Fr Brian Horan SMA
Funeral Homily – April 16th 2007 at SMA Parish Church, Wilton Cork
(Preached by Fr Seamus Nohilly SMA, Provincial Councillor)
Readings: Ecclesiastes 3:1-7,14
There is a piece of wisdom that goes something like this:
Those who go looking for happiness for itself rarely find it.
But if you pursue being a good person; be motivated to be dedicated in oneâ€™s calling
and conscientious in oneâ€™s work â€“ then happiness will find you.
These are the words that come to my mind as I try to sum up the life of Fr Brian. Happiness found Brian. The transition to the fullness of that happiness found him most unexpectedly when he died in his sleep some time on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning last. Unexpected for sure; unprepared I donâ€™t think so.
There is a time for every human experience and emotion. This is the wisdom we heard in our First Reading. From a human point of view, there is never a good time to die for those near and dear to the deceased. This is especially so in the case of a sudden death. There is deep shock and sadness that the earthly life of a loved one has been terminated so abruptly.
This is where our Christian faith and hope come to our aid in providing the full context to our lives and in providing the assurance that when our existence on this earth reaches its end, we donâ€™t find ourselves facing nothingness and abandonment. On the contrary our faith and hope assures us that we end up facing the merciful hands of our living God who welcomes us and transforms our death into the beginning of our Resurrection.
The basis for this belief and trust is in what we have just celebrated in Holy Week and continue to do so in this Easter Season, viz. Jesusâ€™ own passage through death onto Resurrection and Ascension â€“ and that this Passover of Jesus is the guarantee of ours. This is the real Good News â€“ none better for the believer. So much so that we can say, from a faith point of view, any time is a good time to die. For it to take place in Easter Week, as in Brianâ€™s case, is extra consoling for all of us who are still a bit numbed at being in no way mentally or psychologically prepared for this farewell celebration today.
One of the key conclusions, among others, that we can draw from Jesusâ€™ various appearances after his Resurrection, like the one to Mary Magdalene in the Gospel we have just heard, is that there is continuity between the way Jesus was before he died and the way he is now after his Resurrection. He wanted to show that it will be the same pattern for us. The person we have grown to be in this life â€“ in my uniqueness; in my inner self, my spirit, my soul â€“ is what I bring with me and what continues into the next life
So oneâ€™s person and life in the hereafter may be compared to a shrub or fruit tree, the seed of which God has given us to put roots to and bring forth over-ground while we are on earth, and Heaven then is the full flowering or blossoming or harvesting of that same shrub or tree.
And in so far as one can humanly judge the earthly shrub or flower, that was Brianâ€™s human life, was indeed a very wholesome and healthy one. By way of tribute I will attempt to summarise those 72 years.
He was born on May 3rd 1935 in the Parish of Keash, Co. Sligo, with a Ballinafad Postal address. Of farming background, on completion of primary School he had his Secondary Education from 1949 to 1954 in the SMA College in Co. Mayo â€“ another Ballinafad. In the final year of his formation for missionary priesthood in the SMA Seminary of Dromantine he was ordained a Priest on December 21st 1960. From 1961 until 2002 he worked in the Archdiocese of Kaduna, Nigeria, in a number of rural and urban parishes â€“ apart from six months in 1965 when he was called upon to fill an unexpected vacancy as Director of students in the Societyâ€™s then Novitiate in Co Galway. That unbroken service of over 40 years to Kaduna Aâ€™ diocese typified the man â€“ solid, consistent, persevering.
In 2002 he came back to Ireland and after a nine-month Sabbatical he took up a pastoral Appointment in the Kilteevan section of Roscommon Parish in Elphin Diocese in July 2003. At the same time he was Chaplain to the Roscommon Co. Hospital and Home â€“ almost 4 years of the same quality service as before.
