On Sunday, February 22nd 2015, I celebrated a Funeral Mass in Monasteraden. The Mass was for Mary Corcoran who had died a few days earlier. I’ve known Mary all my life and came to know her very well during the years I worked in Ballaghaderreen Parish where I had special care for the Monasteraden area of the parish. Mary played the organ in the church and had an involvement in the choir for something in the region of eighty years – from her childhood days. Her commitment was remarkable. I was asked to be Principal Celebrant at her Funeral Mass and was honoured to accept that invitation and thankful to the priests of the parish and others who joined with me for the Mass – not least Fr James Sharkey, SPS, a cousin and lifelong friend of Mary. I am going to share here the words used at Sunday’s Mass. I know Mary read this blog and I hope she approves of the inclusion of these words in her memory. In so doing, I offer my renewed sympathy to her son Michéal, daughters Noreen and Marie, to her sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, her grandchildren and Mary’s neighbours and friends. I remember too, her son Philip, R.I.P. who died in June 2012.
Mary Corcoran died! I think that’s what she’d expect me to say today. Not so sure she’d talk about having “passed” or “slipped away” – no she’d say “died”, “dead” …. I remember writing in August 2009 “my mother died” – they were three words with just twelve letters but the brevity of their content didn’t reflect the enormity of their significance. No less so for Mary’s children and their families here today. This is a life-changing moment. I don’t think she’d want it sugar coated or downplayed. We are here because Mary Corcoran died.
And here we are! We gather to say our prayers – with face to the Altar and back to the gallery. Both places of huge significance for Mary. It was at this Altar she was baptized, received Eucharist for the first time, stood beside Billy as vows were exchanged, brought her four for baptism, bade farewell to Philip – here she found strength for the journey, the faith to carry on and the gift to believe. It’s certain this is where she wants to be right now – placed at the foot of this Altar so that prayers can be offered, memories evoked and thanks can be said.
The gallery too, in full voice and sound today re-echoes her countless notes played and sung in praise of his name. The twelve letters I wrote in August 2009 and the eight notes of the octave, have in common the ability to take us elsewhere. A church without music is an impoverished church. A liturgy without music, though remaining liturgy, lacks a central element. Mary ensured that was not to be the story in Monasteraden. Faithfully she climbed those steps, turned on the music, shared the notes and encouraged song. She walked up and, I believe backed down but between the walking and the backing she made music happen and this church has been the better of that. It’s great to hear that sound here again today. Long, long may it be heard when “two or three” gather in His name!
I read somewhere during the week “Repent, so that the preacher doesn’t have to tell lies at your funeral”!! I’m not here to tell lies. I believe Mary Corcoran was a good woman. Direct! For sure!! More than once she let me know when I got it wrong but many times more than once she let me know when I got it right! She had a directness that was rooted in love of place and was always well intentioned. She did not like to see anything diminish the place and “people make places” so, in many ways, she didn’t like anything that diminished people – her people (family), neighbours and the Church. There’s a line in Scripture that speaks of “Zeal for your house consumes me” and I think it’s a line that ran deep in the veins of Mary. We need people like that and we’re impoverished without them.
So here we are, in this Gospel moment – a meal has just been shared and the penny has dropped. These two men have been walking the road and sharing a meal with Jesus. It’s when he’s gone the fullness of that reality dawns. We sometimes refer to this Gospel passage as the “Road to Emmaus”. Lately I’ve been thinking of it more in terms of the Road from Emmaus. The road to it is one thing but the road from it another. Where do we go when the truth has dawned? What do we do with and about that truth? The men in the story re-traced their journey and told their story to those to whom they felt it would make difference so that they could tell it to others.
I think that’s where we are now! Mary lived for almost ninety years. She travelled but most of her travelling was local. Walking, cycling or driving – her destination was quite often where we now gather – St Aidan’s Church. She rejoiced with people on happy days and shared their grief on days of sadness. She brought her family here and taught them how to pray. She heard hymns she liked and took them to the gallery (the odd song too!! “Isle of Inisfree!”). She lit candles in the quietness of this Sacred Space and, in their flicker, remembered the dead and the living (I’m humbled to say, me among them). She remained faithful when many, for a variety of reasons, walked away from Faith and practice. This is where we are. Mary’s road to Emmaus led her to encounter and recognise the Lord, even in the darkness of her son’s illness and death and to find strength for the journey.
Where to for her son, daughters and their families today? Where to for the choir? Where to for neighbours and friends? Where to for all of us from this moment? We can’t be sure where the road will take us but we can be sure we’ll not walk it alone. Let all that was good in Mary be recalled? Let the Faith loved by Mary be lived and let the song sung by Mary lead us to the chorus:
“With him, I am risen” …. May she rest in peace. Amen.