|Fr Brendan Burke RIP|
"So often we hear of scandals and bad examples within the priesthood. In reality, these priests constitute but a small percentage of the priesthood. Rarely do we hear about one of God’s faithful servants who (like the large majority of priests) day in and day out fulfils his ministry in quiet fidelity and love. Fr. Brendan was one such faithful priest. He faithfully fulfilled his ministry up until his death. We won’t read about extraordinary accomplishments in his life. Nevertheless, he gave an inspiring witness of his love for God and self-sacrificing service in his priestly ministry.
The death of a priest is unlike the death of any other: we feel it differently, deeply. We sense that in losing him, we have lost not only the man but also his unique way of manifesting God. The voice that spoke of God has been silenced; hands that once blessed are impotent. Since a priest is one who takes on the person of Christ, his leave of us is somewhat of a loss in our very communication with the Lord. No one will ever again exemplify Christ for us in the singular way that Fr. Brendan has done.
Fr. Brendan loved being a priest. He once said; ‘if I had a thousand lives to live I would live each one of them as a priest.’ He enjoyed the great adventure of a life completely dedicated to Christ in his Body, the Church.
Our Lord Himself indicated that special relationship He enjoyed with His priests when, at the Last Supper, He poured out from His Sacred Heart His own priestly prayer: “Father, I pray for those you have given Me; keep them in Your name; they are not of the world; sanctify them in truth; may the love with which You loved Me be in them, and I in them” (cf. John 17). And our Gospel today; ‘Now the will of him who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, and that I should raise it up on the last day.’
It was this union with Christ that guided and shaped the life of Father Brendan. In his case this was so much so, that it would be difficult to define his personality, even to conceive of his life, apart from the priesthood.
Always dignified, courteous, humble and kind.
I find it remarkable that this man—who was a rather private person with a small number of friends, one who did not call attention to himself or accomplish feats that would be regarded as great by the world—was, notwithstanding, so deeply appreciated and loved by so many.
The thing that stands out in my own mind about Father Brendan was his fidelity to prayer - his daily Office. Father had a more direct and visible contact with people through his sacramental ministry. Here I am thinking about his daily Mass, which he continued to offer every day, his devotion to Mary, his visits to the sick and his First Friday Communion calls; and, perhaps most noteworthy of all, his dedication to the confessional. The mission of a priest is built on a life of daily prayer and centred on the Eucharist.
If I may also mention it, Father was hardly a person much attached to worldly possessions. He had little and seemed to need little. But he was generous.
Fr. Brendan had a great sense of humour and he was a great story teller, as those who ever listen to his homilies will vouch for.
We remember his great love for animals, especially dogs. To welcome Fr. Brendan one had to welcome his dogs, which were always well trained. He was a recognised authority on breeding certain dogs.
He was a passionate supporter of Man United. I wonder how would he have taken last Saturday’s results?
He loved his family, Patricia, Clair, Teresa and Philomena and his nephew Padraig. How proud he was of Patricia’s achievements in the literary world! His annual visit to you in Galway was the most looked forward event of the year and how he planned for it.
And your visits to him during the year were occasions for celebrating and I was honoured to share some of them. His roast beef was something to die for!
I suppose our 1st Reading could have some relevance to his love of cooking
‘On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food.’
I wish to say one last thing about Father Brendan. It was his bearing in silence bodily pain and mental anguish. He kept hidden from nearly everyone the pains he was made to endure.
I wish to thank Father, belatedly, for his life as a dedicated priest and a dear friend.
And I want to thank you, people of this parish and the other parishes where he ministered for the manifest love and support you have shown to Father and for your prayers for him. You took him to your hearts and appreciated him and made him feel as one of the family. I remember a retreat master saying that isolation and lack of appreciation were the two reasons why priests left the priesthood.
I especially wish to single out Patricia who was as a second “guardian angel” in caring for Fr. Brendan.
We will all miss Father Brendan, but we will rely on his continued help from the next life. We yet have much to learn and are given a certain time yet to live as Christians-in-the-making. In the meantime, we will remember Father Brendan in our prayers and Masses, imploring the good Lord soon to grant him fellowship with the saints, and unbounded happiness and everlasting union with Jesus and his beloved “Blessed Mary Virgin”.
‘For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ.’
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen."
Post-Script - Manchester United look like winning the Premiership again so his prayers in heaven are proving effective!