Mass for Deceased Priests

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Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin 

Archbishop of Dublin

Pro-Cathedral, 7th November 2020


“This morning we remember nineteen priests who have died over the past year and who in various ways ministered in our parishes and hospitals. We miss them. Yet their memory remains.   Their ministry is not forgotten.

Much of that ministry was carried out with great discretion, without any seeking of publicity, but we know that it had been of vital help and comfort to men and women at difficult moments in their lives.  The ministry of Mass and the Sacraments was at the centre of their spirituality and the inspiration for their preaching of the Word of God and their witnessing to the life of charity.

These nineteen priests are remembered in a special way by their fellow priests, as having been true examples of priestly ministry and as zealous members of the body of Dublin clergy.  None of us is a priest on our own.  We belong to a presbyterate.  We learn from each other and we support each other.  The death of one of our priests has echoes throughout the entire presbyterate.

This annual Mass is important also because it is a moment when the relatives and friends of deceased priests remember someone who was also a beloved family member.  Sadly we cannot be together physically this year.  In normal times, this Mass would give us the opportunity to take time together.

At the time of funerals, because bereavement and grief are so raw, it is difficult for a real encounter of recognition of what the priest meant to his family and what his family meant to each priest.  If the family homes of our deceased priests could speak, they would reveal stories of thoughtfulness and care that extended over generations.

I thank the families who may be watching online this morning for the way you looked after but also treasured your priest relative.

Where does death lead? Our first reading reminds us that death is not the end. It speaks of when the tent that we live in on earth is folded up and we inherit an everlasting home not made of human hands, but built by God.

The idea of a tent speaks of something precarious, temporary and fragile.    It illustrates the fact that our earthly existence is brought to fulfilment after death, when our precarious earthly life is taken up into eternity, as our eternal and faithful God embraces us.

Our earthly life is precarious, marked by our fragility and failure.   That life however is not unrelated to what is eternal.  What is brought to fulfilment for all eternity is the individual person that we are, body and soul.  In eternity, we remain ourselves.  The many mansions that are mentioned in Saint John’s Gospel remind us of how our individuality flourishes in eternity with God.  How we live our lives now, bears already the signs and hopes of eternity.

We are called to live in hope.  In our Gospel reading, we read how if we turn to Jesus even with all our limitations and imperfections he will never turn us away.  He does not wish to lose anything that his Father has given him.  In all the doubts and vicissitudes of life, Jesus accompanies us on our journey.

The disciples on the Road to Emmaus felt that Jesus had abandoned them.    He had disappeared from their lives. The Jesus who had been the ground for so much hope is no longer with them. They move away from Jerusalem.   It seems to be the end.

Then something happens.  They find Jesus walking alongside them. He opens and explains the words of the scripture and hope and joy return.  The ministry of the priest is one where, through living like Jesus, he can accompany people in their search for hope in the challenges of life.

We look back at the life and ministry of these nineteen Dublin priests who died over the past year.   Taken together this group of priests exercised ministry for over one thousand years.  They were priests of earlier times, but through the constancy and fidelity of their dedication in ministry, they represent something that is important for our troubled and changing times.

We live in difficult and changing times and there is a danger that that experience of insecurity generated by the pandemic can lead us to become inward looking as individuals and as a Church.  The experience of the pandemic leaves us uncertain.

In these times, we have every right to make an appeal that the temporary suspension of public worship, needed to prevent the spread of the virus, should last for a shortest possible time.

However, the Christian life is not suspended.  The life of the Church must go on and must go on with renewed vigour.  Our wounded society needs the witness of authentically lived Christian lives.   Like Jesus on the road to Emmaus we, his disciples, are called to be alongside others, bringing them consolation and care, meaning and hope as their hearts are troubled.

Our affection and respect for these nineteen priests we remember today comes from the way that they lived their ministry undaunted by the ups and downs of society and we know that the Lord will rewards their constancy with the gift of eternal light and peace.” ENDS