Tuesday 2 March 2010

A Good Day for Religion

Today was not an ordinary day – For one family in my parish it was a day to say farewell to a beloved one – After ninety years of life family and friends converged on a lakeside village in North Tipperary and filled a beautiful church to overflowing. There they prayed together, sang beautiful songs and shared happy memories of a good and fulfilling life.

None of this would this be unusual but we were in a Roman Catholic church and this was a Church of Ireland funeral! The deceased had lived in the village all his life – He was, like his surviving family, a part of the place - It was his home and ordinarily he would have been buried out of the local Church of Ireland church in the same village. But that church is now a private dwelling and so not for the first time the local Roman Catholic community threw open their doors so that a member of the Church of Ireland could have their funeral in their own hometown – the place they loved in life. No less than three Roman Catholic clergy turned out to show their support and not alone that but the church choir turned out in force and sang the traditional Protestant hymns with gusto that Wesley himself would have been proud of. It was as one family member observed in the eulogy, like playing rugby in Croke Park. It was a beautiful gesture and an example of true Christianity in action. I would like to think we would be as generous if the shoe were on the other foot.

But there was more to come. The burial was to take place in the Church of Ireland graveyard which is adjacent to the old church. As I and my fellow clergy led the coffin through the churchyard the occupant of the now converted church, a lady from Thailand, and I presume a  Buddhist, though I don’t know,  lit dozens of incense sticks along the route the coffin was to take to the grave. Totally unexpected it was intensely moving and impressive. I am not well versed enough in world religions to know the exact significance of this ritual but it just seemed right and was yet another example of the generous respect of one tradition for another. Today truly was no ordinary day – it was a good day for religion – a day on which its true role as a source of reconciliation and peace was demonstrated so very well. Would that it could always be so.

9 comments:

Ó Rothláin said...

It's brilliant that you used playing Rugby in Croke Park as an example. The first Ireland v. England 6 Nations Match with both anthems is an unforgettable moment in sport and history.
I assume this moment you experienced, and have shared with us, carries much the same weight in your mind and heart. I can relate to that through your analogy. It's a great story of Christian Unity, Compassion and Ecumenism.

paddyanglican said...

Not my analogy but it was a great one - a family member used it during the service - but yes it was a powerful and heartwarming experience :)

pat gilmartin said...

Hi Stephen,a very well written article---thats the way religion should be.thanks

Michele said...

How lovely. A beautiful testament to the religion of Love.

Anonymous said...

Spread the Word !

Grannymar said...

I am sure the whole day was very moving. You can feel it in your words.

Anonymous said...

Surley the heading should be "A Good Day for God !"

Grandmère Mimi said...

A beautiful story and beautifully told, Stephen. And the incense was the final lovely touch.

Bock the Robber said...

Perhaps a good day for kindness.