Fr Patrick Bodkin, O.Carm.

Homily given by Jimmy Murray, O.Carm., at the Funeral Mass, Whitefriar Street Church, February 17, 2006.

Welcome to our Mass of the Resurrection for Fr Patsy. I would like to extend a very special welcome to those who have come a long way to be with us and his family.

We can’t separate ourselves from our past, we are who our folks were, we carry our history inside us. Fr Patsy was born with many blessings. He was born into a family where love prevailed. Those early years at home were a powerful formative part of his life. God and his faith in God were given to him by his parents. By their lives they nourished his vision of God and made Christ credible. It was very much a case of faith alive for they had a sense of the sacred. It was in this milieu that Patsy received God’s beautiful life-giving energy which he enfleshed in his own person.

As a family you were always so proud of him and so supportive of him. I can still remember you coming in droves on a visiting Sunday on the 48A. We used to say jokingly, that you took up all the seats. They shared that care with all of us and those of us not from Dublin would be invited to their home to taste that hospitality. He had a love of order and tradition, disliked some trends and had a compulsion to contest them.

To love is to care. Your love for him was especially evident when he was sick. To be sensitive to the needs of the sick is to know that it is better to be sad than bitter, to be hurting than hard, to shed tears than to be indifferent.

This morning we recognise and honour the fact that we have lost one whose life and work has been a major gift to us and to the Church. Fr Michael Morrissey and I were in his year. There was a very large number in the student house at that time and, like the extended family from which he came, we too belonged to each other. We shared a togetherness that could not be reached by any other means. It was a powerful formative part of all of us and went to make up that experience that made us one as Carmelites. Words like respect, support, encouragement, spirit, hope and friendship were part and parcel of it. As someone once remarked –
If you want to live forever
If you want to live the free life
You must live the shared life.

Patsy was a genuine Dubliner and proud of it and a Rovers supporter. He was good at sport and played football and, in later years, played golf with a passion. As students we often stole a march to Croke Park on Sundays. I can still hear the octave of his giggle as he would wonder aloud at the consequence of being caught. But those in charge always turned a blind eye.

When we left the Student House our ways parted. Patsy went to the missions where he spent most of his priestly life. One felt that he had chosen the better part. He never complained about the work although it must have been difficult being so far away from home during the many years of war in Zimbabwe. He was always reticent to talk about the difficulties he may have encountered there during that period. There was a special kindness about the Zimbabwean people which he would recount and remember with affection. The beauty of that place seems to have touched his soul. Through his work there he gave something to people’s lives that lasted over the years. Work in such places is saint sanctioned.

Intelligent, courteous, kind, his quiet reflective manner belied his achievements. He was a traditionalist. He disliked some trends and had a compulsion to contest them.

He has been sick for some time. He fought that illness without indulging in self-pity or bargaining with God. Recognising that suffering is the common thread that binds us all together he wasn’t one to talk about his pain or disability. I suppose that sickness sends us its own courage.

It’s forty years since we were ordained and illness prevented both of us from celebrating it together. “Are we going for the line together?” he would muse and smile. In the earlier days of his illness I suggested to him that when he was able we would go out to celebrate the occasion and I added that he would have to promise to sing. Knowing my lack of talent in that area he smiled and replied in his quiet reflective manner, “Maybe I will, if you promise you won’t.” And he laughed at the thought. He could sing and the sound of music takes me back to those Latin chants he rendered so well. The first singer and song I associate with him was Slim Whitman and My China Doll.

Resurrections come after crucifixions, Easter Sundays after dark Fridays. Character and depth come with coping with powerlessness. They are given to that inner space within you so that you can make peace with the fact that you lose your independence and can’t work any more. Patsy coped so well with it all.

The Gospel was chosen by Patsy himself. That was the one he used for his jubilee. It is an extract from the last supper, Jesus’ farewell discourse with his disciples. It celebrates the realisation that God loves us. It helps to bring the mystery of God’s care and love into focus.

‘I am among you as one who serves.’ Fr Patsy was among us as one who served. The suffering of Christ flows into our lives. So is the encouragement we receive through him. The Christ for whom we long lives in lives of fidelity. He is reached in the presence that makes us one. That was one of the things that inspired Patsy.

We will miss him and his family will miss him. May the God who has given us hope and healing strengthen us to share his love and grace with one another.