Fr Patrick Alan Fitzpatrick, O.Carm. (1930-2014)

Given at the Funeral Mass in Whitefriar Street Church on December 15, 2014, by Brian McKay, O.Carm., Prior.

Tell me about the good you have done.
For quite a few years now, until this time last year, Fr Pat Alan was present for three sessions of confession each week, and he greatly looked forward to meeting his regular clients. He sometimes referred to these sessions as his clinic. If he ever felt that the penitent was being too hard on themselves, he would gently but firmly stop them and speak the words: tell me about the good you have done. He didn’t like over emphasis on the negative either in the confessional or anywhere else. How much he was appreciated in the confessional only really came to light after he moved to Gort Muire last year. Many of his penitents were distraught. They wondered how they were going to cope without him and they still regularly enquire after him one year later. We Carmelites refer to ourselves as a contemplative fraternity in the midst of the people. Fr Pat Alan loved being in the midst of the people and loved being in the thick of things and, despite the effort needed to get ready for the confessional, he soldiered on spreading a great deal of joy and happiness as he encountered his friends.

He loved all aspects of the ministry here in Whitefriar Street, just as he loved the ministry in Knocklyon where he lived for many years but, perhaps, it is true to say that his heart was divided between the two K’s: Kinsale and Kildare. Kinsale was obviously of very great importance to him as it was where it all started in 1930. He frequently spoke of the place and of the people with deep affection. He loved taking his annual holidays in Kinsale, something which ceased a few years ago. Typically, he didn’t complain. Kildare held a special place in his heart. He ministered there for twenty-seven years and was quite proud of the fact that he had done two six-year stints as Prior there. Along with Fr Tom and Fr Bernard who looked after his transport needs after he stopped driving, I had the experience of bringing him to Kildare on several Thursdays and he really so looked forward to the journey and the time spent with his very dear friend, Emily. Both on the way down and back, he would reminisce about the past. It is truly fitting that he is being buried in Kildare. The journey down after this Mass will be a journey of pure pleasure for him. I recall on one of those journeys, being treated to a tremendous guffaw of laughter. On a wall opposite Cork Street hospital was written the following: tiger on the loose, drivers stay in your cars, joggers run faster! He thought this absolutely hilarious. He always had a great sense of humour and of fun. I mentioned the Carmelite charism earlier where we describe ourselves as a contemplative fraternity. Fr Pat Alan always enjoyed his time with the brothers. I vividly recall that he would be in the community room every Saturday night at 8.30 on the dot, ready for his sandwiches, glass of wine and ice-cream. He particularly liked Vienetta. We would be treated to witty repartee and he usually gave us a song or two. “You’ll never walk alone” was his favourite in recent years. At table, and indeed at other times during the day, we would be entertained by his good-humoured banter and his insightful comments concerning the brethren, the state of the country and life in general. As a Community, we missed him very much when he moved to Gort Muire, and I have it noted in my diary that he moved to Gort Muire from St James’ Hospital on Monday, December 16 last year. Our fraternal life was negatively impacted by his necessary departure. He loved people, he loved the brothers, he loved his family. He was particularly proud of the next generation, his nieces and nephews who had done so well in their various careers. He spoke with great affection of his own siblings and, while in Gort Muire, frequently imagined that his beloved sister, Lil, was with him in the room. Perhaps he thought he was back in Kinsale and that was a good place to be.

It has to be said that Fr Pat Alan was a great Carmelite and most noteworthy, was someone who enjoyed religious life. Despite the many ailments that afflicted him, he exuded good humour and really was exemplary in his religious observance in the broadest sense. A word that I always associate with Fr Pat Alan is the word youthfulness. Whatever may have been happening to his body as the years rolled by was not happening to his spirit and, on looking at a photo of him taken as a schoolboy, he actually appeared – until quite recently – not to have changed all that much. There was always that mischievous streak in him. Even up to a year ago when out walking with a carer, if he saw a well-known face he would wave his stick in their direction showing off that he didn’t really need the support that he was receiving. I am reminded of the instruction given by St Francis of Assisi to his friars as he sent them out to proclaim the Good News: preach the gospel and when necessary, use words. Fr Pat Alan’s life was a good sermon and one feels that he preached most eloquently to many, many people.

I mentioned, in passing, his coping with many ailments. It has to be said that his acceptance of illness and the diminishments of age was itself truly edifying. He never complained. Indeed, he seemed to always want to make light of his conditions, implying that he was lucky to be as well as he was with so many people looking after him. Perhaps at this point, I should thank the wonderful staff both here and in Gort Muire who cared for him so well.

His ministry spanned many years. Although he was not really up to celebrating it, this summer marked the sixtieth anniversary of his ordination. He made his first profession on October 10, 1948, and began his Arts degree that autumn in U.C.D., from where he graduated with a B.A. degree in Philosophy and English in 1951. Perhaps it was his English degree that made him so successful as our CNL scribe for many years. He studied Theology at Milltown Park and was ordained priest on July 11, 1954. On completion of his theological studies, he was appointed to White Abbey, Kildare, where he remained until 1982. He moved to Knocklyon as curate that year, and after twelve years he was appointed to Whitefriar Street. In our community room there is a photograph of the Chapter of 1958 with a very young looking Fr Fitzpatrick and with his passing, one feels another break with the past. He lived through many changes in the Church – he would have celebrated Mass in Latin with his back to the people for over 10 years – but he always eagerly embraced new ways of doing things and new ways of looking at things. Indeed, openness to ideas and to people was one of his endearing characteristics. One also must include openness to God. Right up until the end in Whitefriar Street, Fr Pat Alan came faithfully to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours with his Community. He was always at ease both with people and with his Creator.

I cannot help but feel that we have a lot to be grateful for this morning. The holy Season of Advent is principally a time of waiting, waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. As such, it is a season of hope, when we acknowledge our total dependence on God and God’s timing. Fr Pat Alan has been waiting for some time for God to intervene. While Fr Pat Alan was looked after superbly in Gort Muire, it is true that Christmas Day, 2014, would not have been the happiest of days for him. As things are now, the waiting is over, he is going to celebrate Christmas Day in style, and I can hear a song coming on, perhaps even, “You’ll never walk alone.”

Fr Pat Alan, like the rest of us, will have to face the final judgement but I suspect that, if he is not being treated as fairly as he should be, he will stop the prosecuting counsel and say: let me tell you about the good I have done. Fr Pat Alan, you loved music. We hope that the choirs of angels are there to welcome you into paradise. Today, we are praying for you. May you pray for us and may you rest in peace.