Saint Michan’s Church , Halston Street Friday 22 April 2016
“On Thursday 14 April, breaking news on TV and social media screens told us of the shocking, frightening, and tragic shooting of an innocent bystander on a Dublin street. It happened in the early afternoon, in the Season of Easter, in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and in the wake of the main 1916-2016 Centenary Commemorations. Martin O’Rourke was that bystander, an innocent man, a homeless man, a man doing his best to overcome personal adversity, a family man, a daddy, a fiancé, a young 24 year old Traveller man.
As Father Peter Mc Verry put it in recent days, Martin had a tragic life, and a tragic death. While still in his teens he suffered the tragic loss of his brother Michael ‘Rocky’ and his mother Mary, and then his father Patrick ‘Podge’, RIP. Martin was a young man who had very little really in life, but who had life and had a loving fiancée, children and friends, only to be so callously and brutally robbed of everything.
His one and only precious life has been taken. His family and friends’ loved one has been taken. His fiancée’s husband-to-be has been taken. His children’s daddy has been taken. Many have said that Martin was at the ‘wrong place at wrong time’, but in the years ahead it will be important for his children to know that while he may have been at the wrong place, he was also on the right path. It will be important too, to hear and keep the family’s memories of the person they knew and loved.
In his early years, Martin is remembered by his family, as a loving child, very good natured, always very respectful, and generous. His typical generosity is reflected in the story of his aunt Biddy, who one time was visiting when he was in his early teens. It turned out that she couldn’t get back to her own home and needed a room to sleep over for the night. Without any prompting Martin stepped forward and said, ‘You can have my room aunt Biddy – but no smoking!! He was very particular about keeping his room, and also himself, spotlessly clean and tidy.
Martin was a proud young Traveller man, and he loved his Traveller culture and tradition. He loved cars, and he loved music. He himself was a beautiful singer. He was a devoted fiancé to Angeline, and a loving father to his three young children, Martin Lawrence, Michael, and Angela. He would always bring them back little gifts like chocolates when he had been out.
I have my own very clear memory of Martin and Angeline coming to the Parish a few years ago. They came very sure and determined in what they were looking for, but left a good while later with a different plan, having listened very carefully to the advice they had heard. It struck me at the time how important a little bit of mentoring and advice can be in young people’s lives.
In more recent times Martin showed his openness to the good advice and guidance of close family members. Michael, his brother-in-law, cared deeply for Martin, looking out for him, keeping him on the right path. When his father-in-law Larry spoke, Martin listened carefully. When offered the view that ‘Any man can be a father, it takes a real man to be a daddy’, it inspired Martin with a motivation for the new direction in his life.
Coming to his senses, realising his role as ‘Daddy’, Martin was looking ahead – proud of how he was doing, he had just gone back to adult education, next week he was due to begin a drug rehabilitation course, which was leading to a FÁS course and then a job, and then his and Angeline’s planning for an apartment, a family holiday, and for the arrival of their fourth child.
Our Mass Reading from Saint Paul says that the life and death of each of us has its effect on others. Can we hope as we gather today that Martin’s tragic death may help to bring some societal and political response to countering the type of violence which took Martin’s life?
Martin’s own life’s recent positive change of direction testifies to the vital importance of mentoring and support systems, and reinforces the importance of adequately investing in and resourcing youth supports and mentors like local sports clubs, youth clubs, community guards, community centres, community groups and outreach workers, training centres and drug treatment & rehabilitation centres.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, speaking of this vital need has said:
“We need a society which protects. We need a society which actively protects from and rejects violence. The violence in our society will not go away because we condemn it, much less because we feel that it is the problem of others or of another sector of society. Too many lives have been taken as victims of violence. Too many lives, tragically young lives, have been ruined through the perpetration of violence.”
“Communities must be places where people, especially the most vulnerable are protected from violence and where our young people are educated against violence.”
Only a few weeks ago, Archbishop Diarmuid said:
“Premeditated shooting in public places even in the presence of terrified children and innocent bystanders only degrades the humanity of those who do it.
Is there anyone – even among their own ranks – who can…see the madness of such violence and who can appeal to whatever humanity remains in the hearts of those involved?”
Could the repeated question of an innocent four year old child to her grieving mother, ‘Where’s Daddy?’ fail to touch even such hearts?
The Gospel reading for today’s Mass does also seem to have something particular to say to the tragic situation which brings us here today. In the Gospel, Jesus says ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ Jesus is reminding us that we are on a journey through this world to our true home with our Father in heaven. If we forget that, then we may also be in danger of forgetting that, as Saint Paul says, at the end of our journey in this world each of us will have to give an account of ourselves. If we follow Jesus as our Way to the Father, then there is no need to let our hearts be troubled.
In conclusion, I would like to reflect something of the faith that I believe Martin had in Jesus, the Way, the truth, and the Life. As a priest I sensed the kind of faith Martin had in his first approach and opening of himself to me. So I will leave the final words to Martin himself, who in this piece he wrote only recently, speaks of his faith, blessing his mother’s image; he speaks of his hope, to one day see his mother’s face again; and he speaks of his love, for his loving mother.
Martin’s poem to his deceased mother is called ‘Heartbreak & Shock’:
‘Every day I bless your picture
It makes me feel ok, cause it feels like I’m with you
I miss you in heart and I miss you in my soul
I really miss you, I want to see your face
I want to feel your love and your warm embrace
.. I know I’m not there right now
But I know for a fact I’ll see you someday somehow
Remember the times.. You used to always laugh
and tell me how much U loved me
Every day I bless your picture .’
By Martin O’Rourke (RIP, 2016)
We thank God for Martin’s life, and for the faith, hope and love of Martin’s life. We place Martin into God’s loving and merciful hands. May he rest in peace. Amen.
- Please note that filming is not permitted in the grounds or inside St. Michan’s Church.
- Further information Annette O Donnell, Director of Communications, Archdiocese of Dublin – 087 8143462