“On the mountain the Lord of hosts will prepare for all people a banquet of rich food”
For Cardinal Connell the mountain represented being in communion with God: the mountain was ‘going into the inner room’, listening to God speak to his heart, seeking God’s wisdom of mind and courage to bring it with him wherever the Lord led him.
The opening words of the Gospel are so fitting: ‘The Father himself loves you for loving me and believing that I came from God’.
Cardinal Connell so wished to share this realization, that each one of us is so loved by God that he used images of the statue of Christ the King, [by the Artisanats des Monastères de Bethléem], depicting the warm glowing loving heart of God in his pastoral letter, The Knowledge of Christ, in the year 2000.
In his earlier years as Archbishop, he daringly launched a billboard advertising campaign on the Eucharist as ‘The Bread of Life’, again trying to heighten awareness of God’s love for us, expressed in Jesus giving his all for us. For him, communion was a deep personal audience with God; the bread of life that gives growth and energy to the seed of God’s love implanted in the heart of each person.
His passion to share his awareness of the richness of God’s love echoes in “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled”. (Luke 12.49)
Alongside his deep, deep faith, were his gifts as a philosopher, historian and lover of classical music; Malebranche, Mahler, the French Revolution. His use of language was spoken with laser precision. The exactness of his words did not gift him to deal with modern communications: mixed with the complexities of scrupulosity, he was not equipped for the world of sound-bytes, door-stepping, and media deadlines. He preferred the pause button to the fast-forward. Being thrust from the world of academia into being the front person for the largest diocese in the country had him stepping on the occasional landmine.
This did not deter him from living up to his responsibility to teach and preach. It often would have left him in a lonely place, were it not for his deep faith and belief that God was beside him. He could identify with the Gospel just read.
‘Listen, the time will come – in fact it has come already – when you will be scattered, each going his own way and leaving me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”
When he became Archbishop, the Archdiocese was deeply in debt, which with the guidance of Monsignor Wilson and the Team in the Finance Secretariat, he succeeded in clearing. He was so appreciative of the generosity of the people and the Religious who gave without fanfare.
“A full measure pressed down and overflowing”
The Cardinal would want the contribution of the Religious in ministry, service and generosity to the Archdiocese acknowledged on an occasion such as this.
This is not the time to re-cap on all the tributes and critiques of the past few days, but may I single out one moment. While watching for the first time the screening of Cardinal Secrets – his countenance visibly changed; contorted in shock and horror at the unspeakable depraved, degrading abuse unfolding before his eyes. It was a watershed moment that came too late for many. He asked, and would want me to do so again today, to express without reservation his bitter regret and “ask for forgiveness from those so shamefully harmed’.
He would wish in the words of Isaiah that “The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek; he will take away his people’s shame everywhere on earth”.
I could not help lingering on today’s Gospel phrase where the Disciples said to Jesus: “Now you are speaking plainly and not using metaphors”.
There were occasions when he did not speak in philosophical or theological language like when he spoke up with passion and courage thumping the table at the well publicised meeting at Rosses Point.
He had a wonderful sense of humour and loved to lace it with quotations from Gilbert and Sullivan. He spoke fondly even in criticism – the joke of the person who would not die of hard work as he quoted: ‘I don’t like to work on Wednesdays as it’s inclined to spoil both weekends’.
We ask God’s mercy and welcome home to Cardinal Desmond Connell, a man of deep faith, integrity of character, deep love for his people and priests, and all too conscious of his weaknesses and inadequacies.
We are made in the image of God; that means the seed of God’s love is within all. We mysteriously come from God and return to God. During life’s pilgrimage we try to unfold and develop God’s love in our lives and treatment of each other. It is a kind of daily ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. All are dealt different hands by life; each is called to play their hand letting God’s love develop within and express it without. The fullness of that love comes in the warm embrace of God in person; may Cardinal Connell experience that warm embrace, a welcome home to the fullness of God’s love, life and peace.
‘I have told you all of this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but be true: I have conquered the world”.
+ Éamonn Walsh, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin