Aaron O’Neill; Son, Brother, Our Student (TU Dublin) and Friend

Aaron O’Neill R.I.P.

Funeral Mass

St Brendan’s Church Coolock,

May 19th 2019

Introduction:

It is with a heavy heart that I welcome you here this morning as we share this liturgy with Brian, Esther, Evan and Ben. We are laying to rest one who was beginning to dip his toe into adulthood in a very energised and exciting way but he was stolen from us. On behalf of the family I welcome you the extended family, neighbours and friends, school pals for Scoil Neasáin and Coláiste Mhuire. Though we’d love to have Aaron back amongst us we pray now that he’ll be received warmly into the arms of God. We gather to show support to this beautiful family in their hour of need and promise to support them in the days, weeks, months ahead. We are encouraged by the word of the beautiful Irish poem Ag Críost an Síol –   ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch ach athfhás  telling us that death is not the end, but for us humans who remain it can seem frighteningly final.

 

Is trom atá mo chroí istigh ionam ar maidin agus mé ag fearadh fáilte romhaibh anseo inniu chun an liotúirge a cheiliúradh le Brian, Esther, Evan agus Ben. Táimid ag ligint chun suain ógánach a bhí díreach tar éis blaiseadh a fháil ar shaol an duine fásta, ach a sciobadh uainn go tobann.

Thar ceann an teaghlaigh cuirim fáilte romhaibh go léir:  gaolta, comharsana, cairde ó Scoil Neasáin agus ó Choláiste Mhuire.

Cé gur bhreá linn go mbeadh Aaron ar ais inár measc arís, táimid ag guí anois go nglacfaidh Dia na Glóire chuige féin é le grá agus le féile.

 

Táimid bailithe le chéile chun tacaíocht a thabhairt don teaghlach álainn seo in am an ghátair agus chun a léiriú go mbeimid ann dóibh sna laethanta, sna seachtainí agus sna míonna atá romhainn amach.

 

Ardú meanman dúinn na focail seo ón dán Ag Críost an Síol:

“Ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch ach athfhás” a chuireann igcuimhne dúinn nach bhfuil an focail scoir ag an mbás, ainneoin go gceapaimid a mhalairt  ar uairibh.

 

Homily:

One day last week I travelled between two funerals. One of a man who did some work for us in the Chaplaincy and another of a colleague from TU Dublin. The first was a typical Irish Catholic funeral; the second funeral I attended took place in the Muslim cemetery in Rathcoole. As I stood talking to many of the Muslim men we chatted about death illustrating our ideas from our various teachings. For some of the conversation I stepped outside both of our traditions and spoke about our Irish Celtic understandings of the cycle of life. Many who listened were intrigued by the wisdom of our ancient culture. I explained one of these. Fiche bhilain ag fás, fiche bhlain faoí bhlath, fiche bhlain faoí neart agus fiche bhalin ag dul ar ais. These few words are a comprehensive understanding of the cycle of human life broken down into four stages of twenty years each. Twenty years growing, twenty years flowering, twenty years growing in our spirituality and understanding of life, and twenty years going back to that which created us.

 

Five months ago this week I bade farewell to my mother in this Church. Her coffin occupied that spot where Aaron’s coffin now stands. I didn’t like to let her go but truthfully she was at that stage of ‘ag dul ar ais’ or, of ‘going back’. It helped me get my head and heart around the loss. Today we stand around a coffin of a young man who was just stepping into the world of ‘faoí bhlath’. He was just coming to the tail end of the period of growth referred to as ‘ag fás’ and we were beginning to see the buds of his time of flowering. Those involved in his education could see a committed, sincere, motivated student who had found his niche and like a flower popping it’s head through the clay he was catching the sunlight and was heading in a direction that was filled with opportunity, growth and enjoyment. He loved his college – he loved his course. His attendance and his work are evidence of this and it was only going to get better. In biblical sense his seed fell on fertile soil and it was taking  strong roots and beginning to grow and bear fruit. That soil was well prepared by the learning communities in his primary school, Colaiste Mhuire his secondary school, and especially in his wonderful home with his gran, mam, dad and two brotherS.

