Monday, 30 April 2012
"I'll be all right"
I went to the funeral of one of my brother priests today, Canon Martin Forde, Parish Priest of SS Peter and Paul's, Yeadon. His friend and fellow Irishman, Fr Jim Leavy described him in the homily as a gentle and compassionate man and that was certainly my impression of him. We heard that he was not one to make a fuss. As his health deteriorated in recent months, he carried on with his duties. One of his parishioners described to me how moving it was to participate in the Stations of the Cross in the parish on Good Friday: fourteen times Canon Forde genuflected and on each occasion it was evident that he was in pain. On his final Sunday, he went to the back of the church as people left after Mass - which was not his usual practice - and personally handed each parishioner one of the Catholic identity cards which were recently distributed by the bishops' conference in a move to encourage Catholics to live their faith more thoroughly and publicly. What a gift that simple card was! As his strength diminished, Canon Forde was communicating his faith one last time to the people whom God had called him to serve. Whenever people enquired after his health he would reply "I'll be all right," and indeed these were the last words he said to a nurse in the hospital. I don't doubt he will be. Hearing the stories about him today, I was reminded of what Pope Benedict said in his homily for the Chrism Mass this year: "No one should ever have the impression that we priests work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, thorough which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ." I should consider myself to be a good priest indeed if I belonged as little to myself as Canon Forde did to himself.