It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything. Not sure why that is! Maybe my laziness is reaching into cyberspace too …..
I had a good few weeks and was sort of busy, thank God. I was involved in two Diocesan Priests’ Retreats (Tuam and Armagh) and was very happy to meet decent and good men in both settings. It’s a bit daunting to speak to other priests about the life we are trying to live but, thankfully, both groups made me very welcome and allowed me great freedom to be me! For that, I was and am grateful.
We had First Holy Communion in the Parish as well and that was a lovely occasion. Eleven of our youngest parishioners were involved and they all did so well. I was proud of them all and thankful to their teacher, parents, families and all who supported them along the road to their special day.
My Ordination Class had its annual gathering too and I was happy to meet a number of my classmates there. One of them seems to be a regular reader of this blog!! He even knew about “BOBBY’S” rambles to me.
There have been two funerals in the parish in the last few weeks. Both good people, God rest them, and bless those left to mourn. Funerals are so important and it’s very reassuring to see how people rally around one another over those important days.
I was in Donegal yesterday and managed to catch up with a priest I’d not seen in many years – Fr Colm O’Gallchoir, the parish priest of Killybegs. I met Colm first in 1986 when I spent part of the summer as a deacon in St Gabriel’s Church, Holloway Road, London. He was a good man then and times have not changed him. He showed me around the Parish Church in Killybegs and it’s a credit to all involved. Took home a few ideas with me so we’ll see how they go …..
I’ve a wedding at the weekend in Dublin and look forward to that and to meeting the couple again. Hoping to call to a house, while there, to visit a family whose daughter I baptized a few years ago and who, on Saturday, celebrates her First Holy Communion. It’s good of the family to remember me and I hope to get to see them at some stage on the day.
Hoping to go to Lough Derg on Monday for a Day Pilgrimage from the parish. At the moment there’s about nineteen travelling but we might pick up one or two between now and then. I hope it goes well.
Anyway, that’s the story today … must make a better effort to keep blog updated.
For the third year, we gathered on Easter Sunday Morning for a Dawn Mass in the grounds of Urlaur Abbey. There was a fine gathering of people from the parish and beyond – some from Ballymote, Curry, Charlestown, Carracastle, Knock, Kiltimagh, Ballaghaderreen, Monasteraden and, I’m sure, other places. It was lovely to see so many come together to welcome “hope” on Easter Sunday.
I shared a few words there, as I had done at the Vigil Mass and, again at the later Masses of Easter Day.
I mentioned that I was moving a bookcase in my bedroom earlier in the week and that a bank card fell on the ground. I felt it wasn’t mine but I stooped to pick it up and noticed it was a card of my mother’s. It expired in 2008, a year before she herself entered Eternity. I said I looked at the card for a while and it was the standard issue – embossed lettering giving her name, the expiry date and other details, the logo of the bank and the little security tag. In effect, a piece of plastic.
It was when I turned it over its full story unfolded. On the back I saw my mother’s signature. The writing was shaky but the name and signature hers. I found myself sitting back on my bed and crying. I cried, not flowing or endless tears, but those tears that well up in the eyes, burn a little and surprise you by their arrival. Real tears nonetheless that both shocked and reassured me. Shocked insofar as they were not expected and reassured to the degree I realised yet again, the strong bond that exists within family and among loved ones. It is a bond that transcends time and bursts open graves. There was a presence in that signature.
What struck me most was remembering my mother say to me many times; “Nobody will ever love you as much as I do”. I have two brothers and I have no doubt her love for them was as strong but I suspect she may have said this to me more often since they have families of their own. It struck me, as I looked at the bank card, that she was saying to me I’d never be alone and that her love would always be there. (So too, and I know this for certain, my father’s, R.I.P.)
I wondered though how seriously I took her words to heart when she spoke them. Did I really allow them in? Did I fully believe what she was saying? Though, I’m happy enough I believed it, chances are I didn’t fully understand.
That’s the link with the Easter Story in my mind this weekend. The women go to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, not to meet the Risen Christ but to anoint a dead body. Time had denied them the opportunity on the Friday evening in the shadow of the approaching Sabbath so he was buried without the customary anointing. They felt badly about this and wanted to set things right. So, it was to visit the dead they went that morning, not to witness the central teaching of our Faith, that “he is risen”. The Angels told the women that he had, in fact, risen and added “as he said he would”. That’s the line that hit me very much this weekend – “as he said he would”.
They heard him say it but seemingly it hadn’t sunken into their hearts. Yes, they believed but, no more than my mother’s words, they hadn’t fully grasped that he absolutely meant what he was saying.
