Denis Desmond, Raheen, died on 17 October at Cork University Hospital, beloved husband of Margaret and loving father of John, Marian, Humphrey, Donnacha, Rose and Colette. His funeral Mass was celebrated on Thursday 20 October in Newcestown Parish Church. Fr Bernard’s homily follows:
1. Last Sunday week, 9 October, we had our Harvest Thanksgiving weekend here in Newcestown — you can see the photos on the parish’s Facebook page. There was a beautiful display from this year’s harvest in front of the altar, and prominent was a sheaf of barley from the Desmond farm in Raheen, barley that Denis himself had harvested, the best crop from this year’s bad harvest. And then the weather broke, and with it Denis’ health, it seemed.
2. The display was a lovely reminder of a man who loved farming, a man like every farmer, living close to nature, with all its births and deaths: animals, crops, everything lives and dies. That same harvest weekend we celebrated the christening of Denis’ grandchild: as in nature, so in the human world, one is born, one dies — one comes, one goes.
3. The Scriptures were written by people who lived close to nature. The first reading at last night’s prayer service (from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) reminded us that for everything there is a season: “a time for giving birth and a time for dying, a time for planting and a time for uprooting what has been planted……”
Jesus knew all about the mystery of death and life:
“I tell you most solemnly“, he said in St John’s Gospel, just read, “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest (John 12:24).
4. All of nature teaches us that nothing really dies. We are awash with fallen leaves these autumn days. In Winter, there won’t be a leaf to be seen ‑ but ‘if Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’ — with new buds, new leaves, new growth.
5. For the Desmond family, this sad autumn will turn to bleak winter, before Spring and Summer come around, with hope of new life.
Ag Críost an síol, ag Críost an fómhar;
i n-iothlainn Dé go dtugtar sinn.
Christ’s is the seed, Christ’s is the Harvest,
Into God’s barn, may we be brought.
From birth to age, from age to death,
May your two hands, O Christ, be around us.
Ó fhás go h-aois, is ó aois go bás,
do dhá láimh, a Chríost, anall tharainn.
Ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch ach athfhás,
i bParthas na nGrást go rabhaimid.
May the hope of meeting Denis again, in God’s time, sustain you.