression on her sons: “Bury me wherever you will. All I ask is that you will remember me whenever you are at the Table of the Lord.” That is what we are doing for our own friend Kate this morning: Remembering her at the Table of the Lord.
We thank God for her 84 full years of life, for all the good she did, for her family, friends and customers. A devoted wife and mother a much loved lady, she ran her business in Meath Street for nearly 50 years. She was a fine business woman who took good care of her customers, and a woman of faith who came to Mass here over all the years.
As we give thanks for her life, we ask God now to forgive any faults she may have had and to take her home to be reunited again with husband Jack and all the family friends who have gone before her.
We extend our sympathy as well to her son Jack, daughter Pauline, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and those relatives and friends who will miss here most.
I have no doubt that as Saint Monica asked her sons to remember her at the altar of the Lord, it is Kate’s wish that her family would want to remember her at the altar of the Lord whereever you go. May she rest in peace Amen.
For Marianne, Wife and Mother (Tom Cooney)
Reception in the church
We thank God for her long life; Marianne would have been 83 next birthday. A woman who dedicated her life to the family, she will be remembered as a loving wife and mother and in the latter years, grandmother.
Marianne had a kind word, a remark for everybody. A woman with a mind of her own and had the courage and conviction to express her thoughts and ideas. Yes she will be sadly missed by her family, friends and neighbours.
We extend our deepest sympathy to her children E., F and A, the extended family and all the grandchildren who miss her so much. We pray that they may they find comfort in their loss knowing that she is now at peace, returned to God, along with her husband Michael and all her departed relations and friends.
Eternal rest grant to her O Lord and Let perpetual light shine on her for ever. May she rest in peace.
“Sure there’s loads of space” (Homily at her Mass)
In a unique way, today Christmas Eve is the appropriate day for this Mass as we come to thank God for the long life, 83 next February, of Marianne.. Her outlook and attitude to life is caught for me in the incident of the young boy who was playing the part of the inn-keeper in the school Nativity play. When Joseph and Mary came knocking at the door of the Inn looking for a bed for the night, the little boy, to the surprise of the teachers and the other pupils said in a loud voice, “Sure there is loads of space. Come on in. You are heartily welcome.” The parents in the audience realised the boy had departed from the script but they felt that his heart was in the right place.
Marianne’s heart was also in the right place. In the word of her daughter, “she was the best neighbour anyone could look for. She had a policy of open house, perhaps not always appreciated by the rest of the family. For her, there was always space for drop-outs and for anyone in need.”
Marianne was a woman with strong social consciince. In her earlier years she was involved in the Sancta Maria Hostel, finding ways to help young women find a better life than walking the streets of the city. In the later years she was involved both politically and in the Evergreen active retirement groups, willing to serve on committees and be involved, yes to be of service to the neighbour. Like Mary in the Gospel today going to Elizabeth at her time of need, Marianne found that this is what the faith is all about, taking care of those in need.
Marianne was also a woman who enjoyed life and was always fun to be with. She loved ballroom dancing and was a great jazz fan. She recalled with a smile in her eye, that she was in the choir with John McCormack as they sang for the Eucharistic Congress of 1932.
With her late husband Michael she was involved of course in her local church here in T., and served on the altar society for years. She also was a great supporter of the Foreign Missions, and did a lot of work over the years for the Holy Ghost and Redemptorist Missionaries.
Today we thank God for her dedication and commitment as a follower of the Lord. And I have no doubt that Jesus had a message for the family in calling her home at this time, coming up to Christmas. It can serve to remind her family and indeed all of us who knew Marianne that Christmas means being alert to the needs of those around us. Like her, and in the spirit of the little boy in the play, we too should say: “Sure there is loads of space. Come on in. You are heartily welcome.”
Yes in her dying at this time she gave here her final word to her children and her grandchildren. “Have an open heart for those in need.”
We come as well today to ask the Lord to take her safely home. In the spirit of the first reading today we believe the Lord will indeed take those who have lived life well into a live of eternal peace
We pray too for her children E , F, and A,, her extended family and friends and especially her grandchildren, and extend to them our sympathy on their loss. May their grief and sorrow in her passing be consoled by the promise of the Lord that he indeed is the shepherd who takes care of his flock. Marianne was indeed one of his own. A woman who had total trust in the Lord. A trust captured in the image of the lines of the footprints in the sand which tells of the dream where the person saw their life as a set of footprints in the sand and noticed that Lords footprints were there as well but noticed that at difficult times in their life there was only one set of footprints and so asked the “Lord why did you leave me when I need you most?” and the reply came back “That was the time I was carrying you.” Lord we pray that you continue to carry Marianne a so be reunited with her dear husband Michael and all her friends in heaven. Amen.
