Abbot Brendan‘s Homily at Funeral of an tAth. Seán Ó Duinn

Any time our brother Seán Ó Duinn stood behind this ambo to preach, he always reminded us that God was immense, all powerful and mysterious. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For those of us who lived in rooms near him in the monastery, we would hear him practicing his sermon beforehand, over and over. By Sunday morning we could have preached it for him! He wanted it to be just right, because it was important to him. He had a fascination with the mystery of God and his passion for this mystery fuelled his interest in ancient cultures, folklore, myth and legend, especially that rich tradition in our own land. He felt an affinity with the way the ancients thought about the world and he could identify with the language of myth and legend and bring it to life.

Seán was born just outside Fermoy, Co Cork. There was never any doubting where he was from. Seán was given the name Bonaventure when he entered the novitiate here. He always preferred Seán, and that is how most people knew him. His monastic name does in a strange way reveal aspects of his character. St Bonaventure is known as the “seraphic doctor”, because of his learning, his goodness and his otherworldliness and Seán shared these traits. The legend tells us that Francis had a vision of the future greatness of little John, as St Bonaventure was then known, and exclaimed “O Buona ventura,” “O good fortune”. It is a joy for us in this community today to be able to say the same about our brother Seán. It was our good fortune, our Buona ventura, to have known and lived with him. He was a truly gentle soul in whom there was no malice. To be able to say that about someone at the end of their days is a wonderful thing.

He would never forgive me today if I didn’t delve into the realms of Irish mythology. We’re all familiar with the many versions of the story of the children of Lir, how their stepmother struck them with a rod of enchantment changing them into four white swans. “The doom will end when a king from the North weds a queen from the South; when a druid with a shaven crown comes over the seas; when you hear the sound of a little bell that rings for prayers.” After nine hundred years the swans arrived at the little church of Saint Kemoc and heard the sound of his bell. The local king who was from the north and married to a queen from the south heard of their arrival. He put forth his hand and touched the swans, the swan-feathers dwindled and shrivelled and became as fine dust, but their spirits attained to freedom and joined their kinsfolk in the Land-of-the-Ever-Living.

Seán’s journey was not exactly nine hundred years, but it was a journey of books and learning, steeped in these ancient myths; he was like the Celtic monks of old. He loved his study and he loved to teach and his students loved him. The golden years of his life were those years he spent in ‘Mary I’ with his students. In more recent times he was in the tender care of the staff in Millbrae Lodge Nursing Home and we thank them and Dr Moroney most sincerely for that care. In his final months, life became more and more of a struggle. He continued to be visited by his devoted circle of friends and his joyous personality and very accepting outlook on life never changed.

St Benedict tells us that as the monk journeys through life the heart should expand with the unspeakable sweetness of love. Seán, our brother, possessed such a heart. It is such a joy to see a smile on the face of someone when they reach the end of their days, their hands open and empty, confident that God himself will give whatever is needed. This is beatitude. As a monk Seán was ever faithful, never missing from the Work of God here in choir with his brothers. He loved the Office, he loved the liturgy and he loved singing in choir… even though the good Lord never gifted him with the slightest scintilla of musical talent.

And so, as Seán himself would say, “to sum up”. On the morning of the 9th of October the hand of the God he loved touched him for the last time on earth and his gentle spirit attained to the freedom of the children of Lir and he went to join the saints in the Land-of-the-Ever-Living. Of our brother Seán it can be truly said: Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.

Braon de dhrúcht na bhFlaitheas

’s  deoch ó thobar na grás

go mbronnadh Dia ar a anam

agus ar ár nanam féin in uair ár mbáis.