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Funeration, rumination and sensation

2017-11-01 10:27

I was told his funeral would start promptly at 12, I was told to be in my seat by 11.30. I made good time to London, having time to spare for coffee with a sibling. It was not therefore part of my plan to still be waiting outside in the Cathedral Piazza at 11.50. Upon the gift of a lilac-coloured ticket being presented into my hand I hot-footed it inside. Directed by cathedral stewards to keep walking, with awkwardness and a sensation of many eyes upon me (the first of many peculiar sensations that day), I did as I was told. I walked until I could go no further. Er? There was no mistake, my ticket did indeed permit me to sit near the front.


 I imagine that Luke Coppen was inside already, on assignment for the Catholic Herald he described seeing, “Catholics of all kinds.” As children our mother would tug at us to make us look straight ahead, we were to keep the altar as our focus. I shrugged off the constricting memory of her tug, and gawked for myself at all the different kinds of Catholics. I was giving particular notice to my fellow lilac ticket holders, I recognised dukes, presidents, MPs, the well heeled and the well spoken. I was well uncomfortable. I checked my ticket again, stories from my mother’s childhood poured forth in my mind, of her going to mass and seeing the wealthy farmers sitting up front and the poor at the back. Why was I here? Bang on 12 a series of loud, low, Tibetan-horn like tones came from the organ, setting in motion a phenomenal procession of male clergy. I had a good look at these guys too. At one point during the service I experienced an acute sensation of sorrow when I thought about my dear mother, whom Cardinal Cormac had buried two years prior. When I looked at Cardinal Cormac’s coffin I had a sensation of happiness with its simple beauty. At another point a sensation, of an unexpected and shameful nature, came over me. Those immediately around me were recalling their Latin well, and loudly; they were able too to join in with the sung pieces, loudly; Cardinal Cormac was being spoken about as “a gifted man who would have made a success of whatever career he chose.” The following discourse was playing inside my head, “Dear God, I think I am feeling covetousness toward the dead Cardinal and the lilac Catholics. If I had been born into money and connections, if I had had a classical education what could I have achieved? But if I did have my Latin, with whom could I converse?”

Not cool. 

My inner discord was appeased when Archbishop George Stack gave an explanation as to Cardinal Cormac’s request to be buried under the tenth Station of The Cross, “the Jesus who stands before us naked and unashamed calls us to pay more attention to who we are rather than what we have so cunningly conspired to be.” Cardinal Cormac wished to be at the back of the cathedral, “so that people - on their way to Confession, perhaps, or to the Lady Chapel - would remember to pray for him.”  “Of course!”, my mind reasoned. This day was about Cardinal Cormac’s life, not mine and my contrived underachievements. As soon as I had removed myself from the centre of my dismal thoughts I was once again happy with the knowledge that Cardinal Cormac had crossed into my life. I had come to the cathedral because I wanted to mark the passing of this person who had posesseed the rare gift of hospitality; no matter your status or background, his smile was welcoming and inclusive. He gave homilies about joy, his stories, and his telling of them, made you feel joy. He was among the best examples to me of how to be a universal, joyful and kind human. Every colour of Cathoilc there that day could feel joy. I think too on that day I finally ‘got’ why Mommy had tugged us to focus on the altar: gawking and comparing ourselves to those around us can make us feel sorrow, but being at the back does enable you to gawk without being spotted!

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