Fr Desmond Flanagan, O.Carm. (1929-2012)

Given at the Requiem Mass at Terenure College on March 6, 2012, by M. Kilmurray, O.Carm.

Each time we gather for the Eucharist we come together as God’s people to give him praise and thanks. We have a special reason for giving thanks today as we remember the long life and ministry of our brother, Father Desmond Flanagan.

Desmond made his profession as a Carmelite at Kinsale on September 28, 1947. On that day, now almost sixty-five years ago, the young Desmond Flanagan pledged himself in the words of the Carmelite Rule to live “in allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve him zealously”.

He was ordained priest in Rome on July 5, 1953. He had studied theology at Saint Albert’s Carmelite International College and appreciated very much the years he spent in there. At Saint Albert’s he made friends with Carmelites from different parts of the world and maintained many of those friendships over the years. I remember an Italian classmate of Desmond’s spending a holiday with him at Terenure a few years ago.

Desmond spoke Italian well but he had also developed a great love for the Latin language and for the beauty of Gregorian chant. While he accepted the changes in the Church’s Liturgy brought about by the Second Vatican Council he still liked to recite the Prayer of the Church, the Breviary, in Latin and to celebrate Mass in Latin when possible. He was supportive of the Latin Mass Society over the years and was involved with confessions and Sunday Mass at Saint Audeon’s and later at Harrington Street Church.

Desmond had a great capacity for making friends whether in Ireland, Italy or the United States. He liked to travel. He was a big man with an expansive character. He could hold very definite opinions. Like all of us he had strengths and weaknesses but always at the centre of his life was his allegiance to Jesus Christ, expressed especially in the celebration of Mass and the other sacraments, the recitation of the Prayer of the Church and works of charity.

Like his confrere and close friend, the late Father Joseph Ryan, Desmond had a deep devotion to Saint Thérèse and he took part for many years in the annual Carmelite Pilgrimage to Lisieux. When Thérèse was dying she said “I am falling into the arms of God”. On Sunday morning last, with Mary and Philomena holding his hands, Desmond passed very gently into the arms of God. There was no struggle — just shallow breathing and then silence.

As many of you know, Desmond had a great store of jokes and stories. He liked to regale his friends and brethren with these from time to time. He often boasted that he had sung at La Scala in Milan! He enjoyed good food and I think that the jokes and stories were often in proportion to the amount and quality of food. Desmond enjoyed doing supply ministry in the United States from time to time over the years. I feel that something of the exuberance of American life appealed to him.

Desmond loved his family and his native Roscommon. He kept in touch with you all through the years and he was there for the significant moments in your lives. We remember that his strong but simple faith was first fostered in the loving family created by his parents — Mary and Francis — at Drumlion and Strokestown. He always spoke of his parents with great affection. He crossed into Sligo for his secondary education at Summerhill College but he always reminded Father Leo Gallagher that Sligo couldn’t hold a candle to Roscommon! Tomorrow Desmond will be laid to rest with his parents in the soil of his native county.

Desmond spent his years of ministry initially at Terenure College, then at Whitefriar Street for many years, at White Abbey, Kildare and for the past twelve years he has been at Terenure – full circle as it were. As I remarked earlier, he also liked to do occasional supply ministry in the United States.

Whenever I talked with him here in Terenure during the past few years Desmond was very much at peace. He was content as he entered his eighties, in biblical terms a strong man, and grateful for the support and friendship of the whole College community both Carmelite and lay.

Desmond’s last weeks were spent at Gort Muire where the carers and nurses made him comfortable and where he died so peacefully on Sunday morning.

We are saddened by his death and these are particularly sad days for his sisters and brothers, extended family and close friends. But none of us would have wanted him to be completely invalided. It would not have suited him. He still able to joke with Mary and Philomena a short while before his death and to greet the Prior General of the Order, Father Fernando Millán Romeral and members of his Council, John Keating and Christian Korner, who had called to his room that morning before leaving for Rome.

The reading from Lamentations told us that “the Lord is good to those who wait quietly for salvation”. In a sense the past few weeks had been a time of waiting for Desmond. He felt that his body was failing. I have a personal memory of him in the prayer room on the first floor at Gort Muire quietly reciting the Rosary.

Saint Paul in the second reading reminded us that we are loved by God in death as in life and the Gospel gave us the promise of Jesus to his disciples: “I will return to take you with me so that where I am you may be also”.

Desmond lived in allegiance to Jesus Christ and we trust that he is now with the same Christ forever. Desmond, rest in Peace.