Funeral Mass for Canon Edward Murphy, PE
St. Mary’s Church, Galloon
Tuesday, 2 February 2016, 3.00pm
My dear friends,
By the year 2040 we are told that one in five Americans will be over 65 years old. Both Abraham and his wife Sarah were very senior citizens when they were called to uproot and go to a place they never heard of. They must have found it extremely difficult to make such a change at that point in their lives but they obeyed God’s word and set out.
Senior citizens are today’s Abraham and Sarah in so many ways. Some live in senior citizens’ apartments and houses; some are in nursing homes, some are living with one of their children or rotating among several of them. Some live alone.
Some have lost grown children through death and carry a never ending ache. Some have lost children through distance. Some old people’s children are the delight of their lives, others have lost grandchildren through marriage break-up, addiction or other forms of estrangement.
Some elderly people have experienced the loss of diminished faculties and health. They tamper with hearing aids, adjust their glasses, compare their surgical scars, visit their doctors and line up their pills. They stand in front of an open fridge door and ask “What am I looking for?”
In hospitals and nursing homes nurses and staff call them ‘dear’ or ‘honey’ as if they were in the early stages of senility. One man told me that he felt insulted when he was kissed by a lovely young nurse with the insult dwelling in the fact that she clearly thought it was safe to kiss him. In a modern poem a woman says,
“How long has it been since someone touched me, Twenty years? Twenty years I’ve been a widow. Respected. Smiled at. But never touched. Never held so close that loneliness was blotted out.”
Today is the feast of the Presentation. The Gospel reading tells us the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. There they met two senior citizens – Simeon, an upright and devout man who looked forward to Israel’s comforting and on whom the Holy Spirit rested; and also Anna, a prophetess, a widow, eighty four years old who never left the temple fasting and praying. They both recognised the light which had appeared and they were grateful for the privilege of being there. They were both senior citizens but rather special ones. They shared the challenges of everyone’s journey but they had looked in the right places and had been rewarded for their efforts in what they were shown, in what they had come to see and to understand.
They know now that their God’s way is one of humility and not of pride, a God who washes feet, who tells stories of a father who welcomes home warmly a wastrel son, a woman who sweeps the whole house for a lost penny, a farmer who thinks nothing of leaving ninety-nine sheep to search for a lost lamb. Their God calmly accepted a last ditch apology of a criminal who hung next to him on a cross.
Simeon and Anna were two conscientious and devout people in their eighties who have striven to do their God’s will throughout their lives and were rewarded with a sign of approval that God was with them. Unexpectedly they found themselves looking into the face of an approving God who had revealed to them an understanding of the person and mission of Jesus. In a child’s face they saw the power of God’s love. The story of Simeon and Anna teaches us to trust the God who is with us on our journey and anxious to lead us to the fullness of salvation which he has promised to us.
Our faith is that we were made for and called to union with God. That is the goal of our journey. Death may be seen as an interruption to what we are doing in this world but it is also a call home. It is not an interruption of our heavenly calling but its climax.
So here we are Abraham and Sarah pilgrims from our homeland journeyers with rich experiences even if we are showing signs of wear and tear. In her book ‘A Cloister Walk’ Kathleen Norris describes the older folk she visits in a monastery nursing home: “There is little of the outwardly perfect among them. Their scapulars have taken on bits of crusts and odd stains. They sometimes seem to have one foot already in eternity, regarding the time, the date and even the year as being of little consequence. But they also have a kind of polish, a gentle manner that has come from being hard-scrubbed in the rough and tumble of communal living. Often, although their bodies daily betray them, they radiate an inner peace that nourishes the younger folk who care for them or who come to them for guidance.”
Canon Eddie received the faith from his parents, family and from the community in Killanny, in Co. Monaghan. He was called and consented to give his life in the service of his faith. This he did after seven years of preparation in Maynooth, with much gentleness and generosity, for a few months in Bawn, in the parish of Latton and then for five years in the parish of Lennoxtown in the diocese of Glasgow on our neighbouring island, for twenty three years in Enniskillen followed by ten years as parish priest in Eskra in Co. Tyrone where he built St. Patrick’s Church complete with unique pipe organ.
He often talked about his early days in Enniskillen with no bridge between the town and the Erne hospital. When a late night sick call to the hospital would come in he would have to go down to Boston quay in the town and wake up the boatman who would float him over to the other bank of the river and go up to attend the sick call and return home by boat. Canon Eddie felt it was unfair having to wake up the boatman each time there was a hospital call and decided to purchase a bike. It was a one and half to two mile cycle through the town and around by the Irvinestown road and up the back way to the hospital (He was young and fit in those days). When Eskra people talk about Canon Murphy they talk about the Murphy family as his 2 sisters who lived with him Peg and Sue were as integral a part of the parish as was Canon Eddie himself.
He was appointed parish priest of Galloon in 1983. Canon Eddie Peg and Sue said goodbye to Eskra and headed to the border parish of Galloon, Donagh and Newtownbutler. Soon he began renovation work on St. Patricks Church Donagh. The biggest project undertaken was the renovation of St. Mary’s and the building of the adoration church, office and meeting rooms. It is not a lie to say from the day the church closed in April 2009 right through to the day it was officially finished Canon Eddie visited the site several times a day and with over 50 workers on site he could remember their Christian names with ease. From early on Canon Eddie had a design in his head to tell the story of the parish in the glass of the new adoration church with the monks of Galloon on the river Erne and the tree of music prominent. His dream soon became a reality. He went as far as writing a new Parish anthem using the popular local ballad “The lovely river Finn” with which the parish has been serenaded on many occasions since. The local saints, Tiernach and Comhghall were always part of the daily mass and the ancient monastic site of Galloon was always acknowledged.
Canon Eddie’s wonderful gift of remembering Christian names was seen to great effect when he visited St. Josephs Primary school in Donagh or St. Marys in Newtownbutler. There he could walk in to a class of 30 children and go around one by one chatting to them and call each one by their Christian name.
The records say that Canon Eddie retired to be PE and CC in 1995. The reality was that Fr King found out when he came to Newtownbutler that PE was more than an honorary title and that PP did not necessary mean that you are in full charge of the ship. It should be acknowledged that Fr King showed great respect to age and experience in working with Canon Eddie.
Canon Eddie gave great service to his diocese, his Church and his flock. His footstep was gentle and unhurried and disturbed few pebbles or blades of grass. He was universally loved and respected. His presence anywhere was a welcome one, never intrusive, more shadow than obstacle. He brought music and song everywhere and if you were not in love with things musical you learned to smile and be patient, if required. Many people had to come to Newtownbutler to appreciate the importance of music in the liturgy and that you could warble until the final nail sealed the coffin and who knows maybe even beyond that boundary.
While Canon Eddie’s strength was waning during recent years when this lovely Church was renovated he was fully alert through it all. Knowing that Fr King and the parishioners were busy fund-raising Canon Eddie made sure that the architect and consultants never got lost or lonely for want of instructions. There were evenings when
Fr King returned wondering was he in the right Church. Canon Eddie’s fingerprints are everywhere and everyone learned that gentleness which expresses love and brings peace can co-exist with a firm will which enables a person to live and make a difference into their 96th year.
We thank God for Canon Eddie’s life and work. We sympathise with his extended family,
Fr King and the parishioners of Galloon. Let me finish with a verse penned by another singer, a Canadian called Leonord Cohen :
‘Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in’
May the light of eternity await Canon Eddie now that his life and work with us are completed.
“Happy are those who die in the Lord,
now they can rest for ever after their work,
since their good deeds go with them”
May he rest in peace.
+Liam S. MacDaid
2 February 2016