HOMILY: Funeral Mass of Canon Bill Conway

The funeral Mass of Canon Bill Conway took place today (Friday 27 January) at St Machan's in Lennoxtown. May he rest in peace.

Homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

A very warm welcome to you all on the sad occasion of the funeral of Canon William Conway.

I’d especially like to greet Bill’s sisters and brother, Anna, Maureen and Laurence, and the members of their families who are with us here today.

I am grateful to Canon Bath and the people of St Machan’s for their welcome here, and to Canon Holuka who has done so much to prepare today, and who will continue to look after Bill’s affairs until everything here is concluded.

Canon Richard and the family chose the readings that we’ve listened to, and they are chosen to remind us of something of the man that Bill was, of his faith, and of his life of service to the people and future clergy of St Andrews & Edinburgh.

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah evokes eternal life in a calm and reassuring scene on a hilltop, and as an eternal banquet.

The joy of a festive banquet is a theme found quite often in both the Old and New Testaments.

The image more specifically of a wedding feast is something that is used more than once by the Lord Himself, and it lets us see and feel the anticipation of God’s welcome to us, the great joy in the occasion, and the super abundance of God’s love for us.

All are welcome here, even if death and life are intertwined in our human condition, along with love and loss, and there is the gentle suggestion that, if we never lost someone or something precious to us, we might never learn to love, and never grow into the fullness of our humanity that God wishes for us.

Goodness

Bill lived a long and, I believe, a happy life, but we know it was not without its losses.

As many of us are aware, one of the things Bill was to lose for a long part of his later life was the natural and very human pleasure of eating and drinking normally.

He had to feed himself in a way that practically meant tasting little or nothing of what nourished him, from before I came to know him some ten autumns ago.

He bore illness with remarkable stoicism and forbearance

This happened due to an illness that he bore with remarkable stoicism and forbearance, at least in what I saw of him.

He wasn’t able to eat and drink as most people do, but he nevertheless had the forbearance and the goodness to continue to attend meals, and the humility to let his food be prepared in a different way while others around him enjoyed the normal pleasures of such things.

He never omitted to join the senior clergy when we gathered for dinner or indeed the luncheons for retired priests, and was of good cheer among us, enjoying what he could of the moment and camaraderie of his old friends, without fuss or fanfare.

It is, therefore, at least a small comfort to picture him, beside the Lord, at the great banquet of life and love and comfort that await those who are faithful to Christ, the Bridegroom.

The second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans is a reminder of our baptism into Christ’s death and our connection to the Lord through word and sacrament.

Priesthood

Those connections, initiated and fostered, not here in Lennoxtown, but in New Stevenson, brought Bill into the orbit of the Church from his youngest years and set him, gradually, eventually, on the path to the priesthood.

Ordained in 1968 for St Andrews & Edinburgh, he served all over this Archdiocese: from Falkirk to Jedburgh, from Loanhead and Edinburgh to Denny and Lennoxtown.

A significant time in his ministry was his 14 years teaching Sacred Scripture to the seminarians of St Andrew’s College, Drygrange.

All of this took place, starting with the faith of his family and godparents and the journey of conforming himself to Christ crucified that begins for all believers in Baptism.

St Paul adds, “If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection.”

He was surely imitating the Lord and his sufferings with the greatest patience and simplicity.

The last time I saw Bill, in Glasgow Royal Infirmary a few hours before he died, he was surely imitating the Lord and his sufferings with the greatest patience and simplicity.

When the wonderful staff there had finished readying him, we had a slow and difficult conversation, and when we had finished, he asked for my blessing.

Those were my last words to him, and I left him to continue the last few paces of his journey.

As Bill imitated the Lord in his death, may the Lord likewise grant Bill to rise with him in life.

The Gospel reading from St John chapter 5 is one that we don’t hear very often, but it holds several lessons for us from the Lord Himself.

There are two I want to pick up on here: the first is that whoever listens to the Lord’s words and believes in them, will have eternal life.

The second lesson is those who did good will rise again to life.

Scripture scholar

Bill was a scripture scholar, someone with a privileged insight into the Word of God.

He spent much of his life listening to that Word, studying it, deepening his knowledge of it, and not for his own sake, but “doing the good” of sharing it with his students, those who would eventually become his brother priests.

The good that we learn from our teachers and the good we pass on from them surely counts not only in our favour but in theirs.  And a way of paying our debt to our teachers is to pass on the best of whatever we learned from them.

It ensures the tradition of the faith down through the years; but, more importantly on this occasion, it reminds of the good they did.

The Lord assures us today that those who listen to His voice, and who do good as a consequence, will rise to eternal life.