Jesus used words well. He would have been quite at home in the world of “Twitter” and “SMS” where a few characters tell a story that far outweighs their numbers. It’s not that Jesus was mean with his words or careful how much he said. He said what needed to be said and, more than that, he meant it.
Maybe we need to hear his words again – perhaps some of our favourite phrases from the Scripture – and allow them sink in, be real, understood and believed.
I told the people on the shore in Urlaur (and at other Easter Masses last weekend) that I’ve told them many times I am proud of them, happy to be with them, grateful to them and I wondered did they really believe me or think these were just words falling from an open mouth? I mentioned my classmate, Archbishop Eamon Martin, whom I’d seen on TV during the week. He was speaking at a presentation of awards to young people in the Archdiocese of Armagh and said that the young people were not our “future” but were, more vitally, our “present”. I had not thought of it in that way before. I said that I had tried to encourage young people over the years to be involved in parish life since they are the new generation and the builders of the church of tomorrow but, listening to Eamon, I had it wrong – they are our “now” – it is today we need them, depend on them, hope in them and call them to life in the Faith. Again, I did not want these to be words they hear but don’t believe. I’d like to think, I’m saying what I believe, despite my own confusions and uncertainties from time to time.
“Nobody will ever love you as much as I do” …. a plastic card, a shaky signature but a totally TRUE statement.
Yesterday we had a Funeral Mass here for a little baby girl, Sarah Ann. We tried to support her parents and family around the Altar and through God’s Word. It was lovely to see so many people there with the family, offering support and the certainty of their presence, even in the uncertainty of the moment. I want to share the few lines used at Mass yesterday. I hope they might bring comfort, maybe to a reader, who knows all too well the story of loss in these circumstances.
Dear Mammy, Daddy, Amy and Seán,
Thank you for your letters, I’ve read them over and over. Amy’s picture of the church is lovely. It’s great to have them and I know that I’ll often look at them. I thought maybe I should write to you too. I hope it makes sense …
Thanks for welcoming me! I felt so safe with you – that seems a daft thing to say since how else could I feel. I loved the way you talked about me and, though you might not have said it out loud, wondered what I’d be like, who I’d be like. I wondered that too. Chances are, I’d be like both of you. Now that wouldn’t have been bad.
I was ready to meet ye. I so looked forward to it. Amy was so grown up in my world with her talk of school and friends and games and dresses … She seems like great fun. I know she’d have made me very welcome. I loved that black dress she has and all the red flowers on it. I thought I might borrow it sometime. I felt so lucky to have her as a sister and knew we’d always be friends.
Seán! Now what can I say about him? He’s mighty crack. In fairness he might have preferred if I was a boy. He imagined us having all sorts of adventures around the house, playing in old cars and hiding things in places nobody would find. Things like Jammy Dodger biscuits, cap guns, spanners … He’s a live wire for sure. Was he ready for another sister? I know now that he was. To be honest, I’d have loved to play around the house with him and I love cars, even the Vectra that was sprayed Green and Red last September! The games around the house, the hidden biscuits, the endless laughter and wondering what he’d do next! … You’re the best Seán.
It’s great to have the four grandparents. I know that many children don’t. I know that they are sad for mammy and daddy but I hope not too sad. All I wanted was to make them happy. I’m glad they’re here now and I know they’ll be a great help. Thanks for loving me too. I’ll always love ye.
These last few days have been strange for us all. None of us expected this. I hate to see you all so sad, my parents, brother and sister, my uncles, aunts, grandparents and all of you here today. I know there are other mammies and daddies here who know what this feels like. I’m sorry you are sad. Like all of you, I wish it were different. None of us saw this coming but we’re here now, it’s an hour we have to go through. Jesus told me he had an hour like this too, in a garden when he didn’t know what was happening. He said his best friends fell asleep while he worried. He put his hand on my head and said, “Your friends didn’t sleep Sarah …. they’re all awake with you” – I knew what he meant.
You’ve all done your best for me. I love the names you gave me. Sarah! What a mighty woman? She was kind and giving and had such a hearty laugh. She believed in God even when it was hard to believe. God never forgot about her and sent a little baby to her when she was very old. God doesn’t forget about anyone. I know He is with us all today and always will be. Ann? I love that name too. She was Mary’s mother and helped Mary so much. Mary is kind. She doesn’t say a lot but she notices everything. She was one of the first to hold me. She told me I’d be fine but I knew she felt sorry for all of you too so I told her how much you did for me.
