Fr Abbot Brendan Coffey OSB
Tadhg Eoin Mac Firbisig, was born on 19 August 1942 and grew up on Wellington Road, in Dublin with his family. He went to school in the nearby Gonzaga College and entered Glenstal on 6 September 1961 taking the name Br Ciarán. He made his monastic profession on 15 September 1963, over fifty-eight years ago. Whenever a new candidate enters the monastery, the superior asks him a series of questions and the answers are recorded in the entry logbook. Looking back over Ciarán’s answers, I had to smile to myself at the innocence of those days. Asked if he had ever been accused in the civil Courts? Ciarán replied, ‘Yes, for having no light on a bicycle.’ They were obviously very different times, a reminder of how the world can change over the course of one lifespan and a reminder too of Ciarán’s mischievous side, which never left him.
Anyone who knew Ciarán, knew that he was passionate about music. He listened to music all the time, he appreciated it, he derived peace and joy from it and he was able to hear the voice of God in his music. Mozart and Cecilia Bartoli were his favourites and the three of them spent many happy hours together.
However, most people knew Br Ciarán because of his skill as a wood-turner and indeed, he possessed a rare talent. He had an eye for the perfect piece of wood, which he could turn into a real work of art, as light as a feather and smooth as silk. His skill as a wood-turner needs no elaboration from me; it is recognised and lauded near and far. His beautiful wooden bowls being given as gifts by heads of state to the great and the good.
In the music of Ciarán’s own life, we find many different scores. We find first and foremost a song of love and friendship. He had many friends, here in Murroe, where he knew almost everyone, and beyond. Ciarán possessed a big heart. In another score we find a song of wonder, a song of nature, and Ciarán who excelled as a master craftsman, could marvel like few can marvel, at the work of the Divine Artisan in the exquisite beauty of creation. Ciarán loved this place and these grounds and was most passionate about them. At other times, there was a song of loneliness and sadness written on the score of his life as he struggled for many years with health issues – and in more recent times decreased mobility was very difficult for him. He was in a lot of discomfort and at times, pain. He continued to soldier on bravely and rarely complained about his condition.
As the world welcomed in a New Year, Ciarán was welcomed into new life. Although we can name the day of his passing, only God knows the moment. Ciarán slipped gently into God’s arms, moving quietly from this life into a new life. It was certainly the way he would have wanted it, but difficult for those left behind. However, providence had arranged a visit with his family only a few days before, a visit he greatly enjoyed. On his return, he told everyone he met about his few days away and the Christening he attended.
It is important that we realise here today, that the music of Ciarán’s life hasn’t ended, rather there has been a change of key and this means that we have to learn to listen in a new way to hear it; we have to listen now with St Benedict’s ear of the heart. As every good musician knows, silence is the necessary space between the notes. That space, what most of us experience as emptiness, absence, or a void, is in reality the birthplace of the music. Ciarán’s great hero, Mozart tells us that “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” It sets a rhythm, holds the energy, and gives music its life, power, and beauty. It is never just emptiness; not in music, not in life, not in death, and not on this day.
Today we stand in that space between the notes, a space that makes room for Ciarán’s presence in a new way when we gather around the altar, a space from which God is making all things new. The preface in our liturgy tells us as much when it says that, ‘life is changed, not ended’. Death is not the musical coda, the conclusion, to this song of life. This is what St John means when he tells us ‘where I am you may be also.’
Today, we pray for our brother, Ciarán. We ask God to grant him his mercy and to forgive all his sins. We ask him to grant Ciarán his peace and eternal rest with all the saints until that day when we all meet again in Christ.
Braon de dhrúcht na bhFlaitheas
’s deoch ó thobar na grás
go mbronnadh Dia ar a anam
agus ar ár nanam féin in uair ár mbáis.