This is what we pray for our brother Bill, as we commend him to almighty God and to the mercy of the risen Lord.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Archbishop Cushley's message on Feast of St Joseph

Archbishop Cushley has highlighted the quiet strength of St Joseph as a model of imitation for Catholics.

In his homily at Mass for the Feast of St Joseph he says his acceptance of the will of God along with the Virgin Mary, "ensures that God’s great plan of salvation will be fulfilled."

Homily - Feast of St Joseph, Spouse of the Virgin Mary

My dear friends, a very happy feast day to you!

Today we celebrate the Feast of Joseph, in a year dedicated to him by our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

The Pope was inspired to write a letter to accompany this year, Patris Corde ('with a Father's Heart'), which I recommend to you.  Also, on this, the fifth anniversary of his other letter Amoris Laetitia, the Holy Father has also decided to launch a year on the basis of it, entitled The Amoris Laetitia Family, which will lead up to next year’s World Meeting of families in Rome.

You may also have seen that here in Edinburgh we composed and published our own St Joseph Family Prayer Book, for use in our diocese, especially in this time when we are unable to come to Mass.  Let me recommend it to all of you.

Devotion to St Joseph and curiosity about him has certainly been around a long time.  We know that ancient Christians wanted to know more about Jesus and his early life and that led to a curiosity about St Joseph. You’ll notice what I said there: curiosity about Jesus led to curiosity about St Joseph. This is true about both Mary and Joseph.

We are Christians; by definition, we are focused on Christ; we want to know the Lord better, and in doing so, we are naturally drawn to Mary and Joseph.

As to Our Lady, we know many things about her through the Gospels, how she talked, how she prayed, her relationship with God and with her son, and they have led to a great affection for her through the centuries and the generations. But the details concerning Joseph are few and far between.

This leads to a great temptation – to fill in the blanks and even to exaggerate the little we do know when it comes to Joseph.

So, our best guide to St Joseph and to why we have grown over the centuries to love him is to look at what is actually there in the Scriptures. And the passage from the Gospel of Matthew that we hear today tells us a lot, although in quiet a short space.

Today (Mt 1:16,18-21,24) we hear a conversation between an angel of the Lord and Joseph. Now, the angel says, “Joseph, do not be afraid; take Mary home as your wife; her son is from God; you shall give him his name, Jesus; and he is destined to save God’s people”.

In hindsight, we know that all of this is about to take place. We know that Joseph will not be afraid; that he will accept Mary’s conception of Jesus; and that he will put God’s plan into action. We notice in particular that God gives him the duty of naming the child – the father’s duty – but that God names Jesus, as God is the true father. But Joseph is deputised to act by God Himself. This is, after all, the Son of God that we’re talking about.

Silent

What we also notice here is that Joseph is completely silent.  We must presume he articulated some kind of reply, but we’re not told if it was in actual words.  But what does happen, is that he does the will of God. Matthew says, “And he did as the Lord commanded him”.

Without fuss, without a ton of words, he accepts the will of God for him, for Mary and for Jesus, and he makes sure it happens, as God wills.

And this is the great example of Joseph: he loves the Mother of God, he loves Jesus perfectly as a father, and he ensures that God’s great plan of salvation will be fulfilled.

Joseph is a man of faith; he is a man of few words; he listens for the will of God to be revealed to him; and he acts without fuss to fulfil God’s plan for the protection, the safety, the happiness and the salvation of all whom he loves.

This is an example of quiet, manly faith, for all of us to imitate, but especially in the family context.

May St Joseph, the great and noble patron of the first domestic church, the Holy Family, protect us always with his prayers and example.

Have a happy feast, and keep each other safe!

Archbishop: prepare for Christmas with confession

Archbishop Cushley has encouraged Catholics to get to confession as part of preparing for Christmas.

In his homily at today’s Sunday Mass, he said: “(Today) we listen to Isaiah and John the Baptist telling us to wake up, to rekindle our hope and get ready for what’s coming next.

"Valley’s filled in and mountains laid low, cliffs become plains and ridges valleys! In other words, it seems that everything is going to be the opposite of what it is right now - a complete turnaround.

"And how does that happen? Because, Isaiah says (and later John the Baptist), “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it”.

Get radical

"In other words, when the Lord appears, everything is going to be changed radically. And if he is about to appear soon at Christmas, we need to get radical ourselves as well.

"We need to turn our lives upside down, recognise our sins, change our lives and then we’ll be ready to look the Lord in the face, we’ll be ready to welcome the Lord with a full heart when he comes.

