This is Bishop Ken Howell’s homily from the Funeral Mass of Fr Martin Doyle on November 8
ONE of our prayers from the Funeral Rite speaks directly and with truth when it mentions that the day of our death is known only to God.
If there was any way that we could have told Martin Doyle that he would die on the feast day of St Martin de Porres and also on the Lord’s Day, we could imagine that gentle smile of his coming across his face.
This information would not have worried him, because ultimately he had learnt to trust in God’s promises and to accept “what will be, will be”.
While I believe he was named after St Martin of Tours, the fourth century saint, I suspect that he was named after his uncle Martin James Doyle who was ordained for this archdiocese in 1929, the same year of Martin Andrew’s birth.
If there was a day of particular significance for Fr Martin, it was always the Lord’s Day, the weekly celebration of the Lord’s resurrection celebrated within the midst of God’s holy people, especially those who had been entrusted to his pastoral care.
Here, Sunday after Sunday, the young and elderly, the busy and the retired, the worried and the blest, families and the religious, would come to be gathered into that which is much bigger than themselves, the celebration of Eucharist.
It was here that he met them all as their priest, to walk beside them as they lived their lives of faith and trust in God’s promises.
Here, Martin Doyle was at his best, eager for the encounter that brought his people to the tables of Word and Eucharist to be nourished for their day to day living.
Therefore, if there was any day that meant more to him, it was Sunday … and as his breath slowed last Sunday at around 10am, he would have delighted that his life’s offering of himself as a priest was being united with God’s people offering themselves in churches everywhere in the great prayer of Christ and his people that is Sunday.
Martin Doyle took seriously that God’s people looked to him for the encouragement they needed as they lived faith in a contemporary context. Central to his life was his thirst for knowledge.
As a great reader, this opened up possibilities for his thinking and his preaching. Wherever he lived his bookshelves were crowded.
He must have known that I need to do more reading and research because he has bequeathed to me his beloved encyclopaedias – all three sets.
The crafting of well-prepared homilies was a duty he readily accepted, and of which he became a master.
One Sunday, I was talking to a Burleigh parishioner after Mass that I had just celebrated.
Having preached at that Mass and thinking that I had done okay – the gentleman said to me: hey Father, where is Fr Doyle, he always gives great homilies.
A few years ago, Fr Martin gave me a collection of his homilies.
Not complete homilies, but the opening paragraphs where he pulled together insightful happenings from history, or a movie, or a poignant story of life that would lead to a deeper connection of the Readings to lived realities.
One Second Sunday of Easter, with the Gospel of Thomas, the doubting one, he picked up on a TV program, where the Tango has featured in a recent episode. Encouraging his people to reflect on their own doubts and faith questions he said: “At different times in our Tango, our unbelief may lead and God may follow, and vice versa. The idea is not to struggle in order that by our efforts- belief wins out, but to dance in trust. We are called to trust, even when we lose a step, skip a beat or stumble. We must trust that God will be able to compensate for our shortcomings, even when we fail to believe in God. He does not fail to believe in us.”
Well-crafted and faith filled homilies reflect, among many, two things.
The faith and belief of the preacher and the desire of the preacher to draw others into what God is offering and wants us to know.
Reading led Martin Doyle to prayer and to be constantly reflecting on the Church and her mission. He was inspired by the Second Vatican Council and knew exactly what the Council Fathers and the Holy Spirit desired for the Church.
In a Lenten homily he once said: “Nostalgia can be disastrous if a Catholic tries to live there.”
He went on to say that “change is part and parcel of the human condition – change in the way the Church thinks and lives and worships as a ‘Pilgrim people’”.
For Martin, the reality of the Pilgrim People spoke volumes, and as today’s first reading reminded us that God lives among his people and has made his home here as God-with-them …God-with-us.
While the big picture remained with Fr Doyle, he still lived within the real world and knew his limitations and short-comings.
There were perhaps too many times when he doubted himself and his abilities. There were many challenging times within the complexities of parish life and those who know him well would suspect that the stroke that he suffered in 1992 was a result of stress he endured through issues concerning the financing of the Burleigh Parish and Marymount College.
Infant Saviour Parish and Marymount owe a great debt to him for his big vision and his hope for the Parish’s education facilities.
He wanted the young to flourish and to take their place as he said at the Silver Jubilee Mass of MMC: “to be young people who go out from here with Mary’s message deeply engraved in [their] your hearts and minds…people who will follow through prayerful service of others.”
Those who have lived much of their lives in Zillmere will remember his passion for that community.
It was regarded as one of the alive parishes in the archdiocese and many newly ordained priests of the archdiocese grew in their priesthood as they witnessed Martin’s ministry and experienced his encouragement of their ministry in early years.
I for one, grew in my appreciation of priesthood and ministry through his wise counsel. Similarly, the bringing to birth of the new community at Mudgeeraba brought him much joy and deep satisfaction as families were strengthened through faith and belonging.
Those who have experienced the depth of Fr Martin’s priesthood and his love of God’s Word would immediately recognise how he preached it not only with words but with an open and kind-hearted warmth.
His family would be the first to say that they have revelled in this in a most visible and real way, and that they will be forever grateful for the love they have experienced through their much loved Uncle Martin.
Our prayers are with you in your thankfulness and sadness.
The last time I saw Fr Doyle was last Saturday evening.
Then I prayed the Evening Prayer of the Church for All Souls Day.
Martin was always faithful to the Divine Office and it was fitting that he would join in this prayer one last time.
Even though the effects of pain relief were claiming his attention, his heart and soul joined in this great prayer of the Church, that he had spent his life praying with and through.
There, in those moments of dying, I would be certain that the words of Jesus he pronounced to many a dying person were now to be heard in his own life, in these last hours.
With the certainty of faith, Martin must have heard Jesus say to him now: “Come to me, weary one, walk now, into my rest: you have learnt to know me in my gentle and humble heart and have showed my love to my people, that my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
Martin, the Lord called you out of this world on the day of Resurrection, may you forever see the face of the Risen One in peace and joy.