Fr John A. (Jackie) Madden, O.Carm. (1933-2015)

Given at the Requiem Mass in Terenure College Chapel on February 27, 2015, by M. Troy, O.Carm.

“Where I am, there you may be also”.
These words we have just heard are part of Jesus’ message to his disciples at the Last Supper conversations in John’s Gospel. These words were meant to give encouragement at a time when everything seemed to be falling down around them. When they were to look back at the events of those days in the light of the resurrection, they could see what the life and ministry, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was all about. For the early Christian community, those who heard the scriptures proclaimed on the Lord’s Day the message was all in the light of the resurrection of Christ.
“Where, I am there you may be also”. These words would be meaningless had Jesus not risen from the dead. As St Paul says, ‘if Christ is not risen from the dead all of this is foolishness’. Today, as we gather for the Funeral Mass for Fr Jackie Madden, we too look from the perspective of the resurrection. We too hear the same words and trust that where Christ is we too will be. As well as giving hope to his followers these words can be used as a summary of the Christian vocation. Where Jesus is we also may be. A more Carmelite phrase from the Rule of Albert, which Fr Jackie followed faithfully for nearly sixty-five years, would be ‘in allegiance to Jesus Christ’, or following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Jackie’s Christian calling: his growing up as the eldest son in a big family in the Madden home in Phibsboro, his schooling in St Vincent’s, and then entry to the Carmelite Family in Kinsale making his Profession in September 1950. After profession he moved to Gort Muire for studies in science at UCD and theology in Gort Muire. He was ordained to priesthood in July 1957. Soon after ordination he was assigned to Terenure College where he was to live all his Carmelite life with the exception of his sabbatical year in Rome and his year in Moate.
‘To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.’ This quote from St Teresa of Avila, to me, sums up the journey of Jackie over the eighty-three years of his life. A journey that took him from his family in Phibsboro to Terenure. A journey with highs and lows, of changes and challenges, a journey of commitment and service. A journey that was spent living in allegiance to Jesus Christ and serving him faithfully in simplicity and sincerity. Ministering for over fifty-five years as a priest, a teacher, a sports coach, a brother. Described to me as a superb teacher – maths was his subject – he had a great ability to explain and to make the complex simple. Whether that was higher level maths, working out the tax system or explaining to the brothers on the Chapter floor how the voting worked! He had a way with and a love of figures that lasted to the end – his room was full of Sudoku books. That love of problem solving and strategy made him one of the most successful coaches in the College’s history: three finals in a row winning two cups, not to mention the 1969 Second’s winning team. He was an expert in sports psychology long before its importance was recognised. His contribution to athletics in the college and Irish school athletics was immense. The surprising thing was that Jackie did not play sports while growing up – sport for him was played in the mind! Another area of interest was bridge establishing a club in the school which he brought to All Ireland success as well as being a regular player himself. For years he was involved in drama productions in the College – his area of expertise was the lighting. Amid the plumes of smoke from his Sweet Afton he kept everything under control. In ways he was quiet a remarkable genius. A sabbatical in Rome followed where he acquired a great love of all things Italian – including pasta and a glass of vino. He really enjoyed his year and some of the family took the opportunity to visit him. He enjoyed his role as guide. The Chapter of ‘82 brought Jackie to Moate and to rural Ireland – where there are not too many buses! As a true Dub it was a difficult year especially when he did not drive, even though Jackie always claimed that if he had been left in Moate he would have learned to drive...... That was where I first met Jackie as he tried to teach me physics and introduce us to the sport of rugby. Returning to Terenure and soon moving on from the classroom, Fr Jackie became assistant bursar where he was a constant figure and carrier of tradition. Jackie could be direct, indeed often quirky. Growing up in a large family one learns to be independent and stand up for oneself. He was single-minded and at times only saw himself and not the bigger picture. However his role as Provincial Bursar opened him up to the wider Carmelite Family and Order. Carmel means ‘garden of the Lord’, a place of beauty and peace where God can be encountered. Here in Terenure College, Fr Jackie encountered God in a particular way as he lived his Carmelite vocation. Like the prophet Elijah in our first reading, Jackie found God in the ordinary. His work for the school and Community and Province – whether in the classroom, on the sports field or in the bursary – was done with commitment and routine. He nourished his life of faith with prayer and daily Eucharist. His devotion to Our Lady was nurtured through his participation in the Province’s annual Pilgrimage to Lourdes. For Jackie, the words of our second reading hold true: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. We pray that the crown of righteousness await those he has chosen.
Although leaving home at the young age of seventeen, Jackie kept in touch with family through his visits back to the northside, the phone calls, and, in recent years, he loved the family gatherings and the many jubilee celebrations which allowed him to preside as head of the family. He even made it as far as Australia with some of the family. His eightieth birthday was a great celebration and Jackie loved to celebrate with his two families – the Carmelites and the Maddens. These celebrations allowed him to catch up with happenings.
Our Carmelite Rule tells us that silent work, built on a foundation of the Word of God, is the way of holiness and goodness. In his later years Jackie was committed to Community life: interested in happenings, positive and supportive. He kept his independence, loved his daily walk down the avenue and bus into town to browse, have lunch, meet family or friends, or simply have pasta and a glass of wine. Thanks must go to the care and concern shown to Jackie by his doctor, Bill Twomey, the Province’s nursing staff and the staff at Terenure College who enabled him to live life to the full. I am reminded of another quote from St Teresa, whose centenary we celebrate this year, which summed up Jackie’s approach in his final years: ‘It is foolish for you to be worried about perfection when you should be looking after yourself. For your health is important’. Jackie had his strengths and like all of us he had is weaknesses, yet he need not be idealized but be remembered simply as a good and decent person who strove to live his Carmelite vocation – to love God and love neighbour. There are words in the Gospel that are quoted often that express the welcome and reward to one who lived in love and faithfulness – well done good and faithful servant. Jackie, you good and faithful servant, enjoy living forever in the tender and loving presence of the Lord and thank you for all that you were for us. Pray for us as we remember and pray for you. May you rest in peace. Amen.