 

Like any child or teenager he fought his demons as he grew through his formative years. Some of those demons came from within his own soul and others came from outside him. However, as Brian and Esther agree, in facing these demons Aaron succeeded in making himself a stronger person, and a more sensitive person. His brothers Evan and Ben can testify to this. His sensitivity is seen in the way he protected them and watched over them and also in the manner in which he cared for his gran who many of you know suffers with dementia. Aaron continuously stepped into her world and made her feel comfortable in that world. Rather than dismiss her as illness became worse as some might; he only loved her more.

 

The tragedy of today, in the perspective of our ancient Celtic understanding of life, is that we have someone –‘ag dul  ar ais’ before his time. I attended a funeral in southern Ireland and the priest said something quite profound. He said that when your husband or wife dies you are a widower or widow, when your parent dies you’re are an orphan but when your child dies there is no word for it. To create a word gives this type of occurrence a place in the natural order…there is no word as it is outside the natural order for you Brian and Esther and for us all in lesser ways.

 

With this in mind we are left with little to do except grieve, as our first reading tells us… Weep bitterly, cry out with full voice, and observe the mourning period in accordance with the merits of the deceased. Yes we delight in Aarons life and rejoice at all that he achieved but this makes grief all the louder and all the more difficult to bear. This is what our first reading tells us today – we often say Let us Pray but now we say Let us Grieve.

 

Our second reading tells us to hope; to hope in what is beyond and what has been promised to us in Jesus. It tells us not to be afraid to look beyond the grave and believe that one day we shall be one in the kingdom of light and peace. As one theologian Jorgen Moltmann said, Genuine hope is not blind optimism. It is hope with open eyes, which sees the suffering yet believes in the future.

 

It is obvious from talking to lecturers and even those supervising the exams this week that Aaron was firmly investing in his future. He attended, engaged, and enjoyed everything about his course. He arrived five minutes late every day for his exams but waited until the very, very, end and checked everything meticulously before he handed his scripts to the invigilator. Brian, Esther, Evan and Ben struggle to piece together all that happened last week as they go over the events that stole him from them and separated Aaron from his earthy dreams and his earthly future. Over time the questions that hover about will be answered. Stories have to be pieced together and examinations have to be completed before conclusions can be drawn. However, no amount of answers will bring him back to us.

 

It was this day last week that Aaron completed an exam, left his home to celebrate, took sick ,his dad went to collect him and brought him home. At home he got worse and the ambulance was called. That day was the 16thof May -this was the feast of St Brendan who is the patron of this Church here in Coolock. Brendan is noted for making a trip across the Atlantic in a boat made of hazel rods, animal skins and pitch. People scoffed at the legend until the explorer Tim Severin made the same trip and using the detail of Brendan’s writings he charted a similar course proving that Brendan made it across the Atlantic. Isn’t it ironic that this simple humble boat made it across the ocean and the Titanic, which people claimed to be unsinkable, was lost on its maiden voyage.

 

Brendan’s prayer wasn’t that he’d get to the far shore. His writings tell us he prayed that he’d have sufficient for each day and I think the prayer may have been inspired by this Gospel. When he saw bog waves, ice-bergs and strange unknown lands he prayed for the strength to deal with it in that moment. I copied that prayer on my booklet when I was ordained here thirty years ago and when I struggle I pray God give me enough for this day. Brian and Esther as you look to the future you worry about how you’ll be able to cope just pray for the strength for each day. You too Evan as you face your Junior Cert and Ben if you get worried that Aaron isn’t around to help you step into the future well just pray for the strength for each day. Brendan tells us that if we think of the future and the far shore we can lose our way, just pray for the strength for each and every day and this is what will get you to the far shore.

Fiche bhilain ag fás,fiche bhlain faoí bhlath, fiche bhlain faoí neart agus fiche bhalin ag dul ar ais.

PRAYER OF ST. BRENDAN

“Help me to journey beyond the familiar 

and into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways

and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You

to be stronger than each storm within me.

I will trust in the darkness and know

that my times, even now, are in Your hand.

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,

and somehow, make my obedience count for You.”

AMEN.

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