Thursday, 21 July 2011
I am the Resurrection; I am the Way, the Truth and the Life
I'm not often lost for words, but today I have a dilemma, in that nothing I can think to write seems adequate to describe yesterday's funeral Mass of our father the Bishop.
The Mass was celebrated by the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster (East Anglia is in the province of Westminster). Most of his brother Bishops from throughout England and Wales also attended, as well as the Apostolic Nuncio, along with clergy and seminarians from East Anglia, Southwark, Wonersh, Oscott, the Holy Land, Cambodia, Taize, and beyond, as well as civic dignitaries, lay Catholics from all over the country and the world, other Christians and, of course, Bishop Michael's own family. The Cathedral, the second largest in our country, was filled as no-body has ever seen it.
The seminarians helped in our own small way, on the altar, and carrying the episcopal regalia as the coffin was carried to its place of rest by six priests. There were two moments during the funeral which will particularly remain in my memory.
Carrying the insignia of Bishop Michael's pastoral office through his Christian family assembled in the Cathedral was very humbling and moving, and we were greatly privileged to assist in this way particularly. Seeing the crozier carried through the congregation without a bishop attached to it brought home to me the loss that our diocesan family has experienced, and will continue to experience until the Lord sends us a new pastor to shepherd our souls. Now we must pray for that the Holy Spirit console and guide those who will choose a new bishop for East Anglia.
As the bishop's coffin was placed in the hearse and Archbishop Nichols sprinkled it with Holy Water, the bishops, priests, deacons and seminarians sang ad hoc the Salve Regina. Clergy experience the Motherhood of Mary in a particular way, and it was fitting that we ask our blessed Mother to look after Bishop Michael, now that he has departed this vale of tears, that he experience the beatific vision, gazing upon the face of the Lord God for all eternity, and share in the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. Being Christian is for this purpose, and Bishop Michael, in his example, showed us the Way.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual life shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.