Homily delivered at the Requiem Mass of Br. Paul Byrne, SSS

Feb 19, 2009 |

Like the disciples in the Gospel we have just heard, our hearts are troubled. Paul, our brother is gone from us. We mourn for him as Christ mourned for Lazarus outside the tomb. But there is hope, because like Christ, we know that Paul will rise again. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that he is going to prepare a place for us, so that where he is, we may be too. Paul is now in the place set aside for him by God for all eternity. In the Gospel, the disciples were bewildered and did not know where Jesus was going. But he told them that he was the Way, the Truth and the Life. He left his disciples to show the way to others. The first reading tells us that the life and death of each of us influences others. Paul showed us the way, and influenced us all.

Paul was born in Cork city, and was baptised and confirmed in the Cathedral. He loved Cork, and loved going back there whenever he could. He used to say that that passagefrom the Old Testament “ a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart” was really about the Cork people!

As one of his friends said, Paul had a wide, varied and checkered career. He started his working life as a messenger boy for the Cork Yeast Company. He was a religious for most of his adult life. He joined the Franciscans in Killarney in 1946 at the age of 23, and stayed for six years with them, until he became ill with tuberculosis. After that he worked for a few years here and there, and then joined the Blessed Sacrament Congregation in 1956. He was always insistent that he was called by God to make perpetual adoration, and for him, that was unchangeable, regardless of changes and updatings in the Constitution of the Congregation.
He had a personal devotion to Little Nellie of God, a little seven-year old Cork girl who had an extraordinary devotion to Holy Communion at the beginning of the century – all who knew her considered her to be a saint – Pope Pius X knew about her.

Paul was always ready and available to go wherever he was asked – he lived in eight different houses of the Congregation in his time with us. He generously agreed to go our province in the United States, to help in our houses there. When he came back he worked in Wareside, Leicester, Liverpool and Dublin.

Paul loved people. He had numerous friends, many of whom knew him as Bobby – three of his best friends are here today – James and Noel Lynch and Christy Doyle. He befriended the less fortunate in particular – his heart would go out to them when he discovered their difficult circumstances. All the shops around here knew him – the paper shop, the chemist, and probably half of O’Connell Street, where he loved to walk.

Paul was highly intelligent – he loved to engage in theological discussion, and he could hold his own with the best of them – as he would say himself “ he was so bright, he had to wear a lampshade”. He had an extraordinary capacity to play with words. He loved doing his crossword in the paper that Kathleen brought him every day without fail. All who knew would unanimously agree that his outstanding trait was his sense of humour.. It was the same sense of humour that the Lynch’s had – he grew up with them – they were his family and his brothers. One of them, the famous Joe Lynch, is sadly no longer among us – himself and Paul are probably trading jokes now, entertaining the saints in heaven. His sayings are legendary: “ Nostalgia is not what it used to be”, he would say. He said he wanted to be buried in a tomb, with a key in his pocket, in case he wanted to get out! He described the Irish weather in the words of a well-known hymn: “ Everlasting is thy reign”! When he was describing people who married into money, he would say in his inimitable Cork accent: “ There may be love there, but there’s dough there too though boy”. You would have to be a Corkman like James Lynch to understand or repeat that.

Although Paul was always witty, his good humour masked a lot of suffering in his life. He lost his mother when he was only fourteen. He suffered from bad health for most of his life – tuberculosis and other illnesses – MA he called them – multiple ailments. He entered a nursing home about ten years ago in very bad health, and was not expected to live. But seven years later they gave him such wonderful care that he came back to our community again – he joked that he was the only man that came out of there alive. But he never complained. If you asked him how he was, he would answer you: “ Have you got an hour?”.

Paul had a beautiful, peaceful death. He never wanted to be a bother to anyone, and he was’nt at the end. He attended Mass the morning of his death, and came up for Holy Communion, albeit with a good deal of difficulty. I offered to bring him up on the lift, but he did’nt want to put me to the bother. He came and sat on a chair, ready to go with his friend Christy, and slipped away quietly, in the presence of Fr. Jim Hegarty. The Superior, Fr. Jim Campbell anointed him at the moment of his death. It was fitting that he died in the year of St. Paul. One of his favourite pieces of scripture was from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me”. Most of us were brought up on this fear of standing alone before the divine Judge at the Judgement, awaiting our sentence. But we need have no fear. As Jesus, who has been through death himself, told us in the Gospel, he will come back for us, so that we may be with him where he is. The Lord will now accompany Paul to his beloved Father, and lead him into eternal adoration.

Thursday 19th February 2009

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