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Homily of Bishop Denis at Bishop Jim Moriarty’s Months Mind Mass

Third Sunday of Easter – Year C:                                                         01.05.22

10.30am: Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow

Months Memory Mass – Bishop Jim Moriarty


We gather to mark the Months Memory of Bishop Jim. While his mortal remains lie in the Cathedral grounds, the memory of Jim continues to sustain us and particularly his close family and friends. Once again I welcome Jim’s brothers Michael & Denis, his sister Ann and his sisters-in-law Mary, Anne and Fiona and their families. I welcome Jim’s friends here who perhaps were unable to gather with us a month ago. I welcome the many joining us on webcam.   

In this morning’s gospel we are invited to breakfast with Jesus and his invitation to each of us is to ‘come and eat’. It’s hospitality; it’s generosity; it’s conviviality at its best. And after breakfast there is that wonderful dialogue between Simon Peter and Jesus on love and the depth and quality of that love. It ends off with an indication of the kind of death Peter would one day endure for his faith. As we gather let us call to mind our sins and pray for His love and mercy …


Two pictures caught my eye in recent days. One was on page two of our own Carlow Nationalist. It was of Tullow farmer John Nolan with his ewe who had just given birth to six lambs, sextuplets! And the second picture taken by photographer Nick Bradshaw on the front page of yesterday’s Irish Times, once again six lambs, this time we are told nothing of their progeny, but it’s a powerful photograph of lambs at play in Belmont Demesne in Wicklow. One of them in full flight would do well in midfield position in any of this afternoons highly contested matches!

In his very first Chrism Mass homily Pope Francis used an image that he has returned to again and again. I give the exact quote: “the priest who seldom goes out of himself … misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart … this is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, lose heart and become in a sense collectors of antiquities or novelties, instead of being shepherds living with the ‘smell of the sheep’. This is what I am asking you – be shepherds with the smell of sheep[1].

Jesus was asking Peter to have the smell of the sheep in this morning’s gospel – “Feed my lambs[2]; “Look after my sheep[3]; “Feed my sheep[4]. We all know when we eat Easter lamb as many of us may have, there is always that lingering smell of lamb that remains with us for the entire day. We carry with us the odour of the lamb. But the smell of the sheep is even something much stronger.

So what is this smell of the sheep? We gather on May Day observing the Months Memory for Bishop Jim. The tradition of the Months Mind or Months Memory is an acknowledgement that we live in two worlds – the world of time, calendar time, clock time, smart phone time. And still we can connect with people gone before us into another mode of life, people we have lived with and with whom in our faith, we still live. This is the Greek sense of Kairos, this sense of attending to the memory of those gone before us. I see Jim’s grave nearly every day. I speak to him in the knowledge that whatever I am about to do, he did twelve, thirteen, fourteen , fifteen years ago …

The messages on allow us to pull together the many strands in a loved ones life. I am still meeting people who have different memories of Jim. Some remember that young Dublin priest, the chaplain in UCD, the curate in Dun Laoghaire or in Bawnoge, the Parish Priest in Deansrath or Donaghmede, the Auxiliary Bishop in Dublin, the Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin, the golfer, the holiday companion, the friend. Jim had a great sense of presence whether it was out wearing his wellington boots at the Ploughing Championships, wearing his runners travelling with young people to World Youth Days, wearing his heart on his sleeve visiting a school in the aftermath of a crisis or lingering at the bed of a sick priest in hospital.

As I said at the Funeral Mass a month ago, Jim didn’t stand on ceremony, anything resembling clericalism was wholly alien to him. Had he the smell of the sheep? Of course he had it in spades. Today in choosing a bishop Pope Francis warns about the things that appalled Jim, the sins of careerism, self-referentiality, clericalism and worldliness. Jesus was doing the same by the Sea at Tiberias. Questioning Peter to make sure he understood the depth of his love. Peter of course had history, but who hasn’t? Jesus asks “Simon son of John, do you love me … ?[5]” Simon Peter has a lot of loving to do after his Good Friday denials.

Peter becomes a man that day at Tiberias. You can nearly sense the tears in his manly eyes, the sobbing in his crackling voice: “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you[6]. As they say the rest is history … with these words this morning it’s as if Jesus is telling Peter and telling us … “you may deny me a thousand times, you can deny me your whole life, but never forget to love me, never deprive me of your love[7]. As Peter is questioned, we are also questioned. There is the temptation to despair, to sit on our hands, to feel our time has passed. As a church, as a faith community we can sometimes wallow in a feeling of being bruised and battered. Nothing could be further from the truth. We owe it to Peter and before him, ultimately to Jesus to proclaim this good news message, that Jesus is Risen and walks among us. He is still this morning inviting us to breakfast. He is still calling us, loving us, feeding us breakfast, like he called, loved and nourished Bishop Jim in his life to follow Him. May he rest in peace.

[1] Chrism Mass Homily, 2013

[2] Jn. 21:15

[3] Jn. 21:16

[4] Jn. 21:17

[5] Jn. 21:15,16,17

[6] Jn. 21:17

[7] Lepori, Dom Mauro Giuseppe, O. Cist: “Do you love me?” Magnificat, Vol. 3, No. 7 / April 2013, pg. 198.