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Given at the Requiem Mass for deceased clergy in Westminster Cathedral on 11th November 2020

Commentators on the Gospel of St John point to the beginning of the twelfth chapter as the hinge on which the Gospel swings. Our Gospel reading today comes from that chapter.

The first eleven chapters are, in a phrase, the signs worked by Jesus, pointing forward to the saving action of his death and resurrection. In chapter twelve we begin to enter the events of that saving action itself.

These, then, are keywords: ‘Now the hour has come’. At this point, we read, the full purpose of the Father’s plan is being unfolded: ‘the Son of Man is to be glorified’. And that involves dying to self and being opened into something new: from wheat grain to its rich harvest.

Today we remember our brother priests who have died:

Peter Stevens
Bernard Crowe
Anthony Stark
John Klyburg
Eddie Mathews 
Austin Garvey
Frederick Miles
John O’Halloran
John Helm
John Coghlan
John Seabrook
Anthony Conlon
Vincent Berry
Christopher Tuckwell
Frederick Jackson
Danny Horan 
John Miller, and 
Bryan Jones

We also remember all those who have died in this last year, especially those who have no one to pray for them. We remember them all in the sure and certain promises of our faith, in our trust in God’s mercy for their shortcomings and failings, in hope of their resurrection. 

The moment of their deaths, and the death of each one of us, is the hinge of our life. Of that moment we can say: ‘Now the hour has come.’ Now the working of their salvation takes place, as they pass from this life into the fullness of God’s presence, God’s light, God’s glory. The moment of death is so significant; the greatest step we ever take.

Our prayer this year, then, is tinged with an extra and deep sadness. For many people, indeed some of our priests, they were alone in that hour, at that moment of their deaths. This is such a sorrow for so many during this pandemic! How many have longed to be with their loved ones! How many loved ones have suffered the painful effects of isolation as those they hold so dear have approached that hour. Today we remember the hours of the death of each of our brother priests and we pray again, with fresh compassion, that their journey to God is now fulfilled.

This is also a moment for reflecting on the working of God’s providence in our lives, and in the lives of those we remember. Perhaps the phrase ‘Now the hour has come’ can remind us of the key moments in our lives, which give shape to all that subsequently happens. These are moments when we stand at a crossroads, moments of decision, when we step this way or that. There may well have been a moment of decision when, in our heart of hearts, we stepped towards the priesthood. There will undoubtedly be moments when we stepped in the wrong direction, maybe even establishing a pattern in our lives, which slowly drew us away from the Lord. So it is that we are always in the need of the Lord’s mercy, always in need of a fresh summons to his discipleship, turning back from the high road of self-centred living onto the byways of service to those in need.

As we contemplate the lives and deaths of our brothers, we may well remember the adage that encourages us to live each day in the manner and habits of heart with which we wish to die.

The words of St John’s Gospel take us to the heart of the life of service to which priests aspire. Today we remember so many, many years of the lives of the priests for whom we pray. Most of their acts of service will remain unsung, except by those who shared in them or were restored through them. Their fruitfulness lies before God since he is the one alone whom we ultimately wish to serve and his judgement is the only one which truly matters. 

In their lives of service, they strove to follow the Master. Now we pray that he is taking them to his Heavenly Father so that they might share in that glory, too.

Today we invoke the prayers of St Martin of Tours. He is so well known for his act of generosity in sharing his protective cloak. He is honoured, too, for his faithful life as a priest and bishop. May he pray for our departed brethren, bringing them under the mantle of Mary our Mother and thence into the presence of God.

May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.


Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster