Lost for words – at a Funeral

I was in a little church in Kilmoganny yesterday (Monday). Mairead Moran’s funeral took place. She had been murdered last Thursday in Kilkenny. The church was packed some three quarters of an hour before the funeral arrived. The crowd was huge. The church was very small. There was a radio link to the Church of Ireland building across the road.
It was a profoundly sad funeral. What struck me most forcibly throughout the Mass was the silence. This is a silence I am accustomed to – with all such funerals and I am too familiar with too many tragedies. That same silence continued on the long walk to the Graveyard and in the graveyard.
In such silences, I always wonder how can our Ritual speak to the heart-broken? I wonder what can our words say? The attentiveness of everyone shouts out the wish to hear something. What have we to say or can we say anything? The stupidity of the New Missal embarrasses me especially on such occasions.
I am even more concerned in our own parish with such funerals when the vast majority of people are not used to being in Church. Where can we find the words? What can we do? How can we create the atmosphere of reverence and gentleness and the humility of inadequacy? It is all so sacred and dangerous. Our parish team and funeral teams help us to be somewhat stronger together and more in touch.
I was thinking too of a Meeting this evening of the three Parish Councils in our Cluster and some of the words I had to say. It struck me (as an aside) that there are c. 330 funerals in this Cluster each year. And I wonder what can we do to enable something of Christ break through in those moments. The other parishes have most of these funerals.
I recalled also two weeks ago here in the parish: We had a Wedding on Thursday; a tragic death on the Friday; Seven Baptisms on the Saturday; weekend Masses as usual; a funeral Mass on the Monday with this young man whose father and uncle had been shot death some years ago; and a Mass on the Tuesday in the house where a young man had died who had taken some drugs. The privilege of being part of all this was holy but the emotional elasticity is quite something. How can we juggle words to say anything in the midst of all of this? While the usual life goes on regardless…….
Mairead’s funeral was full of dignity. Her mother Margo spoke with such love and some humour. My own mind wandered back to Mairead’s grandmother Biddy who was my god-mother. I recalled Christmas day always at Biddy’s. I recalled apple tarts on all other visits. I recalled Biddy dyeing her hair and being caught by the local priest and the embarrassment of it all. I recalled Mick (Mairead’s grandfather) driving home after taking visiting the Augustinian Novitiate: My mother said to Mick – “I can’t see a thing.” Mick replied: “May, neither can I.”
We walk in the boreens of many lives and are touched by so many people and moments and places. And those moments speak in prayer and truly we are lost for words.   The silence speaks volumes.        Seamus Ahearne osa

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  1. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Thanks, Séamus. You capture something of the privilege it is to serve so many different people at deeply personal times of their lives. In such situations, we pray that in some way those most affected, and all who come to be with them, will discover the touch of Jesus and be that touch for others.

  2. Paddy Ferry says:

    Beautiful, moving piece, Seamus. Thank you.

  3. Margaret Trench says:

    What a truly honest reflection on caring for people in all kinds of situations.
    It’s what our priests do so well every day.
    It’s what we appreciate them for although we probably don’t tell them this too often.
    Pastoral care is the focus of Pope Francis and it’s at the heart of priesthood.
    Seamus shows how it’s done in this piece.

  4. Although I don’t do nearly so many funerals, there are many times that I experience the range of emotional events that Seamus speaks of. We stand with those who suffer and with those who rejoice and draw upon our own experiences of those emotions, both to understand and to reflect. While our experiences may differ,our emotions and feelings and reactions are very much the same, and that is what makes it possible for us to minister to others.
    Thanks Seamus for putting this into a perspective for me. bill

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