"So let’s take Isaiah and John’s advice to heart: repent, make a good confession and, with the Baptist, wait with renewed hope and humility to greet the Lord at Christmas."

Confession at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh is on every day from 1.15pm until 2.00pm (weekdays) and from 10.30am-12noon and 5pm-6pm on Saturdays.

 

Going to confession

If you are nervous about coming to confession either because of what you have on your conscience, or because it has been a long time since your last confession, have no fear; what awaits you in the confessional is the joy and peace of God’s loving mercy and the priest will gently help to discover that.

 

 

 

HOMILY: Mgr Brian Halloran, an enthusiastic pastor of souls

Homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh, Funeral of The Very Rev Mgr Brian Provost Halloran, Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Leith, Monday 9 March 2020.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

A renewed word of welcome to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Leith, as we offer holy Mass for the repose of the soul of Mgr Brian Halloran.  Our first thoughts go to Mgr Brian’s brothers and sisters along with our sincere condolences.  Brian, his goodness and his energy will surely be missed.

I’m also grateful to the Fr Martin Moran, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the people of St Mary’s Leith for their warm welcome and their condolences on this sad occasion.

In the Gospel passage we have just heard (Luke 12: 35-40), chosen with Brian in mind, we hear the Lord urging us to be like men dressed for action, with our lamps lit. “Be like men waiting for their master to return […], ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes”. To me anyway, that sounds like Brian Halloran.

Brian was a kind man; a godly man; a gentle man; frank, loyal, affectionate; a tireless and enthusiastic pastor of souls. He was “old school”: he knocked at doors, he brought people back to their faith, and he did so with great good humour.  The members of the other churches in North Berwick recognised him as a friend too, and have expressed their dismay at his death.

But above all, Brian was ready; he was a man of action until the day the Lord called him. The day he died, he had said Sunday Mass for his people, and he had prepared his people for Lent.  He was still working when he started to feel not well.  It’s only now that we realise he had a serious heart problem that was threatening to slow him down, but he was not someone who slowed down easily.  On the contrary, he was someone who was always enthusiastic, willing to work, in a bit of a hurry.  Even when he took a sabbatical at about 70 years of age, he didn’t actually take a break: instead he travelled to China and to Africa to visit the churches there: these weren’t holidays, but an opportunity to roll up your sleeves and improve yourself.

He was proud to be part of the first intake into St Andrew’s College, Drygrange, and he was among the first of those to be ordained from it.

He went on to complete doctoral studies and became quite an accomplished writer on Scottish Catholic history. He wrote his thesis on the Scots College in Paris, and he loved to visit Scalan, the little clandestine seminary hidden in Glen Livet during the exclusion of Catholics from society in Scotland.

'Insight'

But one of the things I will always remember Brian for was his description to me of the “golden thread” of Catholic clergy who, through the whole Reformation period and beyond, kept the old faith alive here, who never let it die, but passed it on to the succeeding generations with courage, tenacity and patience, and in spite of civil and political exclusion and occasional persecution.  Brian made a study of those men and was very proud of them, and he saw himself – and all of us - as standing on their shoulders.  I’ll always be grateful to him for that insight.

Even in later life, he was never very far from his books. In his sitting room in North Berwick there still hang today two big maps, of the first century Holy Land and of the earliest days of the Church as it spread through the Mediterranean.  And, not so long ago, Brian gave me a manuscript of his latest book. Among many other things, he was fascinated by the Book of the Apocalypse, and yesterday some of the parishioners at North Berwick were telling me that he had been going into it with them in some depth. I wonder what that was like! But I read the manuscript of it over Christmas; I enjoyed it and learned a few things from it too. I looked again at the title the other day. It’s entitled “The Book of the Apocalypse: Encouragement for All.

'A man of hope'

Brian was a man of Christian purpose, of energy, and ready to meet his Lord when he called him. He was good man and an exemplary priest. He was a man of hope. As he goes to his rest, perhaps we may imagine him as leaving us with a word of encouragement and hope, like his beloved Apocalypse. If, like him, we are dressed for action, ready and waiting for our master to return, the Lord will put on an apron, sit us down, and wait on us at the heavenly banquet, just as we hope and pray the Lord in His goodness will now welcome Brian.

Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.  Amen.

The Very Rev Mgr Brian Provost Halloran, 19 July 1935 - 1 March 2020. Requiescat in pace

 

HOMILY: The humility of the Lord's incarnation

The homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh, Christmas Midnight Mass, 2019, St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Allow me to start first of all by wishing you all a very peaceful and happy Christmas for you and yours. A special thank you goes to Mgr Burke, my Vicar General, to his assistant Fr Jamie McMorrin, and to all of you who make our cathedral a place of welcome and a sacred place, one that you have readied, that we might celebrate the birth of Our Saviour worthily. Many thanks indeed!

