Abbot Brendan Coffey OSB
By any reckoning, Fr Placid lived an extraordinary life. Born, Michael Francis Augustine Murray, on 7 October 1918 in Lismore, County Waterford, just over a month before the end of World War I. Benedict XV was Pope, Ireland was in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and Europe was in deep shock after the slaughter the World War had brought. It would be another nine years before Glenstal Priory was founded.
His lifespan covered that of nine Popes, five English monarchs, all nine Irish Presidents, nineteen US Presidents and two global pandemics. As a student in Rome he experienced first-hand the Second World War, eventually making his way home by flying boat to Foynes.
During his long life Fr Placid worked on scholarly and liturgical publications, was heavily involved in the Liturgical and Ecumenical Conferences here in Glenstal, was the first President of Societas Liturgica and all the while a faithful and constant presence in our monastic choir. Newman and his works always held special resonance for Fr Placid, and he generously shared his insights with others. He held many roles in this community, including that of superior, and over his long monastic life made many friendships with local people and visitors to the Abbey which endured to the end. Recently he celebrated his one hundredth and fourth birthday. I asked him what it was like to have reached this great age. He replied in his customary deadpan way, “I find there is very little peer pressure now.”
Every one of us must walk the full journey if we are to discover the meaning to our own life. The full journey for Fr Placid was very long indeed, but he persevered faithfully until the end and he would have been pleased about that. Now he will know the joy of those words from the gospel, “Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.” We thank him for the example of great fidelity, which he has left us. His long life reached its completion on 31 of October in Millbrae Lodge Nursing Home, where he had lived for the last fourteen years! We thank the staff there for their care of Fr Placid.
Those of you who knew Fr Placid will know that he never did anything quickly. Everything was carefully thought through, every word he wrote pondered over. However, no matter where he was, or what he was doing, he would drop everything once he heard the signal for the Divine Office. He took his monastic life seriously and placed his trust in the suscipe he sang on the day of his profession. “Receive me, O Lord, according to your word, and I shall live; and let me not be confounded in my hope.”
It isn’t possible to sum up a life one hundred and four years long in these few short lines and anything I could say would only scratch the surface. Neither would Fr Placid want me to attempt such a task, he was always a very private person and would cringe at the thought. He would, I know, like to be remembered as a monk and a scholar and that is what he was. Today we celebrate St Malachy. His biographer, St Bernard of Clairvaux, says of Malachy that he was distinguished by his humility, obedience, modesty, and true diligence in his studies. It is fitting that we celebrate Fr Placid’s funeral on his feast, as he strove to do the same. We thank him for this example and we ask pardon for the times he failed.
Fr Placid would want prominent mention of John Henry Newman, his great mentor, at this liturgy and so I leave to Newman, the final word.
Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul!
Go from this world! Go, in the Name of God
The Omnipotent Father, who created thee!
Go, in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Son of the living God, who bled for thee!
Go, in the Name of the Holy Spirit, who
Hath been pour’d out on thee! Go, in the name
Of Angels and Archangels; in the name
Of Thrones and Dominations; in the name
Of Princedoms and of Powers; and in the name
Of Cherubim and Seraphim, go forth!
Go, in the name of Patriarchs and Prophets;
And of Apostles and Evangelists,
Of Martyrs and Confessors; in the name
Of holy Monks and Hermits; in the name
Of Holy Virgins; and all Saints of God,
Both men and women, go! Go on thy course;
And may thy place today be found in peace,
And may thy dwelling be the Holy Mount
Of Sion:—through the Same, through Christ, our