Remembrances for our Deceased Brothers
Fr. John Aidan Mulcahy, O.Carm.
Homily given by Fr J. Murray, O.Carm., at the Funeral Mass on May 13, 2010.
Welcome again as we gather to celebrate the Mass of the Resurrection for Fr. Mulcahy, affectionately known as ‘Fr. Mul’, ‘Fr. Jack’ or ‘His Reverence’. A special welcome to all the members of the Mulcahy family. On behalf of the local community, who will miss him too, I offer you, his family, our sincere sympathy.
St. Colmcille in his rule wrote, ‘Perform the prayers for those who have died with fervour, as if the one who has died was a special friend of yours.’ That’s what we do for Fr. Mulcahy today as we gather to share a togetherness that could not be reached by any other means. There is an instinctive sympathy that makes us one, for Fr. Mul’s death touches so many of us.
He is in very familiar surroundings today. He has spent 63 years in Moate. No one can remember a time when he wasn’t here. This church was the focal point of his life. A lot of that time was dedicated to caring for it. It was here he so often celebrated the Eucharist, heard confessions or spent hours in prayer. He washed and mended the Sacristy laundry and the day set aside for that could go well into the early hours of the next morning. He seldom went to bed before two o’clock for, as he would say himself, he had the prayers to say. This was his home and he felt highly privileged to be among the people of this area and to have, as he would say, ‘three square meals and a roof over my head’. He freed himself from all the habits and luxuries that people in the world think they need for their comfort and amusement. He never wanted to get away, even on holidays. I suppose when you find you are doing what you love, it makes for a very contented life.
The Gospel was chosen from the story of the Ascension which we celebrate next Sunday. It is a marvellous occasion for the Christian consideration of death and everlasting life. It is the mystery that explains the transition between the earthly and the enduring presence of Christ. The Ascension deepens intimacy by giving us a new presence, a deeper, richer one, but one that can only come about if our former way of being present is taken away. Christ has ascended and we are the richer for it. The same can be said of Fr. Mulcahy. It was only after Jesus left that his disciples were able to grasp what he meant to them. But isn’t that true of all who die? We have to let go of him, but in our tomorrows we shall possess him in a new way.
The first reading from the Prophet Micah was chosen as being appropriate to the occasion.
‘This is what Yahweh asks of you,
That you act justly,
Love tenderly and walk humbly
With your God.’ (Micah 6:8)
Micah’s blueprint for discipleship was a directive that Fr. Mul adhered to all of his life. He believed that life is about sacrifice, about service and the love of God lived out in the love of all he met.
He had a lovely temperament, mild mannered, likeable, affable, inoffensive, unconventional and deeply holy. He was attracted by the life-style of the monks of old and by places like Skellig Michael. In his sixty three years in Moate he never rose above the rank of sacristan for with him the power of love replaced the love of power. He always felt that it was good to keep a sense of your own unimportance and he did that in his own unique way. In his dealings with people he never discriminated for he saw goodness in everyone. All who called to see him – and there were many – were made to feel welcome and special.
For years he was in charge of the altar servers and he treated them as if they were philosophers. He tried to teach them reverence for all that was sacred in the Church. On one occasion he took them on an outing to the pictures in Athlone. They went by bus. On his return he announced that they had a marvellous day. When asked what the film was like he confessed that youthful exuberance took over and they were all thrown out, and then he smiled with the innocence of a child. He had a powerful sense of the prevailing comedy of existence and he valued reason over passion and temperance over both.
Travellers always called, coming, yearning for love and acceptance, searching for a sense of belonging that had somehow eluded them. He was non-judgemental and would greet them with a smile that conveys the wonder he found in others. Then he would speak a word that was life-giving. Of course they would be coming for a few bob and he never let them down. But they also had great faith in his blessing especially for their sick. It was not unusual for some of them to phone him and ask for a blessing over the ‘phone.
‘Men of the road’, as he called them, were also regular visitors. They would leave their separate solitudes to visit him for, like many others, they saw him as a source of sanctuary. He made them feel important for his gentle eyes were always in love with the lonely. With Yeats, he would say that friendship is the only house we may have to offer the stranger. Their poverty pained him and of course he believed their stories. They never left without a prayer and a blessing and a few bob. Someone once remarked, when they saw a group of travellers with him, ‘there is all they know of God’.