I told her about the Butterfly people who’d made little clothes for me. I told her about the photographs you have of me. My footprints, handprints and the teddies Seán and Amy gave me. She noticed the little Rosary Beads too and I told her it was mammy’s. She cried a little, as if she knew what sadness means but then she smiled when I told her about Amy’s black dress with the red flowers … She laughed out loud when I showed her the red flowers … “Sarah”, she said “did you take those from your sister?” “No Mary, she cut them off herself and gave them to me. I think that means ….. ”
… and, before I could finish Mary said, “Yes, it does Sarah Ann, it means she loves you …… they all love you”,
I felt happy then because I know how much you all love me. That will never change. I love you too.
Woke up this morning to discover snow outside (well better than discovering it inside I suppose!!) and it was strange, since last night at a dinner, a number of us discussed Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and wondered if it is still the best selling single of all time (bit of research on that just now suggests that Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind” has displaced it ….) and there was a strong feeling that whether or not Bing’s classic has outsold all others, that the desire for a “White Christmas” was not a real one for most people.
Certainly it’s not for me. I like the snow in photos and have managed to capture a few images though the years but once the picture is taken, the snow is welcome and encouraged to leave! I don’t like the way it makes travel difficult since Christmas, in my book, is very much a time for visiting and being visited.
Snow aside, what about the dreams? What am I dreaming of this Christmas? I was in school earlier today (Kilkelly) and some of the children told me of their letters to Santa. It’s always so nice to hear them speak of these letters and to see the expectation and hope in their eyes and hear it in their voices as they recall what they’ve asked for. It’s likely most of their wishes will come true. What of ours?
I’d like to dream of peace for all. It’s difficult to understand why there is so much conflict and stress in the lives of people. I’m not talking about “World Peace” but that peace that makes us feel good about ourselves, at one with people that matter and at home when at home. World peace comes from that – from a desire for local peace, family peace, personal peace …. Michael Jackson, for all is strange ways, had it so right when he said if the world is to be a better place we need to start with “the man in the mirror”.
I dream of a coming home for Christmas – when people will not just come to church for Mass but come home to the faith and find there again, a renewed hope and sense of call.
I dream of hope for our country and its people and especially hope for those who may now feel a deep sense of hopelessness.
I dream of Pope Francis continuing to breathe again life and enthusiasm into our church by making it that “hospital for sinners” he speaks of whereby people feel wanted and welcome, needed and nurtured, challenged and changed …. where people belong.
I dream of becoming more energised myself, making more of an effort to reach out to people in the parish and beyond in whatever way is best and most appropriate.
I put some material on our Diocesan Website (www.achonrydiocese.org) from yesterday’s Ordination Ceremony. It was a lovely and prayerful occasion and so good to see a man so happy in his life choice. Long may he know God’s blessing and peace and the support and prayers of all with whom and for whom he works.
Bishop Brendan preached, drawing inspiration from St Nathy “our father in faith” and his association with the parish in which we gathered and the diocese from which it takes its name.
Thought I might share this poem with you all in honour of Paul’s Ordination. It’s an old poem by John D Sheridan from “Joe’s no saint” and is called “The Priestin’ of Father John” (I printed the text in an earlier post during last week)
Earlier today we celebrated Fr Tom’s Funeral Mass in Kilmovee. Bishop Brendan presided and was joined by Bishop Flynn, Fr Rémi Hublier – the Vicar General of Beauvais Diocese, Fr Philip Kearney (Beauvais Diocese), priests from Knock, Diocese of Achonry and other friends. A large number attended the Mass and the church was filled almost to capacity. People travelled from France, England and many parts of Ireland. Our local choir sang powerfully and the addition of musicians and voice was much appreciated. Fr Tom’s family members – especially his nieces Margaret and Mary and his nephew Peter were involved in the liturgy through reading the Scripture, leading us in Prayers of The Faithful and the Offertory Procession.
Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns had sent greetings to Fr Tom’ family and wished to be associated with prayers offered at the Funeral Mass. Tom was ordained in St Peter’s College, Wexford since the seminary in Beauvais was closed during the war. Tom had to return to Ireland and completed his studies in St Peter’s.
Tom is buried beside the Parish Church in Kilmovee – the spot he had chosen many years ago. I am happy we were able to fulfil his wishes.
