We have had a lot of funerals here in recent months. When I mention that to my own family and friends they often ask, “is the parish very old?”. Of course, they mean are the parishioners mostly in their senior years! It is true that many of the wonderful folks free to come to daily mass are retired, and that the older generation are more likely to keep coming on Sundays, but the reality is that the parish has a mixed range of ages, that while more elderly people come for burial in fact we can die at any age. So, whether those who we have buried have lived long lives, or sadly died from some illness or disease while still in the prime of life, loss of a loved one is hard experience each and every time. It makes us think about life.
When we meet people to prepare funerals, I am struck by the generosity of the bereaved who always find nice things to say about the person who has died. There are admirable qualities in each and every person and naming them gives great consolation to those left behind. What makes a person loved and cherished? Often it is their simple human qualities of gentleness, kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion. There is often mention of being a good listener, supportive and challenging. Their spiritual life often gets a mention, ‘they had great faith’ is a comment frequently expressed.
In this moment in Ireland, with church practice declining and priests and nuns playing a smaller part in education I really admire everyone, like parents and teachers who guide people to have values and beliefs that make them so loveable and appreciated. I think there is still a lot in the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus worth bringing into our everyday lives. Faith can give us solid direction in life, drawing us into the mystery of God loving us first and setting us off on the path of full and happy lives being of service to our family and community.