Update Seamus Heaney - A Final Farewell - Funeral Mass

The funeral of Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, took place in Donnybrook, Dublin this morning.

His son revealed the poet's last words were in Latin in a text to his wife.
  • Irish Times Article On The Funeral here
  • Irish Independent Article On The Funeral here.

 At the removal service last night, prayers were led by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. “Seamus Heaney was a great man, yet always a man of kindness and humility and a seeker of what is deepest in our common humanity,” he told the congregation. 

“Greatness and graciousness belonged together in him.The body of Seamus is at the heart of our gathering this evening and, in that sense, he is the focus of our gathering. In another sense, however, the funeral is all about the family. 

You have had your time for laughing and your time for embracing - and you will have them again. But this is your time for mourning. 

Our prayers this evening are for you Marie, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.”

 The homily last night was given by Fr Kevin Doran :
“It strikes me that the hermit and the poet probably have much in common: the need for solitude; the deep-down awareness of things and the self-discipline to spend hours in contemplation,” he said.

Homily of Monsignor Brendan Devlin
 at Funeral Mass for Seamus Heaney

"Just as I hold that it is not for a Christian minister to embark on eulogy or to praise the talents and achievements of those who have  gone from us, neither is it for me to audit the virtues and good works of  Seamus Heaney, (after all, as Wisdom tells us of great men, “ their good works go before them”.) 

And yet, when we read that series of sharp witted paradoxes that we call the Eight Beatitudes and which are the core of the Sermon on the Mount, what you might call the identikit portrait of the ideal Christian, it cannot but strike us how many of them apply readily to our memories of Seamus Heaney.

“How blest are those of gentle spirit; those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail; those who show mercy to others; those who want to see peace established.”
How much of that is a description of the man we knew, of the brilliant literary critic, of the articulater of the years of pain in the North.

But understand me well, this not my effort to recuperate him, as the French say, to harness him in the ranks of the soldiers of Christ. How unsufferably patronising that would be! I think rather of something more deep-seated than such easy conformism. I remember something he wrote a lifetime ago when he recalled the early stirrings of a poetic imagination as he recited as an altar boy the words of the Litany: “Mystical Rose, Tower of David, Tower of Ivory, House of Gold, Ark of the Covenant, Morning Star.” I too recall such stirrings at devotions in the twilight of a May evening. 

Like many of our generation we had both inherited, he on the plains of South Derry, I in the hills of Tyrone, the imagination and with it the memory of a community. What was important was not so much the prayers we did or did not say as the prayers that had been said before us for generations, generations whose hard won loyalties were so authentically embodied in the man and so vibrantly expressed in his work.

Therefore as we commend Seamus Heaney to the mercy of the Lord, which is the primary purpose of a Catholic funeral Mass, we do so in the faith and hope of an age-old community, who lived their lives and died their death in the Lord Jesus and who, still living in that same Lord, await us their descendants and heirs in that eternal life which we hold to be sealed in us by our common baptism.

In that sense, all of us have long since been given to God by our forefathers in the Faith and by the hope which nourished them and which they looked to see fulfilled in us.
 The Gospel of Saint John quotes Jesus as saying: “Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will not cast out,” and as repeating: “Father, of those you have given me I have not lost anyone.”

In our natural consternation in the presence of death and the termination of our earthly supports, we can only turn our eyes on life in that spirit of Christian optimism which, it seems to me, breathes in much of the work of Seamus Heaney and which I believe to be his inheritance from our troubled past.

It was in similarly troubling circumstances, as the shadows of evening descended on that Upper Room of the Last Supper that Christ’s disciples heard him speak the words that we have just read in the Gospel. Amid the foreboding of those last days in the life of Jesus with their crowding events, commands and prophecies, they were urged by their Lord to overcome their sorrow through a renewal of their faith and trust in God.

“Let not your hearts be troubled,” He said. “I go to prepare a place for you and if I do so, I will come back to bring you with me, so that where I am, you also may be. And as for the way there, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. “

As we part from Seamus Heaney for a while and send him from us on that way, what our forefathers called “slí na firinne”, we accompany him in faith and hope and with the viaticum of our prayers."

 Notes to editors Monsignor Brendan Devlin MA, DD is a priest of the Derry Diocese. He is Professor Emeritus of modern languages at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co Kildare. His homily was delivered at the Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, Co Dulbin. Archdiocese of Dublin."  Homily from here.

 The Eulogy

During the Mass, the poet Peter Fallon read Heaney’s “The Given Note.”
Seamus Heaney's last performance of this poem is below

The Given Note

On the most westerly Blasket
In a dry-stone hut
He got this air out of the night.

Strange noises were heard
By others who followed, bits of a tune
Coming in on loud weather

Though nothing like melody.
He blamed their fingers and ear
As unpractised, their fiddling easy

For he had gone alone into the island
And brought back the whole thing.
The house throbbed like his full violin.

So whether he calls it spirit music
Or not, I don't care. He took it
Out of wind off mid-Atlantic.

Still he maintains, from nowhere.
It comes off the bow gravely,
Rephrases itself into the air.

Seamus Heaney
from the collection 'Opened Ground, Poems 1966-1996', published by Faber and Faber 1998

The Blasket islands in Heaney's poem are off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, in South West of Ireland, where I spent one of the best summers of my life. It is my spiritual and soul home and one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I was born in Ennis County Clare, a little further North of Dingle. The dry stone beehive huts are dotted around the peninsula and date from around the 8th century.

Certainly life on the Great Blaskets was no spring picnic. Irish who grew crops there would row boats to the mainland and then hike 12 miles into Dingle carrying their wares to sell. There was no priest, pub or doctor on the island, nor lights, phones, or cars. There were harsh storms to contend with, but the sea provided food and residents were able to survive the Great Famine because they were not entirely dependent on the potato. The population dwindled as young people emigrated, often to America, until eventually the Irish government evacuated the remaining
residents in 1953. All that remains on the islands to date are ruined cottages.There were a number of renowned Irish writers from the Blaskets who had a knack for storytelling and sharing about the Celtic people’s closeness to nature.

“I sat down on the bank above the beach  where I had a splendid view all around me. Dead indeed is the heart from which the balmy air of the sea cannot banish sorrow and grief.” -Peig Sayers

  •  This evening he was laid to rest in a country churchyard in south Derry under the shade of sycamore and ash trees.
    “May the green sods of Bellaghy rest gently upon him,” Father Andrew Dolan told mourners that packed the graveyard and surroundings of St Mary’s parish church to bid farewell. It is estimated that almost 3000 people attended.
    He said the town of Bellaghy was honoured that Heaney had chosen to be interred in his home town, in a newly opened grave just yards from the Heaney plot where seven members of his family are buried, including his young brother Christopher, celebrated in the poem Mid-Term Break.

It is titled" Out Of The Marvellous- An intimate and original look at Seamus Heaney, the man and the artist. The film explores the key personal relationship in Heaney's life, that with his wife Marie, and follows him to Harvard, New York and London, to readings, signings and public interviews."

(only available to view for 19 days but I'm not sure if you can see it outside UK)

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