Funeral Mass of monsignor James K Brennan at
St Martin's Church, Ballyhale, Co Kilkenny, Ireland.
Homily preached by Father Eamon Aylward, Saturday 28th
Introduction: We give thanks for the
life of my uncle. Good man and good priest who dedicated
his life to God's people and to those in need.
Homily: My uncle Jim Brennan was born
in the house in the next field to this church, and now
after a full and eventful life he returns here for us
to bid him farewell from this earth. In saying goodbye
we remember that "he whom we love and lose
is no longer where he was before, he is now wherever
He was the youngest of six siblings , all of whom are
now deceased. Only two of the six siblings had children,
his two sisters Eileen and Maureen - my mother. Eileen
married into the Washes of Kilcready and my mother married
Ned Aylward and they lived in Dublin. He had eight nieces
and nephew's between Kilcready and Dublin. He was ordained
in St Kieran's College in 1945 and spent all of his
priestly life in the Archdiocese of St Andrew's and
Edinburgh in Scotland, until his return to Kilcready
on his retirement. His various pastoral appointments
in Scotland you will find in the Mass booklet.
Most of us when attending the funeral of anyone, we
go because we feel for the void, the pain left in our
own lives because of the death of someone close, or
we feel the pain left in the hearts of our friends or
neighbours through their experience of death. Death
forces us if you like, to a recognition of our connectedness
to one another as a human community. Death invites us
to come out of ourselves to reach out to others. The
people who grieve experience the concern, the support
and the love of others, which as we all know is of great
assistance in our grief. And those who offer that support
and concern for us, feel good in themselves in having
reached out or feel part of something bigger than themselves.
While all of this is very positive, uplifting and good,
I believe that an experience of death, a funeral, also
provides all of us to reflect on our own immortality
- our own death. Quite often, some of us choose not
to go there. We reflect on our own death not to be morbid,
no - it is because this reflection points us back to
our own life, to the choices we are making , to what
is important and what is not important. there are some
very hopeful and helpful words in our scriptures today
to assist us in this reflection.
Isaiah: "Will prepare for
all the people a banquet of rich food". Offering
us hope beyond the immortality we experience. "Remove
mourning, destroy death, wipe away the tears from every
cheek, take away the peoples shame". This
is especially relevant for us today in our grief and
in the shame we sometimes feel as a Church in the light
of the recent scandalous revelations. The road ahead
of our grief and our shame is trust in the person of
Jesus and the message he proclaimed to us. "We
exult and we rejoice that he has saved us".
In the suffering difficulties of life we can have that
confidence that we are saved.
Romans: "Everyone moved by
the Spirit is a child of God". My uncle through
his baptism in this Church and the support he received
from his family and the local community here in Ballyhale,
was moved by the Spirit and had that sense of being
a child of God. "The spirit you received is
not the Spirit of salves bringing fear into your lives
again". Undoubtedly his sense of vocation
was motivated by that sense of being a child of God.
In placing himself at the service of others as a priest,
he saw his task in life as bringing hope through the
message of Jesus and in lifting fear from the lives
of those he served.
General: On his holidays he usually
spent an overnight in our house in Dublin before leaving
for Kilkenny. A lasting memory for me and my siblings
as a child, was the yearly visit to Cleary's to pick
out any toy we wanted. We were jealous of our three
cousins in Kilcready, as he would spend all the summer
with them, most summers when school was finnished we
would head down to the country to join our uncle.
As children, because of the presence of our uncle,
summer for us meant car trips to the sea at Tramore;
Ice creams, sweets and summer projects often planned
for the year before - e.g. taking the old grey Massey
Fergusson completely apart. I can still remember the
anticipation waiting to see if it worked when we first
turned the ignition after putting it all back together
A private - intelligent - knowledgeable man.
Interests in everything - interests in Kilkenny and
Shamrocks hurling club.
We also know that he had a dark side, that at times
especially in later life, he could be grumpy and preoccupied
with himself. But it really was and still is an inspiration
to me to have witnessed that he was aware of this weakness,
his own sinfulness, and that he regularly sought forgiveness.
"It is the Spirit which makes us cry our 'Father'
sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory."
"Whole of creation is eagerly waiting for
"Creation still retains the hope of being freed
from slaveryto decadence, to enjoy the same freedom
and Glory as the children of God".
Whole of creation is groaning in one great act of giving
birth. The groaning continues in our own lives.
Change. Consider the incredible changes
in uncles live and how he coped and adapted to them.
In his childhood the effects of the great depression
would have been felt, the Irish Civil War and the effects
of World War 2, the growth of Communism in China - where
he had considered spending his life as a priest, the
roaring 60's, Vatican II (as a young boy , I can remember
many trips to Veritas for uncle to buy publications
explaining Vatican II as he attempted to understand
the renewal taking place in the Church), man on the
moon, climate change, Vietnam war, famines etc. From
the poverty of his childhood to the wealth of the Celtic
Tiger. (The growth of Intel and their microchips, manufactured
next door to one of the Parishes he served and his interest
in all of that) and finally the economic collapse and
the Church scandals.
All of theses massive changes he lived through in his
life. He approached them with a deep faith and with
an oipenness to learn. That process is still going on
for each of us; we are part of that process of changeand
the decissions we amke todayis forming that future that
we are fashioning for oursevles and future generations.
Creation does indeed continue to groan.
So as we honour the memory and the life of my Uncle,
let us pray in this Mass that we will be guided by the
same Spitit who guided him in life. That in the choices
and decissions we make in lifethat they may be for the
building up of the human family and God's kingdom here
St Paul: Creation still retains the
hope of being freed. For those who believe, the whole
of creation is eagerly waiting for God.
Monsignor Brennan retired as Parish Priest of Bo'ness
in 1995. He had been ordained for the Archdioces in
1945. He had served in St patrick's Edinburgh (1945
- 1947); St patrick's Kilsyth (1947 - 1961). He was
spiritual Director of St Mary's College, Blairs the
national Junior Seminary for Scotland from 1961 - 1966;
Parish Priest of St Mary Glenrothes (1966 - 1967); Rector
of Blairs from 1967 to 1974.
After his tenure as Rector of Blairs, Monsignor Brennan
remained in the Diocese of Aberdeen from 1974 - 1977
as the Parish Priest of Fochabers. In 1977 he was appointed
to St Alexander's Denny until 1988 as parish Priest.
Monsignor Brennan was transferred to St Mary's Bo'ness
as Parish Priest in 1988 where he built the new church
there. He retired to Kilkenny in 1995.
When he died he was 88 years of age.
By kind permission of the Catholic Directory
for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh 2011
edition, pages 153-156.