News archive 2003

Funeral Mass of Very Rev Seán McCartan, PP –

Funeral Mass of Very Rev Seán McCartan, PP – Excerpts from Homily given by Archbishop Seán Brady, Church of the Sacred Heart, Cloghogue

We come together today to pray for the eternal rest of Fr Seán McCartan. We pray for his family and for all who mourn his untimely death. We ask God to have mercy on Fr Seán and also on Martin Kelly killed in the same accident.

I offer my sympathy to the parishioners of this parish who have lost an outstanding Parish Priest and to the parishioners of the other parishes where he had served, especially to his many friends in Dundalk, and in his native parish of Beragh. Today my thoughts are with the priests of our own diocese who, once again, are being sorely tried and tested by this latest tragedy, shocked and saddened in disbelief at the lost of an esteemed colleague, a loyal friend and a zealous pastor.

I offer sympathy also to the mother and family of Martin Kelly, whose funeral is taking place this morning also. May the prayers offered for them here today help to ease their pain and sorrow at this time.

We know that God can draw good out of any situation, no matter how horrible or how evil. My prayer is that out of this death of Father Seán, which is evil and which is not God’s will, will come some good. We pray, “Father bring glory to your name.” Out of our grief and our shock and our sorrow, bring glory to your name. Help us all to face the prospect that we, one day, will die, for we live in an age which prefers to sweep death under the carpet, and not to face the reality of death and the necessity to prepare for that reality all through life.

If this horrific tragedy is yet another example of so-called ‘joyriding’ then it illustrates spectacularly how unfortunate and inappropriate the name ‘joyriding’ is. There was nothing joyful about what happened here on Sunday morning last. Given the frequency of this occurrence,I believe that it calls for a decisive and resolute response from society. The security of life and limb of other road users demands such response. The common good requires that measures are taken and resources deployed to address this activity.

But there is a deeper problem too, that of identifying and eliminating the causes of such behaviour. Perhaps a beginning could be made by distinguishing true joy from the frantic pursuit of thrills and spills. Happiness and joy are often seen as a result of good luck, success or having what one desires. Given our present circumstances, joy in that sense would have to be seen as unattainable by many people. But there is another view of joy which sees it as coming from a deeper place within ourselves and not depending on outward circumstances or on any given situation. Joy can be the result of the conscious choices we make ourselves but we do need to search for real joy and to work at attaining it.

Ends
9 April 2003

Further information:
Catholic Communications Office: 01 505 3000
Fr Martin Clarke: 087 220 8044
Ms Brenda Drumm: 087 233 7797

FULL TEXT OF HOMILY FOLLOWS

“Now my heart is troubled” John 12:27

The hearts of a huge number of people were troubled and saddened and shocked when they heard the news of the tragic death of Father Seán McCartan last Sunday morning. Some burst into tears. Others just walked around dazed and stunned. But none were more devastated than the members of his own family – a family whom he loved so dearly and to whom he was so close – a family which he visited often and whose loss is greatest at this moment. So our sympathy goes first of all to his sisters, Margaret, Brigid, Kathleen, Mary, Mona and Sister Dympna, to his brothers, Frank, Mick and Pat, his brothers and sisters-in-law, and to all his nieces and nephews.

On Saturday last Father Seán was with the Marist Fathers and Sisters in Middle Killeavy for Confirmation. During the lunch, the burning of Louth Church, which took place last week, came up in conversation. Someone remarked that they had seen grown men weep at the sight of the devastation. But, little did we know that within twenty-four (24) hours, we would be mourning and weeping for another and far more terrible loss.

I offer my sympathy to the parishioners of this parish who have lost an outstanding Parish Priest and to the parishioners of the other parishes where he had served, especially to his many friends in Dundalk and in his native parish of Beragh. Today my thoughts are with the priests of our own diocese who, once again, are being sorely tried and tested by this latest tragedy, shocked and saddened in disbelief at the lost of an esteemed colleague, a loyal friend and a zealous pastor.

I offer sympathy also to the mother and family of Martin Kelly, whose funeral is taking place this morning also. May the prayers offered for them here today help to ease their pain and sorrow at this time.

One year before he died, Francis of Assisi composed his famous canticle of Brother/Sun which he set to music and taught his companions to sing. When he was told he could not live more than a few weeks he said, ‘Welcome Sister Death’. On his deathbed he said over and over again the last line of the canticle of the Sun, ‘Be praised O Lord for our Sister Death’.

I can just imagine a wry smile spread over the face of Father Seán McCartan as he hears his name being linked to Francis of Assisi in this homily. But the fact is that the last Gospel, which he read on Sunday last, was about death. The last words of that Gospel were, ‘With these words he indicated the death he was about to die’. His homily was on the subject of death, telling his people, ‘we have no reason to be afraid to die, for they are happy whose life is blameless and follow God’s law. They are happy who do His will’.

Father Seán had just led the people in worship, as he had done in this parish over the last ten years and before that in the parish of Dundalk for some twenty-five years, both in St Patrick’s and Holy Redeemer Parishes. Before that he had served in Togher as Curate from 1967-68 and before that on the Irish Emigrants Mission in England from 1962, the year of his ordination, until 1967.

In his sermon last Sunday he had explained the Gospel of the day as he had done for forty-one (41) years of his life as a priest. The Greeks had asked to see Jesus. All through his priestly life he, like Phillip and Andrew, had helped people to see Jesus – to see Jesus in the Scriptures – to see Jesus in the Eucharist – to see Jesus in their neighbour.

To do that most effectively he got to know people. Somebody said, he knew everybody. Well he certainly knew a lot of people and a lot of people knew and loved him. I think it was characteristic of the man, that literally minutes before he was to die himself, he was talking about death. He reminded his congregation not to be afraid, but to remember that Jesus faced death and died for love of us.

