Tuesday, 10 April 2007

A Fond Farewell to Fr Cormac

Today I concelebrated at the Requiem Mass for the much respected priest and former BBC Radio 3 announcer, Fr Cormac Rigby, who died on 27 March. In requesting the church of the Sacred Heart, Ruislip as a venue, Fr Cormac obviously had no idea of his popularity and the way he touched the lives of many - well over 50 priests were squeezed onto the sanctuary and part of the congregation was pushed out into the April sunshine. The principal celebrant was his friend, Bishop George Stack, Auxiliary of Westminster; the author, Fr John Saward, was one of the main concelebrants, and readers included Canon Roger Royle (formerly of Songs of Praise fame).

Fr Cormac had left careful instructions for the liturgy, including a prayer by John Donne in the Intercessions and, as a recessional, the Salve Regina and an organ piece by Wagner (overture to Die Meistersinger). At one point, at the end of the Bidding Prayers, the order of service read: 'pause for one minute,' which revealed Fr Cormac's great concern for timing and proper presentation, both as a broadcaster and a preacher. At the end of Mass, six concelebrants carried the coffin out of the church - something I had never seen before, but it seemed to be a beautiful symbol of priestly fraternity, which does not end with death.

In his sermon, Bishop Stack quoted from Edward Thring, the Victorian headmaster who was the subject of Fr Cormac's doctorate:

There is nothing more characteristic of God on earth than the boundless liberality with which he scattered little pleasures in everybody's reach. But if this is so, then man most imitates God when he gives in this Almighty way, when he opens and makes free, and scatters pleasure as God does, and makes it possible for others to be glad.
This passage, he suggested, formed an appropriate epitaph for Fr Cormac, who bought many of his friends and parishioners closer to the God of beauty and truth. May he rest in peace!

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