Homily of Fr John Skinnader at funeral of Constable Ronan Kerr

Even the Liturgy today will struggle to give any sort of comfort to Ronan's mum Nuala, his brothers Caithair and Aaron, his sister Dairine, his aunts Geraldine and Carmel, and his uncles Hugh, Jimmy, Patrick and Kieran, and his other relatives.

We have come together here with family, friends, neighbours and people from all walks of life to share our distress at the sudden and callous nature of Ronan's death and to pray our goodbyes for him.

Ronan loved life - he loved others - and that is the legacy he has left us - not to hate but to love.

I met Ronan only two weeks ago - I had just finished giving my talk to the young couples who had gathered for marriage preparation course in the Manor House - Enniskillen - when I went outside to go home and when I was walking towards my car when I saw the Police car slowing coming towards me .  I thought to myself - what
have you done now John - when the window rolled down and a voice from behind the wheel shouts out to me "How are you, Fr John?"  I looked into the car and said "Ronan - tis yourself" and nearly knocked the head of the big English cop sitting in the passenger seat as I thrust over my hand to shake Ronan's hand as I had not met him in months. "How do you like Enniskillen Fr John?" I said, "Ronan you can drop the titles as it wasn't that long ago that you and your brothers Caithair and Aaron as young cubs up in your aunt Geraldine's place used to pick out of me and shout Fr Ted  or Fr Jack!!!"

I chatted with him online on Thursday last and now he has gone - not easy for me to deal with and how much more for Nuala and the children - aunts and uncles and grandparents.

Ronan loved life - from an early age when he was in the cot of at the bottom of the bed where Cathair slept - he would get Caithair to pull him out of the cot in the morning so that both of them could begin a day of high mischief. When Nuala returned from hospital with Aaron - she was tired the next day and thought that her late husband Brian was home from work and looking after the boys. So it was a major shock for her and Brian to find that the two boys had got bubble bath of all kinds from the bathroom and decided to clean up the sitting room by emptying the bottles over carpets and furniture - there was foam, bubbles and water all over the place and people coming for Aaron's Christening that night. Nuala took on her sergeant major look and got the boys to clean up the whole mess and then sent them to bed - and hence they missed Aaron's christening.  From an early age he had a great interest in games involving police cars - toy weapons, backpacks etc. Ronan, Cathair and Aaron would lie behind the hedge of their house and look at the number plates of cars that were passing by and then did an imagined radioing of their number plates to someone in the back garden. He had a great interest in cars and was looking forward to showing off his new car to Cathair who was due home from Australia. He was a practical joker and gave Dairine a hard time by teasing his sister all the time and picking out of her but she got her own back on him a few days ago when on the first of April she texted him at work to say that Cathair had arrived home unexpectedly from Australia as a surprise for Mum. He texted back to say "Please tell me this is not true" as he so much wanted to be there when Cathair came home. So Dairine just texted back "April Fool!!!"

He loved his Gaelic football and never missed a Tyrone match.  Ronan loved life - his friends - his family, and he loved his new career. Seeing him sitting behind the wheel of the police car last weekend - I thought to myself - there is the symbol of the new Northern Ireland - a young man living out his childhood dream to be of service to others - to help protect, to make life safer for others - to be a peace builder in communities and between communities.

Ronan loved Man Utd  - hopefully he will put in a good word for us against Chelsea tonight! When the satellite television came into Ethiopia a few years ago - an enterprising young man put in a big screen into the town hall where I was living  to show the Premiership matches being beamed from South Africa. One Sunday afternoon - the hall was packed with United and Arsenal supporters coming to cheer on United and Arsenal. As the match progressed - they began to shout abuse at each other and soon they started to fight - to the extent that the game had to be switched off and all of us had to leave the hall. I came away thinking - isn't it crazy that the Ethiopians should be fighting each other over two English teams that they had never met in real life - they had never been to Manchester or London  - no real connection to the teams - yet destroyed our afternoon's entrainment because of what they saw as perceived grievances of one team against another. We can become very caught up and delusional about what we are fighting over - whether it  is a United Ireland, United Kingdom or a Man United.

In the Gospel Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here my brother would not have died".  Jesus wept. Were they crocodile tears? Surely he knew he was going to raise Lazarus to life, so why did he cry? He cried because in Martha's tears He saw all the tears of the mothers who would lose their children. Maybe He was crying for His own mother Mary who He knew the pain she would go through as as He lay dying on the Cross of Calvary. Because God gave us free will - which is the essence of being human - it also means we are free to do good or bad  and with that freedom - we have our broken humanity - a humanity that is caught between love and hate - joy and pain - sorrow and happiness. As the Jews in the Gospels said to Martha, "He opened the eyes of the blind - could He not have prevented this man death?" By raising Lazarus to life again He showed that He has power over life and death but as God He wanted to show through His tears that life eternal is where we are all going to and if someone wants to perpetuate and evil act to destroys someone life - God cannot intervene to stop it because of free will.

Ronan and most of his generation are proud of their culture and their faith tradition - but for them it is a faith and a tradition without walls -- that is inclusive not exclusive - that unites rather than divides.  As Nuala, Cathair, Aaron and Dairine called for in their press release after Ronan's death - they don't want his death to be in vain but that others should join in the vision that he had  for a new and better homeland of the future. Our participation in this funeral liturgy, the recent statements from all political parties and the world wide media coverage of his death shows that his death, like Christ's, has not been in vain but will galvanise everyone to work with greater zeal and vigour for the future good of all.

But it doesn't lessen the pain of his loss for family, friends and colleagues.  

May You Rest in Peace Ronan.  We all miss you.

See also the report of the funeral: www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=18014

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