Funeral Homily for Mary Chase

St. Brendan’s Church Coolock
21st of March 2020

Mary Chase died after a full, healthy life. Though old age had crept up on her, her mind, her body, and her soul, stayed strong. It wasn’t until a fall last weekend that she was admitted to Beaumont Hospital and while there, she crossed over into everlasting life. This great loss is expressed beautifully in the words at the end of the death notice on, words I haven’t seen often at the end of a death notice. They are I líonta Dé go gcastar sinn. Trying to translate these words to give their true meaning is difficult, however, roughly translated it means Into God’s nets may she be caught up in. These words give us as sense of her being folded into the arms of God. Just as Mary folded her loving arms around you all at various stages of your life. After a fall when you were a child, after a break-up, after a crash (both in a car and of the financial sort!)

Mary died on the Feast of St. Joseph. There is much fuss made of St Patrick and so St Joseph may not get much of a look in but I think there is a relevance here today. My own mother made sure to put those large white lilies at St Joseph’s statue on the 19th of March every year as did her father before her.

There are three aspects of St. Joseph that apply to the Mary Chase that I knew and hopefully the Mary Chase that you knew too! Firstly, like St Joseph she did things quietly not wanting any attention or thanks. We know little about Joseph maybe because he wanted it that way, but when he was needed he was there. He didn’t look for attention, but he did his duty. We know he was at the wedding feast of Cana where Jesus turned what was banal and ordinary into something far from ordinary. Mary may not have shouted from the roof-tops but Mary brought that same charm to what can be a banal ordinary life. Over ‘lots of chats and lots of tea’ she enjoyed a joke, a funny incident or just the plain ordinary craic…life was too short for any other option.

Secondly, Joseph was a dreamer. So too was Mary; a dreamer…not a day dreamer. She dreamed for every one of you. She knew what you could be and she pushed you and she pushed for you to be the best at what you could be. Real dreams come from the soul, they don’t frighten us or harm us. They are the souls way of waking us up to deeper realties and immense possibilities that we might miss if we live distracted lives. Mary’s soul was deep. It was nurtured through prayer and her love of the mass. In essence she achieved her purpose in life, yes she had five great children and five wonderful grandchildren but her greatest purpose was achieved in that at the end of her life she knew her God. Like Joseph, she knew God’s ways and she stuck with them. And so she goes today not to a stranger that she has to apologise to, but to a friend with whom there is a mutual desire to catch up and feel at home tin one another’s company. They can sit together as there is no fear or talk of ‘social distancing’!

Thirdly St Joseph was a protector. We know from the biblical accounts that he took the risks to keep his family from harm. Mary too was your protector; she may not have fought all your battles but she gave you the strength and wisdom to know what to do when you faced them and to always come out of those battles with your dignity. As a matter of fact she probably knew about all your battles before you even knew about them yourself! Throughout life she made sure you were all safe. By choosing to live in this parish she provided you with a safe network to connect with and to grow strong with and to be fair you all gave as much back if not more. She taught you that the greatest protections was strong connections with people who believe the same things and share the same outlook and humour. She taught you about friendship as she modelled it with her own good friends most notably Anne Maguire and Joan Morgan.

These three overlapping characteristics of St Joseph and Mary Chase , a quiet influencer, a dreamer for others, and a protector are only the tip of the ice-berg as Mary has many more qualities. You see the great measure of the woman and of any person is never any one thing. She was lots of things. Today many people narrow the world by living with one idea of life. There are many ways to live and many angles to life. As the political theorist Michael Walzer has written, a self whose identity is made up of only one source is shallow and totalizing.

She was a proud Meath lady from a place called Bohermeen; a place I picked potatoes in believe it or not! A village outside Navan in the shadow of Tara Mines. She left there to go to London because there was nothing in Co. Meath and like my own parents returned to make her home here in Coolock where she lived happily since the mid 1960s; close on 60 years.

Her faith allowed her to venture into community, friendships, and fun. Before Tomangos – she ran the place to which the gang would go every Friday night here in the village. She facilitated our journey through Showaddywaddy, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Abba, Led Zepplin, Saturday Night Fever, even God help us – Bon Jovi. She, for us, was the platform that gave us music and the fun that accompanies it. She was the equivalent of today’s Spotify and i – tunes. Without her effort and others like her that music would not have been ours to hear and understand.

The readings chosen to day are her readings. They are her words; they are what she would want to tell us. The first reading tells us she is at a party where there is no more tears or suffering (and where there is lots of chats and lots of tea) She is there because she has fought the good fight. If she was to pick any words to leave us with it‘d be the line from the second reading; Be careful always to choose the right course; be brave under trials; make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work, in thoroughgoing service.

And finally the Gospel; the way to eternity is through Jesus – we can see the many aspects of his life in Mary’s life. I believe that God created us so that he could see his image in us; so he could delight in us. He delighted in Mary. You will miss her; she was a great mother, grandmother and friend. She delighted in all of you. That is God – to take delight in things when there is much to give out about. Go from here now; though grief may weigh heavy, delight in things and when grief subsides (it never goes away), but when it subsides, continue to delight in things. Don’t be distracted by quick fixes or tacky things delight as Mary did and as God does in all that there is to delight in.

Gordan asked me to finish with a line. I used this line at my own father’s fueral only a few months ago. It tells what we do in funeral liturgy in this Church of St. Brendan with a somewhat diminished community today. These words were penned by a priest friend of mine and they go as follows ‘she loved us into existence – we love her into eternity’. Rest in peace Mary Chase as we love you into eternity.

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