It wasn’t unusual, when I was here in the early seventies, to find one of them roaming around the house in the morning. He would have invited them in for shelter the night before and because he had nothing to lose he felt the rest of us were the same. He would speak to them emotionally of the immense mystery and blessing of existence. Blackie Gavin was a local man who took to the roads. One morning when Fr. Jack and himself were having breakfast together he tried to get Blackie to reform his lifestyle by telling him that he knew his mother and she was a saint. To which Blackie replied, ‘with all due respects, Father, but isn’t one saint enough in any family’. Blackie parted with a blessing, a few bob and an invitation to call again. To all of them he gave a renewed understanding of their worth as people, their unique value as individuals, and they went away with a sense of dignity restored.
Above all he was kind. Kindness has a gentle sound and something deep within the human soul seems to depend on its presence. It is non-judgemental, no way competitive and is always a blessing. In the Celtic world there is a great tradition of blessing. Fr. Mul had a feel for the richness of that tradition. He believed that it would be infinitely lonely to live in a world without blessing. Memory of him will always be punctuated with moments of remembered blessings.
His openness and transparency of spirit came across to all who met him. He evangelised in the most effective way – unconsciously – by living a faith that is credible to others. His spirituality was the spirituality of the foot of the cross – in the company of Mary, feeling powerless to do all he would like to do. Down the years whenever he was sick, God was his physician. I believe that of late, Dr. Curran got promotion from Fr. Jack and is now co-physician with God himself! Mary and Joseph were his models and he felt that they always walked by his side. He had a great devotion to the rosary.
He was a great Community man too. His great contribution to Community life was his own prayer life, his sense of the importance of silence, service and availability, all of which had a profound affect on all who shared that life with him. He made himself the servant of all and gave encouragement to the young and support to the old. He was deeply moved by the deaths of the young Carmelites in his community, Br. Tom King, Fr. Tomas O’Toole, Fr. Liam Buckley and Fr. Gerry Hipwell. These deaths upset him very much.
God led him through his own brokenness and he would lead us too. No doubt someone will succeed him but no one will ever replace him. In an ideal world every Carmelite house would have a Fr. Mulcahy.
We could now pray to him in the words of Ralph Wright:
‘Anoint the wounds
Of my spirit
With the balm
Pour the oil
Of your calm
Upon the waters
Of my heart.’
Highly intelligent, he made no pretence to be an academic although he was remarkably eloquent in English and Irish and he had a very good command of Latin. He could turn a phrase memorably and always found words to match the image of his mind.
Fr. Mulcahy loved the Irish language and spoke it fluently. He felt it was the great vehicle of prayer. For him it was the language of a people who lived close to God, the language that sustained their faith in difficult times.
Bhí an-ghrá ag an Athair Ó Maolcathaigh dá theanga dhúchais agus ba chainteoir liofa Gaeilge é. D’fhan sé dilis don Ghaeilge i rith a shaoil ar fad. Le blianta fada leigh sé an nuachtán seactainiuil Ghaeilge ‘Inniu’ ó chlúdach go chlúdach. Chreid sé go raibh an Ghaeilge anfheiliúnach go deo do phaidreacha agus d’urnaithe. Dar leis ba theanga ne bhfiréin í an Ghaeilge, sé sin, teanga an phobail a d’fhan dílis dá gcreideamh, an creideamh céanna a thug misneach is treoir dóibh in am an ghátair. Ní nach ionadh b’í an Ghaeilge a rogha teanga agus é féin ag gui chun Dé. Anuas are sin thapaigh sé gach deis chun an Ghaeilge a úsáid agus é ag rá an Aifrinn Naofa.
Duine specialta do bá ea. Fear cómh mín le leanbh. Béimid uafásach uaigneach ma diaidh.
In iothlann Dé go gcastar sínn
Go rábhaimid le chéile
I gcríoch na beatha buaine.
Síochán síoraí bhFlaitheas go raibh aige feasta.