Fr Anthony Andrew O’Reilly, O.Carm. (1932-2011)

Given at the Requiem Mass in the Carmelite Church, Moate, Co Westmeath, on July 23, 2011, by M. Kilmurray, O.Carm.

When the great Carmelite, St Teresa of Avila, had finished writing her autobiography she is reputed to have said: “I probably should not have called it the Story of my Life. I should have called it the Story of God’s mercies.”

Father Andrew had remarked to me on a few occasions in recent months that he was very grateful to God for the long and healthy life that he had been given. Despite the scoliosis, Andrew had not been in hospital for over fifty years, not until the breathing difficulties began to develop during the past year. Andrew struggled in recent months to come to terms with the restrictions which his health was now placing on him. He was no longer able to be main celebrant at Mass or to hear confessions and his contact with people had lessened. Andrew loved being with people. He really enjoyed meeting and talking with them. Last Sunday was Carmelite Day at Knock and a number of pilgrims mentioned how much they were already missing his friendly presence. He would have been around greeting those who had come on pilgrimage from the different communities.

Anthony O’Reilly was born in Ashford, Co. Wicklow; a place for which he retained a great love throughout his life. He was proud to be a Wicklow man and would often remind us about the Garden of Ireland. I am sure that in his early years the natural beauty of his birthplace revealed to him something of the beauty and greatness of the Creator.

Anthony Andrew was a man of deep faith and the seeds of this faith were sown in the home with his parents, Kathleen and Michael, and his brothers Kevin, Ned and Peter. As a young man Anthony trained as a tailor with McKenna Gallagher in Dublin. He was a good tailor too and he placed his craft at the service of his Carmelite brothers during his early years in the Order. There are some here for whom he made habits and suits and the finish was always to a high standard.

When Anthony O’Reilly joined the Carmelite Order in 1959 he was given the name Andrew after the Florentine fourteenth century Carmelite St Andrew Corsini who, we are told by his biographer, dedicated himself to the worship of God, looked after the salvation of souls....and was moved by kindness and pity towards the needy. For Anthony O’Reilly, Andrew was not just a new name but an inspiration to be followed.

The first reading that we listened to in this Funeral Mass was taken from the Book of Ecclesiasticus and it reminded us that the wise man resorts at dawn to the Lord who made him. This was certainly true of Andrew. Each day began with personal prayer, often before the Blessed Sacrament. Even in recent weeks he struggled at times to be in the Chapel at Gort Muire for Morning Prayer and Eucharist at 8.00 am. He prayed through the day and we often had to remind him not to spend too much time in the Chapel as it tended to be cool there when the heating was turned off. Andrew dedicated himself to the praise of God both personally and in community. He interceded for people who were sick or in any kind of need.

But Andrew didn’t just remain in the church or chapel or priory. Until his health began to restrict him, Andrew went out to people in the community. He visited them in their homes, in hospitals and in nursing homes. Others came to him at the Priory. They all found him a gentle and comforting presence. He spoke from a deep faith in the God of Jesus Christ who was for him – in the words of the Gospel reading – the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Andrew enjoyed a bit of banter too. He and I didn’t always agree politically and he wouldn’t allow me to gloat over any recent successes. He was a lifelong pioneer except for the four years when he studied for the priesthood in Rome. His good friend and mentor, the late Fr Peter O’Dwyer, O.Carm., had advised him to take a small amount of wine for dietary or health reasons while in Italy. Andrew followed this advice. However, on one occasion during a student outing – of course, most of us were much younger than he – we encouraged him to have a little more and then declared him to have been merry in Orvieto! He would vehemently deny this but enjoyed the ragging.

We are gathered in a spirit of thanksgiving to God for a life that was defined by deep faith and deep commitment to the Carmelite way of contemplation, community and service. Andrew lived in most houses of the Home Province. He did so with generosity and good humour. As Prior at Kinsale, Knocktopher and Moate, and as a member of the community here and elsewhere he reflected in his daily living something of the values set down by St Paul in the Second Reading: respect for all manner of people, untiring effort, earnestness of soul, prayerfulness, hospitality.

On the day of his First Profession, February 11, 1961, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, Anthony Andrew pledged himself in the words of the Carmelite Rule to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve him zealously with a pure heart and a good conscience.

Anthony Andrew lived out that pledge over fifty years, and while our thanksgiving is tinged with sadness we have confidence that he is now at rest with the God whom he served so well.

Anthony Andrew – Andy – rest in peace and intercede for all of us now and in the time ahead.