Based on notes Fr Tom had written, I tried to compile something of his CV over the years. I hope it is relatively accurate:
Born 25th November 1917
Student St Nathy’s College 1930-1935
Seminary in Beauvais 1935
Seminary in Wexford 1940
Ordained St Peter’s Wexford, 8th June 1941
First Mass in Kilmovee 9th June 1941
RAF Chaplain (various postings) 1942-1962
Parish Appointment (Beauvais) 1962-1968
School Chaplain – Hamm, Germany 1968
Bonniconlon Parish – 1970-1973
Parish of Guisard – 1973-1983
Parish of Chantilly – 1983-2001
Knock Shrine – 2001-2013
Died 31st May 2013
Buried in Kilmovee 3rd June 2013. R.I.P.
The following is the text of the homily I preached at Mass. I tried, since then, to recall the words spoken and I think what follows is fairly accurate.
HOMILY AT FUNERAL MASS
The words I try to find today are, in some way, intended to speak to Fr Tom’s family and many friends from France, Knock, England, Kilmovee and elsewhere. My hope is that they will do him justice but I am absolutely aware I need not speak on his behalf or to heap praise on him. He is at rest and deservedly so.
Over twenty years ago a man died in the neighbouring parish of Carracastle. I was there at the time, working with Fr Gerry Walsh – my first Parish Priest and a man I was blessed to be able to begin my priestly ministry with. The man that died was called Martin and Fr Gerry celebrated his funeral Mass. He spoke of the last time he had met Martin. It was the First Friday in May. Martin used come to a neighbour’s house to receive the Eucharist and he’d walk with Gerry back to the car. “Do you like the month of May Father?” Martin asked. Gerry replied that it was his favourite month. It was the month of Our Lady. The month of summer promise, new life, plants and farmers’ work. “If Heaven were a month Martin,” Fr Gerry said, “It would be the month of May”.
I’m struck by the fact that Tom died on the 31st day of May. You could say “Heaven at its fullest” and I think it not an accident. Tom had a deep and profound love for Our Lady. He once spoke about how much he enjoyed being at Knock Shrine and wondered was his being allowed so many years there a gift from Our Lady in recognition of all the times he walked to Knock from Kilmovee during his childhood years. If it were such a gift, Tom was happy to accept it. He thanked her for it. I think his death on the last day of May was her way of journeying with him through this special month, likened by Fr Gerry Walsh, to Heaven. There’s a message here somewhere that when Heaven was at its highest point, the time was right for Fr Tom to enter and be at home.
He loved Knock as do we all. I imagine him at the “Gable Wall” – that place where Heaven met Earth on an August evening in 1879 and where God reassured people they were not alone. He was with them always – “yes, to the end of time”. Mary stood there quietly. No angry messages for the world just a standing “with” people. She pointed them towards the Altar and the Lamb of God.
I put some lines on yesterday’s parish bulletin and again in the leaflet you have here today. Lines written by Fr Tom describing his return to Kilmovee in 2001 after a lifetime’s ministry in England, France, Germany and Bonniconlon! He spoke so beautifully about Kilmovee and, in particular, about this church. His earliest memories are rooted here. He remembers coming to church with his mother and of having a deep sense of Mass as “mystery” and being drawn to the “distant” candles on the Marble Altar. We stand now around that same Altar. We reverenced it with “kiss” and incense in the belief that it takes us into unity with all gone before, all happening now and all we need to focus on in life. This Altar spoke to the boy in Tom Freyne and called him to its service. How many times he stood at the Altar during his long priestly life. Two years ago, at his Jubilee celebration, Martin Frain put a few lines together by way of reflection. In the lines, he tried to count the number of times Fr Tom had celebrated Mass. I tried to do likewise over the weekend and think it must be somewhere in the region of 25000 times. Incredible! 25000 times he stood at the Altar – not always marble, I’m sure sometimes a makeshift altar in an RAF barracks or field, maybe in his mobile home, at a house Mass but always the “Altar” nonetheless. He celebrated there the brokenness of life and the call to healing what is broken. It’s again no accident that his death spans those days that include “Corpus Christi”. Surely he served “The Body of Christ” in so many ways. Not least that broken body. So often I’ve seen him here at funerals – sharing the cross with family and community. He didn’t just come to the Mass but called to the homes as well. He was anxious to be with people in their hour of need. He sought to heal and strengthen people to bring peace again, hope again and faith again. Loyalty to “Corpus Christi” and loyalty to The Altar, remained at the heart of his ministry.
He had his own hours on the Cross too. Not least in recent weeks when sickness laid a heavier hand on him but into that sickness came support and strength in the shape of family and friends. Last Wednesday night, as Fr Stephen Farragher just told me, healing came in that special moment that is the Sacrament of The Sick. We can only begin to imagine how much that meant to him. As he had brought healing to others, so it was brought to him.