When I reflect on Brian and his life three umbrella qualities come to mind that would be inclusive of those mentioned in our Second Reading from St. Paul â€“ truth, justice and zeal to spread the gospel of peace
Loyalty was certainly one: He was loyal to his priesthood and mission â€“ there was no wavering or doubting with Brian once he had put â€œhis hand to the ploughâ€. He was loyal to his brother Paddy. A big part in his decision to come home from Nigeria, and as to where he would work in Ireland was to be near to him. He was loyal, and extremely kind let me add, to the people he ministered to in Nigeria and Kilteevan â€“ something that people sensed and drew forth from them tremendous respect and esteem for him. And he was loyal to the SMA. He has served our Society very well. For a lot of his time in Kaduna, Brian was the one that his colleagues in the diocese turned to to represent them at various Meetings and Provincial Assemblies. He was for a 6 year term their Society Superior and served for many years on the Regional Council. While none too comfortable with leadership, he was a true team player.
Brian was nowhere more at home than in the company of fellow SMAâ€™s. With those that he knew well he was most pleasant and easy company. He had a wry sense of humour. His famous party piece was â€˜Tangmalangmaluâ€™ â€“ a rendering of which he gave for the last time at the last SMA Meeting he attended in Dromantine just a month ago. Any visit to Brian was good for at least one quotable quote and one or two of those have acquired legendary status that will surely be repeated as long as his name and memory are recalled.
Brian was a home bird. Furthermore in latter years, because his eyesight was not the best, he kept driving to a minimum. But he loved people to call to him and appreciated each and every visit. I know that from my own experience. By sheer luck I had such a chance to call on him last Wednesday and we spent a very pleasant hour before he set off to see Paddy his brother, and cousin Imelda and her husband Jim. That Brian was given the opportunity to be with a fellow SMA for a time and spend a good few hours with his brother and closest cousins within just hours of his death was altogether fitting and providential. And that all three of us have since said that â€œhe was never in better formâ€ is indeed sobering and salutary.
A second quality for me was his integrity. He was an honourable gentleman. There were no two sides to Brian, nor could anyone ever say of him that he had double standards. . He was a simple man in the best sense of that word. His life style was extremely so â€“ he travelled very light through life He was utterly reliable and dependable â€“ the one you could be sure was â€œalways thereâ€ and available. For a good 12 years up to 2002 as well as being the Parish Priest of St. Johnâ€™s parish he was the Procurator for the Archdiocese â€“ a task that was quite demanding. One thing is for sure. Archbishop Jatau never had to worry that the finances were not being carefully, prudently and fairly managed. He would have had a lot of dealings with the growing number of young priests in the Archdiocese and would have been a powerful example to them especially in the areas of conscientiousness and accountability.
The third part of his armoury was his wisdom. His unassuming and self-effacing manner belied for those who did not know him well a brightness of intellect and a sharpness of mind. While he would always err on the side of caution and was one who did not embrace change too enthusiastically, he nevertheless possessed a great wisdom and insight into life and was a good reader of character.
This wisdom was not purely a human one. It was imbued with a wisdom that comes only from God and that Brian garnered through a life time of nourishment of his faith and fidelity to a regular prayer life. He possessed calmness of temperament and great composure. I never once saw him in a fit of anger or ever to lose his cool. This placidness and calm that he exuded, even in the face of annoyances, irritations or â€˜palaversâ€™, could only have come from an inner peace that God alone can give.
Paddy Horan has lost a noble brother. Imelda and Jim you have lost a noble cousin. The numerous people Brian ministered to have lost a noble pastor and we in the SMA have lost a noble colleague and friend.
But again we do not dwell on the â€˜lossâ€™ too much against what most assuredly has now been â€˜gainâ€™ for Brian himself â€“ a gain which is nicely contained in another piece of comforting wisdom to conclude with:
Think of stepping on the shore and finding it heaven;
Of taking hold of a hand and finding it Godâ€™s hand;
Of breathing a new air and finding it celestial air;
Of passing from storm and tempest to an unknown calm;
Of waking and finding you are HOME.