Fr Michael (Aloysius) Ryan, O.Carm. (1930 - 2015)

Given at the Funeral Mass celebrated in White Abbey, Kildare Town, on July 4, 2015, by R. Byrne, O.Carm., Prior Provincial.

We gather this afternoon to begin to say our formal goodbyes and farewells to Michael Aloysius Ryan. And once again, I extend our sympathies to his sister Mary, his relatives, friends, Carmelite brothers and all those who will miss him most.

And in our saying ‘goodbye’ we bring Fr Aloysius to this place so close to his own family home, in the town where he grew up and went to the local De La Salle school, to this Friary Church: the church of the Carmelite Community to which Aloysius was appointed some twenty-one years ago this summer. In this place he proclaimed frequently that Jesus was the Christ, his Lord, the one who was risen from the dead. This was certainly a place he was very familiar with and truly felt at home in. And, this afternoon, we give thanks for a long life of 85 years – and for Aloysius’ many gifts in the service of the Church and the Order.

In our second reading, St Paul calls on the Romans to ‘not lag in zeal’ but to be ‘ardent in spirit’ while serving the Lord. Aloysius certainly had buckets of zeal. One of Aloysius’ great gifts was his enthusiasm which touched so many areas of the Province’s life. While perhaps the finishing of all of those projects wasn’t always perfectly arrived at, there were certainly no half-measures with Aloysius’ genuine enthusiasm at the start of any project.

A hugely important part of Aloysius’ life was his love for Scripture. Just as the scriptures burned within the hearts of the two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus in our gospel today, so too did scripture burn deeply within Aloysius’ heart as he talked, explained, and prayed with it in his life.

And so having completed his license in theology (STL) in Milltown Park in 1955, Aloysius then spent three years in Rome studying for the license in scripture at the Pontificio Istituto Biblico and earned his license in sacred scripture (SSL) in 1958. After Rome, Aloysius spent a year studying in Jerusalem at the famous École Biblique where he studied under the great biblical scholars of the day. This experience was to have an enormous influence on him. Aloysius came to know and love the Holy Land so much that he went back frequently, leading many pilgrimages there with the late Fr John Lawler, also of this Community. Later on, Aloysius would spend another year studying at the Angelicum in Rome.

Back in Ireland, Aloysius contributed frequently to homily notes in such journals as The Furrow and was very good at that. He taught scripture to the Carmelite students at Gort Muire, and many generations of novices (including myself) often talk about his talks to us during our novitiate in Kinsale. People in Zimbabwe also remember his visits there very fondly.

While Aloysius was much sought after for retreats and talks and was on Province retreat teams; he was most especially in demand for giving ‘directed retreats’ – individual one-to-one retreats – in which he showed an enormous commitment to people. Because, alongside having a brilliant mind, Aloysius was very much a people person. He was very caring, kindly and generous with his time for people. He was well liked and those he ministered to would always speak very highly of him. And Aloysius was very human: like many other Carmelites (perhaps myself included) an enormous amount of cups and mugs might find their way into his room and hardly ever be seen again!

While Aloysius’ health wasn’t always the greatest over the years, he fought such illnesses hard and tried his best to remain positive. Although in hospital in the last few weeks, Aloysius had seemed to begin to recover. I met him in Naas General Hospital last Saturday. He didn’t know me at first, but when he heard that I was the Provincial he blessed himself: whatever that was about! We then said a few prayers together. I asked him how he was, and he indicated he was “so-so”. But we were expecting Aloysius to recover and even on Wednesday night, Aloysius had been asking his sister Mary for some fish to eat.

Yet sadly, a recovery this time was not to be, and Aloysius died peacefully on Thursday morning. He was not to get back to the Lourdesville Nursing Home in which he was so comfortable over the last nine and a half years. Although as Fr Tony said last night, Aloysius was always delighted to come back to visit the Friary especially for the major feast days and celebrations: one of which was the traditional blessing of throats on St Blaise’s Day which he participated in last February.
And while we grieve this morning and give thanks for the gift of Aloysius’ long life, we can also be hopeful: hopeful for Aloysius and hopeful for ourselves. We Christians take seriously the words we have heard in our first reading from the Book of Lamentations:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end ...
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.

These were words of Scripture that Aloysius would have taken seriously and he would have opened them to others and they would have recognised the Lord in them. Aloysius has waited quietly these past years for the ‘salvation of the Lord’ and so we pray that the ‘salvation of the Lord’ now comes to him whose love was genuine and who held fast to what is good.

Today, on the weekly memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we pray that Aloysius – who was a faithful child of Carmel – is now enwrapped in Mary’s protection, and will live forever in that steadfast love of God. For ourselves, we can be hopeful that one day we too will be reunited with Aloysius in the heavenly kingdom where he now rests with his family and the Saints of Carmel.

May Michael Aloysius rest in peace. Amen.