The Tragedy of Suicide (John O’Connell)
When I was very young a neighbour whom I knew fairly well committed suicide. I remember vividly, as if it were yesterday, being very frightened. By their hushed tones and their whispering, the grown ups made it clear that this was not something to be spoken of in front of children. For them it was a terrible thing to happen in the locality.
Since then attitudes have changed. People now accept that suicide is much more common than they were willing to admit in the past and people are more understanding. And rightly so. Suicide in most cases is the result of a psychological illness, a disease that is no more sinful than cancer, high blood pressure and heart attacks.
We are creatures of body and spirit – either can break down. Some die from cancer, high blood pressure and heart attacks; others die from emotional cancer, emotional high blood pressure and emotional heart attacks. In both cases the death is not freely chosen. In both cases there is no despair.
Most suicide victims are trapped persons, caught up in a private emotional hell which is an illness and not a sin.. Their suicide is a desperate attempt to end unendurable pain like a man whose clothing has caught fire might throw himself through a window.
They are not met by our human judgements on the other side, but by a God whose understanding and compassion is beyond our present imaginings. God’s understanding and compassion are much deeper than ours and God’s hands are infinitely gentler than our own.
Those left behind do tend to anxiously ask themselves over and over again what they might have done differently. When a loved one dies by suicide we can’t help but ask ourselves: ‘If only I had been there. Why was I absent just that morning?’ But we were not there precisely because the loved one did not want us to be there and picked the moment, the venue and the means precisely with that in mind.
Certainly it is not for us to judge, much less condemn. Yet it is not a course of action that one would ever encourage. Apart from anything else it nearly always leaves behind devastated family and friends, a trauma from which they never fully recover. Also, remember help is available in the shape of groups like the Samaritans to bring them through the dark night of the soul.
At a Month’s Mind (Tom Cooney)
Welcome. It is hard to believe that a month has passed since Jessica died.
We come tonight to celebrate the month’s Mind Mass, a custom that has a long tradition in our Catholic tradition. It is based on the belief, as we read in the book of Maccabees, that it is good to pray for the dead, that they may be freed from their sins. This Mass is also meant to bring comfort to those who have been left behind. When my one mother died a few years ago, after a few days life went on as before, and you felt like shouting out “Does nobody know what has happened? My mother has died.” Often we have to learn to come to grips with a sad situation. It is at times like these we need our memories and our faith
Hold on to your memories of Jessica and what you did together when you were small and when you were growing up. These were a real part of your life and the always will be.
Our faith, too, tells us that in death, life is changed not ended; and that God has prepared a place for us that is better than this where we now are.
We thank the Lord for her life her example, her dedication, her commitment – as a wife, mother, sister, teacher. This was truly a woman of faith.
We ask the Lord to give her rest and we pray for one another, and especially her family, that they can accept the loss and go on living life to the best of their ability, following her constant motto: “Do your best, for that’s the best we can do.” Let us pray that she may rest in peace Amen.
Wedding: Day for Giving and Receiving (Tom Cooney)
“Giving and receiving” is the thread that links the readings chosen by Emer and Aaron for today’s ceremony. That first reading from the Song of Songs talks of love, my beloved is mine and I am his, reflecting God’s care for each of us. For the Christian human love is an expression of the divine care, so Aaron’s love for Emer and Emer’s love for Aaron which they wish to declare in public today as being for life has that Divine dimension or quality.
Of course, in order to grow and develop, such love needs attention and that is the point made by Paul in the 2nd Reading (Colossians): Let you be clothed in heartfelt compassion, in generosity, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another forgiving one another. Always be thankful.”
That is the way forward. On behalf of all your friends gathered here, let me congratulate you on taking this step. We all wish you well and, as the Gospel promises, you will not be one your own. The Lord will be there to guide you and protect you all the days of your lives together.
So today when you promise to give yourselves to each other, you’ll receive in return the best gift of all: your love for one another. May God bless you both
“No Parking, Please” (Tom Cooney)
A number of years ago while I was teaching a confirmation class of boys and girls of 12 to 13 years of age I put a sign on the blackboard many of will recognise. It was the two Greek letter that look like and X and R to emphasise it I put a circle around it and asked the class “what do you think it means?” There was silence, then one little girl put her hand up
“I know, Father.”
