A Sermon for the Memorial Mass for Mgr McGuinness, Jan. 30th 1980.[Rev Peter Phillips]
In the corner of the crypt under the High Altar of St. Pauls Cathedral in London is a plain, black marble slab. It is the tomb of the architect of the cathedral, Christopher Wren. On the wall above, his son wrote the words: Si monumemtum requiris circumspice. "If you are looking for a monument, just look around you." What more can we say of Monsignor Frank McGuinness. I am not talking of bricks and mortar, this school which he built; for what after all do bricks and mortar matter? They fall to dust soon enough. I mean ourselves as his friends, he had a stake in our lives. Yesterday, at the funeral I thought of the threads which bound us together as one family around the altar: his own relatives, his brother priests, friends, colleagues on the staff, his pupils, you boys here, those that have gone on to the VIth. Form Colleges, those who had come back from the Universities for the day from Oxford, from Cambridge, Manchester, London and the rest; those who are settling down to their own jobs, bringing up their own families. He changed us all in one way or another. He helped us grow - even in our disagreements, for how can we learn independence wtthout argument; it's part of family life.
As one of your parents said to me, "He started a fire that will be hard to put out". That fire burns in our hearts as we put it into practice what he taught us, and we thank him for it. Monsignor McGuinness was a man driven by a vision but, as always, there is a price to pay, We saw the strain tell but the vision shone through like the sun, strong amid the clouds of a wintry day.
I remember him talking, here, in assembly one morning, of the slavery he had seen while in the Middle East as a Forces Chaplain. It wasnt the fact that these man and women were deprived of physical freedom that struck him, he said. After all these people had clothes on their backs; they had a roof of sorts; they werent destitute. But these men and women couldnt look you in the eye, that was the depth of their lack of freedom.
He was spurred on by the inspiration of Christ our Master. As a priest he taught the "sharp compassion of the healers art"; he shared Christs ministry of forgiveness for the "glory of God is man fully alive". As a teacher he taught us to seek the hard road that leads to truth. He wanted us to be swayed by nothing less than the truth; he wanted us to look all men straight in the eye and to give thanks to God because as Christians we are all brothers and because Christ was our brother first.
This is a vision that takes a lifetime to realise, really to get hold of us, to help us grow, to change the texture of our lives but we have Christs own promise, a promise backed up with his life:
If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free...
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Whatever happens to us, wherever we end up, let us remember one of the threads that bound us together. Let us take with us the seeds of his vision in our hearts and let them grow. For himself those seeds have reached their full stature in the love of God. Let us pray for him as he will so surely pray for us that we in might meet merrily in heaven.
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are infolded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
Saint Augustine of Canterbury, pray for him.
Saint John Plessington, pray for him.