The death has occurred today 13th December 2014, of Fr Jim Fitzpatrick. Removal from his home in Alderbrook, Ferns on Sunday evening at 6pm to Ferns Parish Church. Funeral Mass on Monday at 12 noon. Burial afterwards in Ferns Cemetery.
May he rest in Peace.
Homily of Bishop Brennan at Fr. Fitzpatrick’s Funeral Mass.
We are here today to do for Fr Jim what he himself did many times for many people, to commend him to the love and care of God our Father, and to pray for the comfort and consolation of his family.
No parent expects to lose a son in the prime of life, it’s not natural, it’s not the way you expect things to happen. But every so often it does happen, and when it does it’s heartbreaking.
No family should have to bear that grief alone and thankfully no family has to, in times of bereavement families are always surrounded by a faith community, people like Simon of Cyrene who step out of the crowd and put their hand to the cross.
That’s why we are here today, to bridge the gap between the living and the dead. Death ends a life but it doesn’t end a relationship. Love is how we stay alive, even after we are gone.
The American novelist Thornton Wilder puts it like this ‘’ there is a land of the living and a land of the dead……..and the bridge is love.’’
Fr Jim and his family and friends built that bridge, that bridge of love between themselves in many ways over many years, that bond, forged in laughter and love, will always be there.
This is another way of describing the Catholic belief in the communion of saints, the belief in a mystical bond uniting the living and the dead in hope and love with Jesus, our Lord.
A day like today confronts us with a very simple but very difficult question; where is God in this, where is God when it hurts, where is God now?
As we all know there is no easy answer to that question, many people have struggled with it in times of pain, suffering and confusion, we struggle with it today.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus struggled with it. ‘’ We had hoped ‘’ they said, but all their hopes had been dashed.
At the beginning of Fr Jim’s illness we had hoped too……and then like the disciples our hopes were dashed.
On the road to Emmaus the disciples were trying to make sense of what had happened to them, they were hurt and confused, all their hopes and plans for the future lay in ruins after Calvary.
A stranger joined them and became part of the journey, he walked and talked with them, he listened to their fears and shared their hospitality. He spoke to them about the scriptures, explaining why things happened as they did, and telling them not to be afraid.
Then he disappeared from their midst but his time with them had made a huge difference, his presence had changed them, and they now felt ready to face the future.
In our Eucharist today we pray, that the stranger who broke bread with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, will be with us as we break bread in memory of our brother Jim, that he will walk with us, talk with us and ease the pain of our loss.
A martyr Bishop, Oscar Romero, whose life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet in El Salvador in 1980 speaking of priests said;
This is what we are about, we plant seeds that one day will grow, we water seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise. We may not see the end result, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
This is what Fr Jim’s life has been about too, planting seeds that one day will grow, here in Ferns and in Screen/Curracloe, watering seeds already planted, seeds of faith and hope, seeds of belief and encouragement.
Like every priest Fr Jim worked and bore witness to a future that he would never see, a future that he would never own.
To this work he brought a light, good humoured touch, an energy, an enthusiasm, and a ‘ don’t tell me it can’t be done ‘ approach. He was never happier than when he was immersed in a parish project.
His enthusiasm was infectious and usually had the effect of getting other people involved.
We mourn the loss of all this today, a son, a brother, a friend, a brother priest, a community builder. We are sad for what might have been, Fr Jim’s life was full of promise, for himself and for others.
Like the disciples on the road there is much here that we don’t understand, much that doesn’t make sense to us.
We are like people looking at the reverse side of a tapestry. From the back all we can see are the knots, the imperfections, the bumps, a glimpse of colour here and there, it makes no sense.
Only from the front is it possible to see how it all fits together. From the front you see that every stitch and knot come together to tell a story, to create a picture.
In life, for the most part, we only see the back of the tapestry. We have to let our faith and our imagination put the bits together and guess at what is on the other side.
On the human level we grieve today, but we do so in the words of Paul in the 2ND Reading, we do so in hope, in the hope of eternal life.
There is an old funeral prayer which says ‘’ you may cry because I have died or you may smile because I have lived.’’
For those of us who knew Fitzy, as he was affectionately known in clerical circles, this will not be a difficult choice………I think he would want us to smile, even if sometimes we have to do it through our tears.
May his soul, and the souls of the faithful departed, rest in eternal peace.