“What is it, then?”
“No Parking, Father.”
Out of the mouth of babes speaks wisdom. Because as most of you know, what looks like an X in Greek is Ch and what looks like a P is R in Greek, the first two letters for the word Christos. What the little girl said was true in this deep sense, that in our relationship with Christ as in any relationship people either grow closer together or they start to drift apart. There really is “No Parking” where relationships are concerned.
Emer and Aaron have come here today with family and friend to publicly declare that they wish their relationship to become permanent for life. The have come as well to ask God to bless their marriage. We have heard in the Scriptures they chose for their ceremony how God has blessed the union of couples from the start; so now we join them in asking our loving God to bless them not only today but throughout the whole of their married lives.
The Gospel tells us how such a union will grow deeper and deeper by their love for one another. And St. Paul explains what that can mean in practical terms: “Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, love is not arrogant or rude, love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, love bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, loves never ends.”
Dear friends, that too is our wish for your married love, now and in the future. And whenever you see a “No Parking” sign let it be a reminder that in your relationship there can be no Parking, no settling for mere routine, since the Lord himself has promised to bless you all the days of your married life together.
When The Wine Runs Out (Flor McCarthy)
What happened at the wedding at Cana happens sooner or later in every marriage, namely, the wine runs out. What do we mean by this?
Hardly any enterprise creates such high expectations as marriage. The typical marriage starts off with a feast of joy. The couple are surrounded by friends and well-wishers who shower them with gifts. Full of hopes and dreams, they set off on their honeymoon. The wine is flowing freely.
They come back from the honeymoon and the real business begins – setting up a home and learning to live with one another. At first they find great joy in each other’s company. They are convinced that their love was pre-ordained in heaven and meant to last for eternity. It looks as if their expectations are going to be fulfilled. The wine is still flowing.
But when human beings are close to one another problems inevitably occur. As the partners get to know one another, they discover that they didn’t marry an angel after all, but an imperfect human being, with the same needs and failings as themselves. (It is said that you fall in love with someone by choosing who you wish they were, but then find out who they really are).
Everything is so different from what they expected. The honeymoon is over. The wine has run out. What are they to do? Some may be tempted to run out with the wine, declaring: ‘There’s nothing in it for me any longer.’ For some people marriage is only a passing alliance of two selfish human beings. So, when they have taken all they can from each other, they look elsewhere for more fruit that can be picked and eaten without pain or effort.
But what can a couple do? The first thing is not to panic or despair. They must face the fact that the first wine has run out. The second thing is to beware of looking for false substitutes. They must resist the temptation to abandon the relationship and lose themselves in a career or a hectic social life. The third thing is to work on their relationship. If they do this, they will grow as persons and discover the real meaning of love. In this way the crisis can become an opportunity.
Here is a surprising thing: it is necessary that the first wine should run out. Otherwise the new wine can’t come in. The first wine stands for first love, or romantic love, as it’s called. Romantic love is not an aberration. It is a powerful taste of the divine. But it doesn’t last. However, this is not a tragedy. In fact, it is a necessity. It has to wear out so that a new and deeper love can be born.
Love transcends feelings. The new love is typified by Mary’s attitude at Cana – ‘they have no wine’. It consists in putting the other person before ourselves. This new love goes deeper than the oscillations of one’s feelings and moods. It means learning to love the real person and not some idealised self-projection.
Love is a difficult adventure. To enter marriage is to enter a school of love, a school in which all are slow learners. It requires a lot of effort to go from a desire to receive to a desire to give. It is impossible to unaided human nature. This is why, like the couple of Cana, we need the presence of Christ.
The changing of water into wine symbolises what Jesus’ ministry was about. He changed beyond recognition the lives of those who came into contact with him. And he continues to do this for those who believe in him and follow him. He offers us something that we pine for but can’t achieve on our own. He offers us a share in the divine life of God. He brings a joy which the world cannot give.
The new wine is meant not just for married couples but for everyone. The new wine cannot be put into old wineskins. This means we have to change. The Holy Spirit has to touch our hearts so that we can love unselfishly.
It’s Not Good To Be Alone (Flor McCarthy)
A tree planted in an exposed place is at the mercy of every wind that blows. This makes it very vulnerable. If it survives at all, it will be in a stunted form. If you want a tree to grow to its full potential, you must plant it in a more sheltered place. And ideally you should plant some other trees near it. For the best results, the trees should be more or less equal.