Just as Jesus prepared those Greeks who were anxious to see him, to face death with courage, so Father Seán was anxious to convince his listeners not to be afraid in the face of death.

That Gospel tells us that the heart of Jesus was troubled at the prospect of a cruel and violent death. Just as later in the week Jesus was to pray, ‘Father, if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me,’ so now Jesus is inclined to pray, ‘Father, do not let this hour come upon me’. But then he rejects the idea, remembering why he came on Earth in the first place, so that he might do the will of His Father. He had come precisely to go through this hour of suffering. He accepts the Cross, because he knows that it will be the supreme glorification of the Father’s name.

We know that God can draw good out of any situation, no matter how horrible or how evil. My prayer is that out of this death of Father Seán, which is evil and which is not God’s will, will come some good. We pray, “Father bring glory to your name.” Out of our grief and our shock and our sorrow, bring glory to your name. Help us all to face the prospect that we, one day, will die, for we live in an age which prefers to sweep death under the carpet, and not to face the reality of death and the necessity to prepare for that reality all through life.

Two hundred years ago (200) when the famous French Dominican preacher, Jean-Baptiste Lacordairepaid the following tribute to the Catholic priesthood, I think that he had priests like Father Seán McCartan in mind:

“To live in the midst of the world
Without wishing its pleasures;
To be a member of each family,
Yet belonging to none;
To share all sufferings;
To penetrate all secrets;
To heal all wounds;
To go from people to God and offer Him their prayers;
To return from God to people to bring pardon and hope;
To have a heart of fire for charity
And a heart of bronze for chastity;
To teach and to pardon,
Console and bless always
– What a glorious life!
And it is yours, O Priest of Jesus Christ!”

Father Seán McCartan lived in the midst of the world and was welcomed as a member of probably every family in the parishes in which he served. Yet he belonged to none, in the sense of belonging exclusively to any one family, except his own blood family in Beragh where his weekly visits were eagerly awaited and deeply appreciated.

Father Seán McCartan had a strong devotion to Our Lady and especially to Our Lady of Lourdes. I have many happy memories of hours spent in his company during the annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. I was reflecting how many times he would have prayed the words, “Pray for us sinners,now, and at the hour of our death, Amen”.

In the Gospel we heard Jesus say, “the hour has now come for the Son of Man to be glorified”. Sooner or later that hour comes to each one of us, but in a certain sense, every day of our life is our hour – whether it is the day of our Baptism, the day of our First Communion, the day of our Confirmation, the day of our Ordination, or of our wedding, the day of our death. In every hour of every day, God is with us, quiet perhaps but always there, moving and working in our lives. For the Gospel assures us that saving grace and love are continuously offered to each one of us in the present hour, no matter what our past has been.

Like the Lord, we are all troubled at the prospect of death. Yet we know that just as the seed must die in order to bear fruit – just as Jesus died in order to rise and so enter glory – so we too will die one day to enter, hopefully, eternal life, eternal glory. Until that hour comes, we are to live every other hour responsibly.

If this horrific tragedy is yet another example of so-called ‘joyriding’ then it illustrates spectacularly how unfortunate and inappropriate the name ‘joyriding’ is. There was nothing joyful about what happened here on Sunday morning last. Given the frequency of this occurrence,I believe that it calls for a decisive and resolute response from society. The security of life and limb of other road users demands such response. The common good requires that measures are taken and resources deployed to address this activity.

But there is a deeper problem too, that of identifying and eliminating the causes of such behaviour. Perhaps a beginning could be made by distinguishing true joy from the frantic pursuit of thrills and spills. Happiness and joy are often seen as a result of good luck, success or having what one desires. Given our present circumstances, joy in that sense would have to be seen as unattainable by many people. But there is another view of joy which sees it as coming from a deeper place within ourselves and not depending on outward circumstances or on any given situation. Joy can be the result of the conscious choices we make ourselves, but we do need to search for real joy and to work at attaining it.

Father Seán McCartan was a joyful person. People gathered around to listen to his stories, to exchange jokes and very often to hear the banter. But that outward joy came, I believe, from a deeper place within himself. It came from the realisation of how much God loved him and from his own efforts to respond to that love in his own life. He realised as well that in every moment of life – in good times and in difficult times – we have the opportunity to find joy. Of course, if we expect the worse, we will probably get it, but if we trust in the goodness of God, we are likely to expect the best and more likely to experience real joy. Father Seán’s positive outlook on life was nourished by his genuine communion with self and with others and with God. His healthy connections with his family and with his friends taught him compassion and love, but they required energy and time.

His long walks in the grounds of Dromantine College on retreat were not only good for body they were also excellent opportunities to communicate with his God, the creator of the lovely countryside.

Last Saturday Father Seán McCartan was in a reflective mood. At one stage he was reflecting on the influences which had contributed to his decision to become a priest. Obviously the strong faith and practice of his parents and family were very significant. But he also singled out the importance of his Parish Priest, Father Alfie McKernan, Parish Priest of Beragh during ten (10) of the most formative years of his youth. It is important that we notice and appreciate the gift given to us, each day of our lives. Today we thank God for the gift of Father Seán McCartan’s life.

· May the memory of Father Seán’s forty-one (41) joyful years as a priest influence and inspire all of us in our hours of darkness.

· May the remembrance of his deep wisdom and gentle understanding, calm us in our hours of panic and agitation.

· May we recall his strong courage and clear advice to steady us at the time of doubt and of fear and

· May we all be reunited in the land where there is no more grief and no more pain and no more sorrow.

May he rest in peace.

AMEN

The IEC provides external links as convenience to our users. The appearance of external links does not constitute endorsement by IEC of the information, products or services contained therein.