St Francis of Assisi is the one who gets a lot of the credit for putting up the first crèche or crib, some 700 years ago.

His biographer, Brother Thomas of Celano, wrote two different biographies of Francis, and a treatise on miracles associated with him, such was the popularity and the fascination in the man, during his lifetime and well beyond.

Tucked away at the end of the first version St Francis’s biography, Thomas inserts a lovely little story, almost, apparently, as an afterthought. It tells how St Francis “always” kept two things before his mind eye: the “charity” of our Lord’s Passion on the Cross, and the “humility” of our Lord’s Incarnation at Christmas. We are told that, for Francis of Assisi, these were “foremost in his mind, so that he rarely wanted to think of anything else”.

Putting aside the “charity of the Lord’s Passion” for another time, and concentrating on the “humility” of the Incarnation, we then read the story of the very first crib scene ever put together. Francis goes to the small town of Greccio, in Italy, and he asks a man to “portray [for me] the Child born in Bethlehem” so as to see “somehow with my bodily eyes the hardship He underwent, because He lacked all a newborn’s needs, the way He was placed in the manger, and how he lay on the hay between the ox and ass”.

So, on Christmas night in 1223, Francis’s brothers and the local people gathered with him, bringing torches and candles. They brought in an ox and an ass, and then laid some hay down between them. And that was the first crib. That was it. No statues of any kind. No further decoration. Thomas comments approvingly: “There, simplicity was honoured, poverty exalted, humility praised - and Greccio was virtually transformed into a new Bethlehem”.

A stark, but beautiful, scene. We also note that, visually, the first crib was very simple indeed: but this was what Francis wanted, because he was struck profoundly by the Incarnation, God becoming one of us, as an act of the utmost humility.

God becomes Man

Jesus Christ, God from God and Light from Light, becomes an infant in all simplicity and poverty and, above all, humility. The very act of God becoming one like us is an act of humility that is almost beyond description. Here is the Word of God, Christ Himself, the Mercy of God, coming down like the dawn from on high to visit us, and yet in the humblest of ways and the simplest of circumstances.

For modern, city folk like ourselves, its poverty is almost inconceivable. And yet, the point is well-made, and I think we understand it immediately. And it is a gesture of profound humility that is ours to imitate, in deep gratitude, for the consequences that will flow from God becoming one of us.

Looking again at the poverty of the first crib in Greccio, we see only an ox, an ass and some hay. There were no statutes to remind Francis and his friends of Mary or Joseph or even the infant Jesus. And yet we are also told St Francis dearly wished to see for himself, with his own eyes, the humility of God. He didn’t need much to do it. There is even something very poignant about the absence of statues, so that we have to make an effort to “see” for ourselves and to give birth to Christ in our own hearts.

And yet, there in Greccio, in spite of any further visual aids, we are told that St Francis and all who were with him “were gladdened with new joy over the renewed mystery”, and that the woods resounded with people’s voices, and the cliffs echoed their hymns of joy.

The second thing we notice in the story is how Greccio was “virtually transformed into a new Bethlehem”. How wonderful it would be to imagine that, wherever we place our crib and the manger, in our churches, in our homes, or in the city centre, that such a corner might briefly become a “new Bethlehem”, a corner near us here, helping us to make present again the presence of God-with-us in the simplicity, the poverty, and the humility of the birth of the Son of God among us.

The story of Greccio and the first Christmas crib is the last part of the story of St Francis’s life. So, the first version of the Life of Francis come to an end, not with his Francis’s death, but with the story of this little Christmas in Greccio. The book then finishes like this:

“The place [where the first crib was laid out] has now been consecrated to the Lord and an altar has been built [there]… so that in the place where the animals once ate hay […] men can now eat the flesh of the […] Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us with infinite and inexpressible love”.

This lets us understand the wonderful connection between what we celebrate in mystery in the Incarnation at Christmas, and the Eucharist, where our Living Lord, God made flesh, is present among us until He returns in glory. This also leads us joyfully to celebrate the Birth of our Lord above all in the Eucharist in our Christmas Masses, together with our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Everywhere, may the Christ child’s simplicity be honoured, may His poverty be exalted, and may His humility be praised. May our cribs and our very hearts be transformed into a new Bethlehem; and where the Christ child appears absent, may we be the ones to make him present in the flesh by our own love and charity.

A very joyful, happy Christmas to you all, and a Good New Year when it comes. God bless you all!

All pics: Benedicta Lin.