Week-before-last I travelled up north to Saint Mary’s Parish, Washingtonville, to celebrate the funeral of their beloved pastor, Monsignor John “Dusty” Keaveney.
The Mass was moving: a grand turnout of brother priests, a devoted family, and a standing-room-only crowd of grateful, orphaned parishioners.
Not an eye was unmoist when a wonderful tenor sang “Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland,” after Holy Communion.
Have you heard it? It’s a tender tribute to Our Lady of Knock, venerated as “Queen of Ireland.”
My throat was lumpy, not only from missing Monsignor and sensing the peoples’ grief, but out of love, concern, and sadness for Ireland.
“Dusty” Keaveney was proud of his Irish heritage. His grandparents brought their Catholic faith with them to America, he would explain. They couldn’t help it: their religion was part of their DNA. “Dusty” credited Ireland, and the faith nurtured there, for his faith, prayer, joy, love of Jesus, Mary, and the Church, and his priestly vocation . . . and a thankful parish belted out their laud of Ireland’s Queen at his funeral.
We owe Ireland so much. The Catholic Church in the United States, while the product of so many diverse immigrant peoples — still coming today, thank God — was profoundly formed by the Irish.
Those emaciated, starving throngs came here especially after 1845, victims of what scholars term the “greatest peacetime tragedy in history,” the Great Famine. Of earthly value they had little to bring apart from the torn clothes on their worn skeletons, but they did carry in their heart that “pearl of great price,” their Catholic faith. Among them, in 1851, by the way, was one Patrick Dolan from County Cavan — my great-great grandpa. And these hopeful, hearty immigrants built the Catholic Church in the United States.
Did we ever need them . . . and now, do they ever need us. The Church in Ireland is on her knees — not, when you think of it, a bad place to be — bloodied, wearied, shocked, mocked, because of the scandal of sexual abuse by clergy. We know what they’re going through, don’t we?
To these brave, good people, we across the Atlantic say, borrowing from Jesus, “Do not be afraid!”
They have weathered dungeon, fire, and sword; their faith has seen them through; their perseverance has been a light to the world. We look to them with love and gratitude . . . and, today, with prayerful solidarity.
Jesus promised that “The Gates of Hell would not prevail” against His Church. Not that they wouldn’t try! He “is with us all days.” Our hope is in Him alone.
We pray they never lose that hope! They’ve been through it before. Their fidelity has taught us all. Renewal, reform, and resurrection will come.
This great-grandson of a Cavan man, this boy who learned the greatest lessons of life from Sisters of Mercy from Drogheda, and from a humble parish priest named Callahan at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, Missouri, who now offers Mass daily in a church on Fifth Avenue, dedicated to Patrick, over the tombs of men named Hughes, McCloskey, Corrigan, Farley, Hayes, Spellman, Cooke, O’Connor, and Sheen, believes with all his heart and soul that the Prince of this World will not triumph! The Queen of Ireland already has! Yes, there seems an abundance of thorns right now, but the “Golden Rose” will blossom!