Reception of the remains of Bishop Dermot O’ Mahony
Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Church of Saint Anne, Shankill, 14th December 2015
“We come to commend to the Lord, whom he served with all his heart, Bishop Dermot O’ Mahony. In his 80th year, Bishop O’ Mahony was a priest for 55 years and a Bishop for 40 years.
On so many occasions after a confirmation or a ceremony in a parish, I have had the experience of someone coming up to me and asking: “How is Bishop O’ Mahony, where is he now?” They would often not have had any contact with him for years, but they would then tell me a personal story of how Bishop O’ Mahony had helped them at a particularly difficult moment in their lives. Dermot’s life was marked by so many such moments which touched people and helped people and gave them hope and encouragement. Dermot helped without looking for recognition. He did good because good was to be done. As we heard in our first reading: “[He made] the preaching of the Good News [his] life’s work, in thoroughgoing service”.
Bishop Dermot was a public figure. His work with the Irish Justice and Peace Commission brought him into national prominence. He loved working with the Children’s Pilgrimage to Lourdes. He held important positions in the diocese and in the Metropolitan Chapter. He led the Mater Dei Institute at a crucial moment.
He was a public figure, competent in anything he put his mind to, but he was happiest in being a simple priest. He liked being with priests and he liked helping priests. I suppose that his days in Grange Park and in Donaghmeade were the happiest and most fulfilled days of his priesthood. He loved the challenge of building up a new Christian community and the fruits of his work remain until this day. Being a bishop did not change him. He was a competent teacher and administrator and a canon and civil lawyer: but his heart was somewhere else. He was happiest out and about in parishes and schools and with people.
He chose as his Motto Gaudium et Spes, the words of the Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men and women of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ”. Dermot showed that he was a true follower of Jesus Christ in sharing and, quietly and often unbeknown to others, the joys and the anxieties of those who were troubled and losing hope.
Dermot and I had our differences: but I too on many occasions benefitted from his unique quiet way of offering support and care and encouragement at difficult times.
Gaudium et Spes was for Dermot not an abstract theological principle. He saw that every man and woman seeks joy and hope in lives and he understood that his mission was to enable those who had lost joy and hope to regain their dignity and to re-find some of the joy and hope which Jesus alone can bring to their lives. To take up the words of the Gospel, he wished to make the name of Jesus Christ known to men and women so that they could experience God as a God of healing and mercy, not a harsh judge, but a God who wishes to restore and give hope.
Dermot was a man of hope. His work in diocesan administration was inspired not by bureaucratic zeal but he saw even efficiency as a way of giving a sense of renewal and hope and purpose to the Church in Dublin.
His hope was severely tested by many years of illness which took him from his mission at an age that he could never have imagined. He loved life. He loved ministry. Over these last years and months he never gave up hope. He would have loved nothing more than being able to return to his home in Swords and being able to carry out some quiet ministry away from the restrictions which limited his abilities. But that was not to be. But he did not give up hope and he did not give up a ministry within suffering.
I wish to extend my sympathies to his brother and his family, to his housekeeper and carers, to his priest friends and class mates. Many will mourn him, especially the many whose hearts he quietly touched and who now will accompany him by their gratitude and their prayers as he now completes the race of life and of discipleship.
Dermot was a man of prayer. For many years he assisted the prayer of the movement of “Renewal in the Spirit”, a prayer which constantly called for the coming of the Lord. Now he has passed on towards receiving the crown of righteousness which the Lord has reserved for him as a reward for his fidelity. Saint Paul speaks of a righteous judge, but the righteousness of the God revealed in Jesus Christ is expressed not in harsh judgment but in mercy and compassion. May the mercy and compassion which Bishop Dermot O’ Mahony showed over his long life, be for him now the key which will open the door of eternal life for him and cleanse him from his faults for ever.”