It is of vital importance to get the space between the trees right. They must be close enough to be able to provide shelter and protection for one another. But they must not be so close that they smother one another. Each tree must have room to grow to its full potential.
It is not good for a tree to be alone. And the Bible says, it is not good for a human being to be alone. We need other people in order to become all that God intended us to become. To feel this need is not a sign of sickness but of health. Without a close relationship with at least one other human being we will be at the mercy of the cold winds of loneliness.
God first gave Adam the animals. But Adam was unable to find a suitable partner among them. Then God gave Adam a woman, Eve. And Adam recognised in her a fitting companion and partner. She was made of the same material as himself, possessed the same dignity as himself, and therefore was his equal. True community can be created only among equals. And so, leaving his parents, Adam joined himself to Eve, and they became ‘one body’.
This doesn’t mean that they became completely one. This is neither possible nor desirable. When two people get married they become like those trees we talked about earlier. In the ideal marriage there is both closeness and space. The closeness means the partners are able to provide mutual support for one another. The space ensures that they do not stifle one another’s growth.
How to achieve closeness without stifling or dominating one another is a great challenge. It calls for a special kind of love. False love seeks to keep the other in subjection. It dreads the idea that the other should have a separate life, with separate interests, separate friends, and separate goals. True love, on the other hand, respects the right, indeed the need, of the other to be an autonomous person.
The couple must be united in such a way that their separateness and loneliness are overcome, yet they are free to be themselves. Their differences are not denied, much less suppressed. Rather, they are encouraged, and so become a source of mutual enrichment.
Today N. and N. are committing themselves to one another in marriage. They are in effect saying to each other: ‘I’m ready to stand by your side. I’ll be there with you, yet I have no desire to smother, or dominate, or possess you. I’ll be there to help you to grow to your full potential. I hope that you can do the same for me.’
Trees cannot receive everything they need from one another. They must also receive from outside sources – from the sun, the rain, the soil… In the same way a couple cannot give to one another all that they need. They must be open to receive from outside sources – from other people and, above all, from God. We are not trees. We are God’s precious children. God wants to see us grow and have life.
Every marriage is bound to know difficulties. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Trees that grow on hard ground have firmer roots, and thus are better equipped to meet the inevitable storms. In the same way, there is more depth to a relationship that has weathered some storms.
Here are a few more homiletic pieces that were kindly supplied by John O’Connell:
Funeral of a Person with Down’s Syndrome
Paul Masterson was a very special person. He served Mass here in our parish for twenty years. After Tommie Kinsella (who is in the Guinness book of records!) Paul is the longest serving Mass server ever in our parish Church. He was meticulous in doing things the right way. Hands joined in the way laid down. He loved serving funeral Masses. After Mass he would identify the woman who seemed to be the chief mourner, give her a big hug and bring smiles all round no matter how sad the situation.
Paul’s party piece was ‘Danny Boy’ and the two of us often did a duet. The fact that neither of us had a note in our heads did not seem to matter.
Paul was a man with Down syndrome (by the way he would have been 50 next birthday). We tend to see people like Paul as people who receive from others. In fact Paul gave far more than he received. He brought love and laughter with him wherever he went, His handicap did not prevent him from enjoying life to the full. He liked his glass of beer when his health allowed it. Somehow or other when Paul arrived into the sacristy to serve Mass the atmosphere seemed to light up. He cheered us all up
One of the worries of parents of a child like Paul is that if you die before him what will happen to him. Paul’s parents John and Mary did go before him, but there was no need to worry. Mary died last November knowing that Paul was in safe and loving hands in the St. John of God nursing home, St. Joseph’s, Crinken Lane and that his sister Patricia and his other sisters and brothers would continue to lavish love on him.
The last time I saw Paul was in the hospital in Loughlinstown. I was kind of jealous of him. There he was with six women round his bed – his three sisters and their friends – hugging him and caring for him.
St Paul in the first reading speaks of the weak confounding the strong and Jesus in the gospel telling us that God reveals the mysteries to the little ones. Paul knew nothing about the stock market or the rate of inflation or things like that, but he knew an awful lot about the important simple things in life – friendship and laughter and hugs and kisses.
The world looks at Paul and sees a person with handicap. God looks and sees a prophet – somebody who brought the best out in the rest of us. He was a huge unifying influence in his own family, all of whom were so devoted to him. We extend to them our sympathy – Peg, Jim, John, Tom, Maryanne and pat. They will miss him, but I know they regard themselves as privileged to have had him as a brother.
The second reading from St. Paul – the life and death of each of us has its influence on others. We are all better people because we had the good fortune of having known Paul.
Babette’s Feast and God’s Extravagance
I liked the film “Babette’s Feast”. Babette had a special gift for making good food in the best restaurant in Paris. She was forced to leave Paris during the revolution. She went to Denmark. There she pleaded with two elderly ladies to give her refuge. They were very pious, daughters of an austere Lutheran pastor who believed that if something gave pleasure it must be sinful and to be avoided. Without revealing her background she promised to cook for them. They accepted her.
17 years later she received a letter from Paris with 10,000 Francs. She had won in a lottery. She made a request to the ladies. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of their Father’s birth she would like to give them, their friends and the villagers a dinner. There was one condition. It would have to be a French style dinner. They agreed and preparations started. The best of foods, wines and spirits were brought all the way from Paris, every conceivable nicety, plus silver salvers all the way. The ladies and the villagers got worried about the extravagance. Tongues were made for praising God, not for tasting exotic foods. Then they held a meeting and decided to go to the feast to eat, but not to enjoy it, and make no comments about the food.
All arrived, tables were laid and served, the night warmed up, hearts softened, tongues loosened, old rows were resolved, people openly forgave each other. The night ended in the courtyard with all holding hands and singing together.
Finally the film showed Babette in the kitchen having served all night. She was telling the ladies of her joy. This was her greatest moment. The meal cost 10,000 Francs, exactly what it would cost in Paris in her old restaurant.
That crazy extravagance is a taste of God.
This is not simply a story of a fine meal but a parable of grace: a gift that costs everything of the giver and nothing for the receiver. We do not earn God’s favour with our pieties and renunciations. It comes as it always does, free of charge, no strings attached, on the house.
We have the same message in today’s gospel: a crazy farmer who not only pays the same wage to the people who worked for one hour as he did to those who did a heavy day’s work in all the heat. And to make it worse, the late comers were paid first. The others were angry and so would you and I be. It seems so unfair.
Why did Jesus tell that story? He was not talking about a just wage or how to run a successful business. In fact he was talking about the God that he believed in. This is what God is like. The parable is about the super-abundant mercy of God which is held out to sinners whether they come late or early in the day.
The parable makes little sense from the point of view of strict justice. But which of us would want to be treated by God according to strict justice. Do we not stand more in need of his mercy? Shakespeare god it right: “Though justice by thy plea, consider this – that in the course of justice none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy.” And we can do so with confidence.
50th anniversary of Vatican II
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, called together by Pope John 23rd. Many bishops from all over the world came to Rome for the event and some of them had a long list of things and people to be condemned. That was the inheritance of the council of Trent with its anathema sits. No, no, said Pope John. You do not understand. We do not want this council to condemn anyone or anything. We have had enough of saying ‘no’ to the world. Now is the time we want to say ‘yes’.
Having served as papal nuntio in Istanbul he knew all about the crusades – those so-called holy wars against so-called infidels and the blood and destruction and hatred they left after them. He told anyone who would listen that he didn’t want to see any more crusades, not even against communism. That was an amazing statement for a Pope to make because at that time in Italy communism was seen as the great enemy of both Church and state. Around the same time he told some communists from Bologna ‘you don’t have to be catholic as long as you are helping to make a better world’.
For Pope John that rule applied across the board. More and more people today claim to be atheists or humanist. Again we can say to them you don’t have to be a catholic or even a theist as long as you are helping to make a better world as indeed many of you are doing
Millions of people in Europe (including Ireland) and America are what some people describe as ‘lapsed Catholics’. I don’ like the term ‘lapsed’ but it refers to people who once were Church going people but not any longer for different reason. We don’t say to them ‘go away, we don’t want you’. For the most part they are good living people, caring for their families, good neighbours with a concern for the needy and disadvantaged. Again we can say to them you don’t have to be at Mass every Sunday as long as you are helping to build a better world. We are all in that together.
One way of looking at the two great commandments – love God mad love the neighbour- is to try and see goodness in the people that up to now you saw as enemies or opponents. Rather than continually condemning and knocking one another, acknowledge that we have much in common and that we can work together for the good of all.