Tom had a way of bringing more out of you. Whenever I met him, he’d have some bit of direction for me: “Vincent, why don’t you bring the choir up to the front of the church. That’s where it needs to be! People need to be able to see them and hear them. Vincent you should bring the choir up to the front of the Church!” He also used to speak to me about the Parish Bulletin. I put it on line each week and sometimes it might be Sunday morning – that didn’t suit Tom! “Vincent, why don’t you put the newsletter on line on Saturdays? People want to be able to see it. You should put it up on Saturdays”!! I always felt this was based on a survey of “ONE””!! I think Tom wanted it up on Saturdays! That’s the sort he was though. He always seemed to think there was a bit more in you! Yes, you’re doing okay but there’s room for more. In fairness, he may well be right. Certainly the call to do that bit more is a worthy one and he was more than willing to do the calling.
There is much excitement in the music world when an album goes “Platinum”. Usually there are press releases and blurbs. It’s quite an achievement. We were very proud two years ago when Tom’s Priesthood went Platinum. I had to Google to find out what the term was for seventy years. He came to visit me some weeks before the event. He told me about the celebration that took place around his Diamond Jubilee – “Well Farrell organised the most wonderful celebration. I don’t know how he did it Vincent. There was such a gathering of people from all over. It was wonderful and I don’t know how he did it”!! I knew exactly what he was saying – “Now you do the same!!” We were happy to do it and a wonderful night was had here in the Church and the Community Centre. It was a wonderful occasion and we are all so delighted it happened.
He spoke with passion that night – challenging parents to promote vocations in their family, encouraging people to take full advantage of their Faith, to come to church, say their prayers. No stone was left unturned. He had a powerful voice and I remember thinking “he still has fire in the belly”. He was so convinced about the Church and its place in our lives. Such a powerful witness.
As we conclude now, it seems so appropriate that Tom moves from that Gable Wall in Knock to be buried close to the gable wall of this church in Kilmovee. That was so important to him. Indeed I was scarcely weeks in the parish when he called to see me. He welcomed me but I think the real purpose of the visit was to let me know that he wished to be buried beside this church. He told me he had arranged this with Fr Farrell Cawley and maybe feared I didn’t know that. Of course Fr Farrell had told me. In fairness, he had written that were this not possible, he’d be happy to be buried in the Cemetery but I am so pleased we’re able to fulfil his wish. May he find rest at this gable wall and draw ever closer to those no longer distant candles burning in God’s presence in Eternity. He was so proud of this parish. It is my hope – our hope – that he now realises this parish also was very proud of him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
THE BODY OF CHRIST, AMEN News reached us on Friday night that Fr Tom Freyne had just died. May he rest in peace. For almost seventy-two years, Fr Tom ministered to and through “Corpus Christi” – the “Body of Christ”. Faithful to the end, he celebrated priesthood and faith with equal solemnity and energy and our prayer is that he rest now, in the presence of the Risen Christ, in whose memory he broke and shared the Bread of Life for so many years.
Fr Tom requested to be buried at Kilmovee Parish Church – an important presence in his life. A few years ago, some of his friends in France shared with me Fr Tom’s reflections. Primary among them, his recall of Kilmovee and its church:
But one is consoled by the new Kilmovee, young and undaunted entering the third millennium. The beautiful church cared for with such love and devotion. The lovely marble altar at which I served so many Masses and on which I offered my first Mass on June 9th 1941. Yes, that is always there.
That church of so many memories. My earliest memory is of going to Mass with my mother in the dark winter mornings when the only light in there came from the two candles burning on the distant altar. The Mass, which has always been a mystery, really felt like one then in my young mind. The dear Curate, Fr. James O’Connell who lived so near to us all, whose Mass I so often served, and who was there to assist me at my first Mass, a happy moment for a priest whose work in a parish may not always be consoling.
May he rest in the peaceful shadow of the Parish Church he loved so well. Amen.
I had Stations of The Cross in Urlaur this evening. I used a verse from Jimmy McCarthy’s Bright Blue Rose. I recorded this afterwards when church was empty. It wont land me a deal with Sony but sharing anyway!!
I received this email during the week from Anthony Geelan (a neighbour from Cloonloo). He was wondering if anybody would be able to identify some of the people in this photograph. It’s of the Tavrane and Cloonloo Fife and Drum Band. He knows a few of the people but would like to gather as many names as possible. So if you can help, let us know. (Click on image to enlarge)