Homily Preached at Funeral Mass of Monsignor Patrick J. McManus Crosserlough – 5 February 2020

Just in the last day or so, when members of Monsignor McManus’s family were going through some of his papers, they came across a homily that he had preached at a funeral Mass more than a quarter of a century ago. His beautiful, fountain-pen handwriting, meant that the text of the homily is still as clear as the day it was written. In that homily he stated:

“At every funeral we must be conscious that our own time will come”.

And then he went on to pose the question:

“And how would we like our friends and neighbours to engage themselves at our funeral Mass?”

He answered that question by saying:

“I know what I’d be hoping for at my funeral, I’d be hoping that everyone present would really pray, really make heart to heart contact with God and ask Him to be merciful to me and to forgive all my sins.”

So that is what Monsignor P.J. wants us to do at this his funeral Mass. He wants us to pray, to make heart to heart contact with God and to ask God to be merciful to him and to forgive all his sins. So that is what we gather to do today, to pray for him and ask God to be merciful to him. But we will do more than that. We will also pray for this family and friends and for everyone who is grieving for him. And we pray too giving thanks to God for Monsignor P.J.s long-life and his faithful ministry. We pray that God will welcome him home with these or similar words: ‘Well done good and faithful servant … come and join in your master’s happiness.’

Patrick J. McManus was born on 25 April 1922, one of three sons and one daughter born to Andrew McManus and Marcella Scanlon in the townland of Greaghnagee in the parish of Lavey. He grew up there, went to St Patrick’s College in Cavan and then onto St Patrick’s College in Maynooth, where he was ordained on 22 June 1947. He worked in Clifton diocese in Wales before returning to Ireland in 1952 when he was appointed Diocesan Examiner, visiting all the primary schools in the diocese of Kilmore. Many of us have fond memories of this gentle, kind and good humoured man visiting our school and giving Confirmation tickets despite our stumbled and stuttered responses to the Catechism questions.

In 1958 he was appointed curate in the Cathedral parish in Cavan and became Administrator there in 1974. In all he was twenty two years ministering in Cavan parish and while there he endeared himself to all, treating everybody with equal dignity and respect. He had a special care for those who were poor, for travellers, for those who were struggling. He listened to them, gave them time and advice and unselfishly shared whatever money he had with those who were in need. He took to heart the words of the Prophet Isaiah in that first reading:

Share your food with the hungry and open your house to the homeless poor … if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon.

In 1976 Monsignor McManus was appointed Vicar General of the diocese of Kilmore, helping Bishop Francis MacKiernan to administer the diocese and being there to advise and support him whenever needed. Bishop Leo O’Reilly also benefitted from P.J.s wise counsel as he continued as Vicar General during the early years of Bishop Leo’s episcopacy. Bishop Leo had been ordained Coadjutor bishop of the diocese on 2 February 1997 and speaking at the time of his installation as bishop of Kilmore in October 1998 Monsignor MacManus advised him, with that lovely sense of humour that he had, that he could ‘now take the L plate down!’

P.J. McManus was, as they say in Irish, ábhar easpag. He would have made a good bishop and the story goes that after Francis MacKiernan was appointed bishop in 1972 he visited the presbytery in Cavan, and was greeted by one of the housekeepers with the words ‘Our man should have got that job!’ Monsignor McManus did not need to be a bishop to carry out his wonderful ministry in the diocese and I and many other priests have benefited from his wise counsel and his human kindness. In more recent years some of these priests – Kevin Fay, Peter McKiernan, Noel Boylan, Darragh Connolly, the late Fr Micheál Quinn and others too were able repay his kindness and were there to minister to Monsignor P.J. as his health began to fail. He was blessed with the care he received from doctors, nurses and medical staff. He was blessed too with the support and care of his family, his friends, carers and parishioners who all ensured that he could remain here in the parochial house in Crosserlough until the end.

As many of you know Monsignor P.J. was a gifted preacher. He had a great command of the English language, using words sparingly, preparing his homilies carefully, each one appropriate for the particular occasion. He helped establish CMAC, now known as ACCORD in the diocese, providing pre marriage courses for engaged couples and also post marriage counselling services. It was he who started the annual Kilmore Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes away back fifty years ago and he travelled there every year, I think last year being the first one that he missed. Thankfully, both ACCORD and the Lourdes Pilgrimage which he established in the diocese are still thriving to this day.

On 12 July 1980 Monsignor McManus moved to Crosserlough and he has remained here, ever since. He retired as parish priest in 1997, though in truth he never retired. He continued to minister here and even in the days before he died he was imparting blessings on those who visited his bedside. He was much beloved here in this parish and by everyone who knew him. We priests can be hard on each other, critical of each other, but in all the years I have been a priest here in the diocese, I never heard either a priest or indeed anyone else say a harsh word, or a critical word about him.

If Patrick J. McManus was going forward for election his manifesto would be taken from the Sermon on the Mount, the gospel reading for his funeral Mass:

Happy the poor in spirit … happy the gentle … happy those who mourn …happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right … happy the merciful … happy the peacemakers … happy the pure in heart, they shall see God.

Today we pray that Monsignor McManus, who lived out the Beatitudes in his own life, will be rewarded for his goodness, we pray that he shall see God.

Venerable is a word that we do not use much anymore and yet it is a word that we must take out and use again because it describes Monsignor P.J. so well. He was venerable in that he lived both an extraordinary long life and an extraordinary good life. He died on Sunday last just two months short of his ninety-eight birthday. The date of his death was 02 02 2020 – a perfect numeral palindrome, a mirror image from either end. Sunday was also the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, or Candlemas Day when we recalled Simeon welcoming Joseph and Mary as they presented the child Jesus in the temple. Simeon, who was a venerable, devout and upright man, had waited long to see the Lord. He was overjoyed as he pronounced Jesus to be the Light of the world and prayed:

Now Master you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised, because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have proclaimed for all the nations to see.

These too were Monsignor P. J.s own sentiments as he quietly slipped away on Sunday night last. ‘Now Master you can let your servant go in peace.’ He had a great welcome for others in life. May the Lord now welcome him warmly. May he rest in peace.