Chesterton Knew The Importance of Ecumenical Dialogue

Chesterton Knew The Importance of Ecumenical Dialogue

Monday, 4 October 2010

Funeral Mass for Very Rev. James Canon Morrow

The eulogy delivered at Fr James Morrow's funeral Thursday 23rd September (Feast of St Padre Pio) by his Bishop, Rt Reverend Philip Tartaglia of Paisley. The photo is of Mass being offered for Father in the Good Counsel Network's Chapel in London, the at same time as his funeral was taking place in Scotland.
Fr Morrow Requiescat in Pace.

1. There were at least two great causes which characterised the priestly life of Father James Morrow, which I must acknowledge today at his Funeral Mass and for which we must thank God.

2. But before I do that, I want to acknowledge the simplicity and innocence of heart which characterised Father James. An anecdote will serve to illustrate what I mean. During his last few years, in the course of his pro-life work, Fr. James had established contact with a diocese in Uganda where he was helping to set up pro-life education. This initiative was much appreciated by the people and by the local clergy and bishop. He was so happy doing this because he felt that these people were very open to the pro-life message, and he would gladly have ended his life there.

3. Before one of his trips to Uganda, he came to discuss it with me. He was not in best of health and I enquired about what health provision there would be for him in Uganda, and what we should do for him if he fell ill, or, God forbid, died. Typically this was not a huge concern for him and he seemed surprised but pleased that I should take an interest in his personal welfare. What was important was the work he believed God had given him to do. He said if he died there, I should not go to any trouble to recover his body. He believed in the resurrection of the dead, he had put his faith in Jesus as the resurrection and the life, and that was all that mattered. He was completely at one with the faith of the Church articulated in today’s Gospel by Martha, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.” And professing that same faith today, we pray for the repose of the soul of Father James Morrow and commend him to God’s compassion and love. When he came back from Uganda, I saw him again and gently suggested that that was enough of trying to save the whole world. He obediently and happily accepted my guidance.

4. The first of the two causes which characterised Fr James priestly ministry was his nineteen year service to priestly formation at St Vincent’s College, Langbank, and at St Mary’s College, Blairs. During that time, he had the dubious privilege of teaching me at Langbank. I was in his Maths class. Since Maths was not my strongest subject, I guess I did not make so great an impression on him at that time! However, along with countless young junior seminarians in these years, I can testify to Father James’ total integrity as a priest and as a man, which was as innocent as it was unfeigned; his boundless enthusiasm for all aspects of seminary formation, whether in the classroom teaching Latin or Maths or Religious Education, or whether in other pursuits such as chess, publishing magazines, or joining in with sports; and his determination to help these young seminarians aspire to the best standards of Catholic living and spirituality. On behalf of the Catholic Church in Scotland, I thank God for Father James’ contribution to priestly formation and join many of his past pupils in acknowledging his uprightness and his many gifts and talents which were for him always his means of pleasing God and of doing his work.

5. I have already alluded to the second cause in Father James’ priestly life, and that is his commitment to the pro-life cause, which could be said to have been his life’s passion. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the pro-life’s cause to Father James. To say he was totally single-minded about it hardly does his commitment justice. He was consumed by this work. His passion for it won him many friends and admirers but may also have disconcerted others who kept their distance from him. His passion for the moral rightness of the cause even caused him to be arrested and to see the inside of a prison cell door. The words of the first reading today could be applied to James: “God has put them to the test and proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace, and accepted them as a holocaust.” There is no doubt that Father James gave total witness and obedience to the conviction of the Church that unborn human life is sacred from the moment of conception and cannot be suppressed by the will of others, and that any law which permits abortion is an offence against God and against the human rights of the unborn.

6. I feel sure that, when other things like personal eccentricities or petty foibles have been forgotten, what will stand out will be the fact that Father James was a priest who had an unswerving commitment to the pro-life cause, and we can be proud to say that this doughty campaigner for the protection of unborn human life was a priest of the Diocese of Paisley. It was in recognition of his service to the pro-life cause that I was happy to name Father Morrow an Honorary Canon of the Diocese of Paisley. And the presence at his Funeral Mass of four bishops, numerous priests and a substantial gathering of the faithful surely indicates that his witness is worthy of respect and admiration, and gives voice to an authentic and central part of the Church’s moral and social message.

7. A measure of Father James’ single-mindedness for the pro-life cause was his personal conviction that not just were all aborted babies in heaven (rather than in a state of limbo) but that the Pope should actually canonise them. I suggested to him that this may not be a viable proposition, but, undaunted, he sent his treatise on the subject to the Vatican, where I am sure it was received with interest. In my own heart, I am sure - and I suspect you agree - that babies whose lives were prematurely terminated in the womb are indeed in the loving embrace of the Father. They are the Holy Innocents of the technological age. I pray that this countless host of little angels will welcome into heaven a man who dedicated his life to their defence, Father James Morrow. May he rest in peace!

St. Mirin’s Cathedral, Paisley, 23rd September 2010


tommo said...

Great sermon; what an inspirational man. May he RIP - and may we follow his example.

Clare@ BattlementsOfRubies said...

How beautiful. Thank you for posting this.
May his good soul rest in peace.

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

A wonderful priest who inspired me greatly.