Bishops and Clergy of the Archdiocese of Birmingham gathered at St Mary's College, Oscott, gathered on Monday for the annual Mass for Deceased Clergy. The Principal Celebrant was the The Most Rev Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham and he was joined by his Auxiliary bishops, William Kenney, David McGough, Robert Byrne and Emeritus-bishop Philip Pargeter.
Bishop Robert Byrne began his homily in a light-hearted way by sharing a past anecdote where an Anglican bishop visiting a convent of nuns asked, 'Mother, how many nuns are in your community?' "126", she replied, "100 in the cemetery and six in the house!"' She wasn't being flippant but was factually correct and showed a deep understanding of what communion really means. 'Our faith and understanding of the Communion of Saints teaches us that the church Triumphant, Suffering and Militant forms the whole church and we are joined to each by bonds of charity and fraternity', he said.
Our deceased brethren still form a part of our diocese and assist us by their example and intercession. With our prayers, memories and intercession we help them see God face to face. Bp Robert added, 'We remember the past and we can help those who have gone before us and therefore help to shape the future'. And added that, 'to pray for the dead is a supernatural work of mercy... pray for those we have known and loved in this world and for those who have no one to pray for them. Hold them before your eyes and place them into the hands of God our loving and merciful Father.'
Quoting from Newman's Dream of Gerontius he finished with, 'Softly and gently, dearly ransomed soul, in my most loving arms I now enfold thee. And all the penal waters as they roll, I poise thee and I lower thee and hold thee... Angels to whom the task is given shall tend and nurse thee and lull thee as thou liest. And Masses on earth and prayers in heaven shall aid thee to the throne of the most highest. Praise be to the holiest! Amen.'
All processed in to the Cemetery where Bishop Bernard blessed the graves.