The death of Fr Tony Butler SMA brought huge sadness to many people, near and far, but none more so than in St Joseph’s parish, Blackrock Road where Tony had served for many years. Many messages were received expressing condolences to the SMA community on this great loss. One of them came from a parishioner, Kevin Fitzgibbon, who along with his wife and family knew him well and enjoyed his visits to their home as well as his celebrations of the Eucharist. With permission it is reprinted here.
Tony lived many lives, all packed into one lifespan. He travelled endless miles, on journeys around the world, and within his own heart, his own soul. He took delight in stories, tales of human complexity, human foibles and peoples’ idiosyncrasies. He was beloved by children, who hugged him like a grandfather – and he hugged them back. He preached and touched the hearts of all ages, in simple, heartfelt words, always reflective, always human, always deeply spiritual.
He suffered. Only God really knows how he suffered. He allowed us to glimpse it occasionally, but only as a way to speak to us of love, of forgiveness, of healing and of redemption. Be gentle with yourself, was his message. See your own beauty. Allow the powerful and healing love of God to wash over you. Be compassionate, and not judgemental. Such was his message, both in words and in his living.
Humour was his preferred way, having a gentle poke of fun, when telling his tales, or in his sermons. As often as not, self-deprecating humour; and always with a smile at human silliness. In the face of all annoyances, his constant refrain was ‘Thank you, Jesus’. You never really knew if he was being just a little ironic…
He loved weddings. He travelled all over for them, performing ceremonies, blessing unconventional unions, revelling in the new stories he was collecting.
His favourite holiday was to sit at a table in a square in Madrid, moving from café to café, following the sun around the square, drinking orange juice and coffee with a good book.
Tony loved the Church, the People of God. He wrote and spoke as a Prophet, calling his Church to become fully alive, compassionate and loving.
Tony’s life touched many. He brought his personal suffering into his vocation, speaking and writing about being gentle to ourselves, seeking out the light of hope, and having faith. He knew darkness; he used his knowledge to give light.
You are sadly missed, Great Soul.
Rest with your Lord, in love.
May your table always be in sunshine.
‘You are immortal spirit, whole and innocent;
Everything is forgiven, and released to the Holy Spirit.’