Homily of Father Myles O’Reilly SJ at funeral Mass of Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman

10 Mar 2016

Please see below the homily of Fr Myles O’Reilly, S.J. from today’s Funeral Mass of Mr. Justice Adrian Hardiman, which took place after  10.00am Mass in the Church of the Holy Name, Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

“We have to pinch ourselves, are we really at the funeral of Adrian Hardiman?  Is he really gone? It has all been so sudden…so hard to take in ..and yet despite the great shock of losing Adrian, Yvonne and her family have found time and space to put their heart and soul into preparing this farewell liturgy for Adrian. Every reading, every hymn, every prayer of the faithful, every reader, the celebrant, the eulogist, have all been carefully chosen to do Adrian proud.

Over the past few days, the newspapers, TV and radio have been full of glowing accounts of Adrian’s life, and the manifold profound and colourful contributions he made to this country. Among the ways he was described – He was. … ” a proud and patriotic Irish man”

“A colossus at the bar and on the Supreme Court…”

“A fearless defender of the constitution…”

“ A passionate historian…”

“A Remarkable and engaging Joycean scholar fierce protector of individual rights against the State…and many more.

I will leave the elucidation of these and many more descriptions to Michael McDowell, Adrian’s best friend and colleague who will appropriately  give the eulogy after communion. I will focus on and try to glean where was the God dimension in Adrian’s life.

The Gospel chosen for today’s Mass depicts a lawyer asking Jesus, of all the commandments that Jews are expected to keep, all 613 of them, which would he consider the most important? Jesus reduces them down to two. ” Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God is one,  and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and the second, love your neighbour as yourself”  there is no commandment greater than these. So let me pick out one of these ways that we are enjoined to love God. “Thou shalt love God with all your mind.”

Adrian had a voracious appetite for knowledge, an unrestricted desire to know. He never stopped learning, .. always curious. If he met someone who had an area of knowledge that he knew nothing about, rather than be threatened by them, he would be full of curiosity and eagerness to learn from them. His pursuit of knowledge was not just confined to law, but extended to literature, poetry, history, politics, culture and religion. He wanted the total picture….always looking for a better explanation…or a wiser course of action.  On one of his holidays in Donegal, the family was packing up to leave. Mary Jones one of the family friends gave a gentle hint that he could be helping with the tidying up! He said “I am busy” as he continued to sit in the chair. “busy about what” ? She asked rhetorically. ”  I am thinking” he said emphatically.

That story reminds me of the story of Martha and Mary. Martha complains to Jesus about Mary not carrying her share of the housework. Jesus defends Mary…says she is justified in sitting at the feet of Jesus and pondering on his word.  Adrian was there thinking…thinking things out that would have big implications for others and for the country.

Seeking with your whole mind is trying to be objective,  trying to be impartial, it is trying to take all the data, all the evidence into account, we don’t invent the truth, we discover it, we are servants of  the truth and the truly good. Pope Francis in his address to the politicians in Brussels said that we can’t be truly human unless we are open to the Transcendent. I would suggest that Adrian always earnestly sought the truth. Like us all, he didn’t always achieve it, but he sought it. In this way he was implicitly seeking and serving God.

The First reading today bids us to “Turn your ear to wisdom, Apply your heart to truth, look for them as if they were gold or silver, and you will discover knowledge of God.” Intellectuals like Adrian, who seek God primarily through their mind, are susceptible to one fatal flaw. They are in danger of falling in love with their view of reality rather than reality itself. As one intellectual theologian said to me one day, ” You know Myles if I was confronted with a choice between a theology of heaven and the reality of heaven, I would be in danger of choosing the theology of Heaven! I imagine it would fascinate me more than the reality.” Intellectuals need mystical experiences to take them out of the prison of their minds. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits used to say, ” it is not knowing many things that satisfies the soul, but savouring one thing deeply.

I imagine there were many things that Adrian that Adrian savoured deeply. But let me share one that I happen to know about.

For some reason, Adrian was deeply moved by the birth of his first grandchild Vincent.  He couldn’t stop himself from calling over to Hugh and Alison’s house to see his grandson,  even twice or three times some days. Once he rang the bell at 10 pm at night. Alison answered and said “Adrian, Vincent has been asleep for 3 hours, we can’t wake him up now”.  I know”, said Adrian, ” but I only want to look at him.”! He looked at him for twenty minutes and then went home! The mystery of life cannot be grasped with the intellect, it can only be experienced with the heart. “It is only with the heart that we see rightly;  Loving  God with “our whole heart ” is extending this wonderment to all forms of life.  The one God is manifesting in many different forms, each uniquely splendid. Catching this splendour a poet once said ” I said to the Cherry tree, tell me about God …and it blossomed” ! Our hearts are opened up by beauty, innocence and kindness.

Adrian continued to frequently visit his now 3 grandchildren and build a very significant relationship with them. Even last Monday, when a knock came to the door that sounded like the way he knocked, Karen the second youngest said, ” that is Grandad coming back to us  as an angel”. They had an indelible experience of an angel in the form of a Grandad. Adrian might have agreed with the sentiments of One Grandad who said “if I knew my grandchildren would have been this much fun, I would have had them first”.!

Adrian seemed to always keep his heart open, he could vehemently disagree with you and yet remain friends with you. He kept everyone in the circle of his love. His heart was inclusive, thoughtful, hospitable and generous. His greatest love of all was to be with his family. He loved Yvonne so much and was so supportive and proud of her work. Jesus said ” where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst. We are gathered here together this morning, surely Adrian is in our midst, very happy but a bit frustrated that he can’t hold forth! I have no doubt that if he was given the choice on how to spend his last meal, his last supper, it would be exactly as he spent  last Sunday, celebrating Yvonne on Mother’s Day with his family. He loved mentoring his children, helping them to choose careers that would make them happiest and most fulfilled. He took to heart Shakespeare’s advice “Love that well, which you must leave eer long”

He was a man with great outer success in life, but his real success was inward. It is beautifully expressed by the poet Bessie A Stanley.

He has achieved success

Who has lived well,

Laughed often and loved much,

Who has enjoyed the trust of good women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of children, who has filled the niche and Accomplished his task

Who has left the world better than he found it, whether by a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;

Who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty, Or failed to express it.

Who has looked for the best in others,

And given the best he had,

Whose life was an inspiration,

Whose memory was a benediction.

Adrian, go in peace,

Your hopes fulfilled.”