Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin
Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, 12th January 2017
“We come to reflect in prayer and in Christian hope on the life and death of Dr Ken Whitaker, a true public servant, a man of integrity, a family man and a Christian.
We gather in hope knowing that, for the Christian, death is not an end moment, but a moment in which life is transformed and brought to fulfilment through a loving encounter with the God of life.
We know very little about eternal life and what it might look like. No one of us has experienced death. We may have accompanied people as their mortal life came towards the end; we may have been with someone as her or she breathed their last breath. But death is a mystery which each of us encounters on our own.
But here we must stop and pause. For the one who does not believe, death is the moment of supreme loneliness. For the Christian, death is a moment in which the encounter with the God of life transforms and purifies and brings to fulfilment. It is not a moment totally detached from this life. It is the moment in which the goodness and the love that we showed, however imperfectly, realises its fulfilment. It is the moment when an encounter with a God of love and mercy cancels our failings and our sinfulness and removes those things that weighed down on us in this complicated and compromised world in which we journey in our search for truth and goodness.
Reflecting on the life and death of Ken Whittaker there are certain words that come to mind. He was a true public servant, not just in what he did and in what he achieved, but in who he was. He was an extremely talented man with an extremely talented intellect. He was a public servant, not by virtue of a title or a profession, but by virtue of his willingness to place his talent at the service of the wider public and the common good – and indeed by doing so with remarkable enthusiasm in an oft cynical and sceptical culture. He was a servant not just in the years of his professional life. He placed his talents at the disposal of many aspects of life and society and indeed within the Church.
He was a public servant not in the sense of that distinction we sometimes make between public and private. He was a servant of the public good, the common good. He revolutionised the Irish economy, not through being an proponent of this or that economic theory, but through focusing economic reflection on what it really should be about: the good of men and women and children of this country in their fight for a better life, for their dreams of being freed from deprivation, poverty, lack of employment opportunities, and of the possibility of achieving these basic human dreams without having to leave their country. Economics is not just an intellectual discipline about the proper utilization of resources: it is a moral science, driven by service always prioritising the good of the human community.
Ken Whitaker was a man of intelligence and creativity, but he was above all a man of integrity and therefore a free man, with an integrity never constrained by party allegiance or personal gain. Integrity and freedom belong together. True freedom always comes with a price and integrity is the fruit of using freedom not for personal advancement but to make society and the lives of others free. Integrity is what frees us of cheap compromise or that narrow personal interest which – as we well know – can destroy not just an economy but lives.
Ken Whittaker was a man of faith, but he was also a free man in his belief. He was not afraid to express his difficulties with his Church, especially where the Church might have failed in its own duty of integrity. Faith is not certainty and he was not afraid to address those doubts that belong to anyone who searches for the truth and for a faith which liberates.
God blessed him with a long life, a full life and above all a good life in the true sense of that word, a life of seeking what goodness means, what truth and integrity mean. To his own family of many generations he showed with love means. His family gives thanks for his life and can today enjoy that special realisation that his long life and the wisdom of age made him an even more a model and inspiration for them, for us and for the younger generation of Ireland. May the life of Ken Whitaker inspire many young people to look to the vital value of public service, lived with integrity and imagination, humility and creativity.
Death can be a lonely moment. But for Ken Whitaker, the Christian believer, he left this life accompanied by those virtues of integrity and love and goodness – which are the true crown of life which lead into life eternal; when, as we heard in the first reading, the mourning veil and the shroud which entangle us in this life will be lifted by a Lord who, as our Gospel reading notes, is the “source of life” and whose voice assures that, “those who did good will rise to life and the fullness of life” .
Further Information: Annette O Donnell, Director of Communications, Archdiocese of Dublin + 353 (0) 1 8360723.