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Monday, 27 June 2011

DOM BEDE MOORE R.I.P. Homily of Abbot Paul



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Dom Bede Moore           Requiem Mass 27th June 2011

            The Book of Genesis tells us that Man was made in the image and likeness of God. Although at the Fall Adam and Eve lost some of that likeness and, as a result, we are all born with original sin, even so, even in this imperfect state, there are some, a privileged few, who seems to retain a fuller likeness to our Creator than the rest of us. Fr Bede was such a man. There was something extraordinarily superhuman about him and this was the work of grace. “God has put them to the test and proved them worthy to be with him. Their hope was rich in immortality. Grace and mercy await those he has chosen.” The many gifts bestowed on Fr Bede in this life, he willingly shared with others, and that is why he was so special and why you couldn’t help but love him.

            This Requiem Mass is an act of faith, for in it we proclaim our belief in Christ’s resurrection. It is also an act of worship and thanksgiving, for in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice, to which Fr Bede had such devotion, we enter fully into the mystery of our redemption with joyful and trusting hearts. We acknowledge and believe the words of St Paul: “Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, that we too might live a new life.” We are here to pray for the repose of Fr Bede’s soul, that his sins be forgiven and that soon he may be at God’s right hand and enjoy the fullness the grace and mercy that the good Lord gives to those who live this life “rich in the hope of immortality.”

            We are all disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus and that is why we all strive to live by his teaching and example. Bede was called by God to go one step further, to become a monk and a priest, and so in him the words of Jesus, as we heard them today in the Gospel, were fulfilled. “If a man serves me, he will follow me, and wherever I am my servant will be there too.” What Bede accomplished in this life, as he tried to live out faithfully his vocation as a Benedictine monk and priest, may he soon enjoy to the full in the Kingdom of heaven. We pray, trusting only in God’s loving mercy, that he may hear the voice of Jesus say, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

            William McKenzie Moore was born in Whitehaven to Hugh and Christina on 25th April 1935. They already had three daughters, Mary, Isabel and Joan. Now Christina had no idea she was carrying twins, so she was taken by surprise, when, ten minutes after Billy came into the world, another baby boy appeared, his twin brother Danny, or Daniel McKenzie Moore to give him his full name. You can imagine the joy and celebration. Hugh and Christina had begun to despair of ever having a son and now they had two! All five children were given the middle name McKenzie. This was because Hugh’s grandmother had died while giving birth and his father brought up by a member of the extended family, whose surname was McKenzie.

            Billy attended Our Lady and St Patrick’s School, Quay Street, followed by St Begh’s School and then Whitehaven Grammar. He was a handsome lad with a happy disposition, positive and enthusiastic in his approach to life and popular with everyone. On leaving school Billy became an apprentice mining surveyor and because he worked down the pit, he was exempt from military service. Since the Middle Ages, coal had been mined on the West Cumbrian coast and the Whitehaven mines became world famous, particularly as the coal seams with their shafts and tunnels went out for two and a half miles under the sea. It was dangerous work and there were many accidents.  Throughout his life Billy remained immensely proud of having worked “down pit”.

Now both Billy and Danny were servers at St Begh’s. Here he came under the influence of Fr Philip Jackson, who encouraged his vocation. The turning point was the priestly ordination of Fr Dominic Blaney at St Begh’s on 2nd May 1954. Fr Dominic was both a native of Whitehaven and a monk of Belmont. So in September1956 Billy came to Belmont as a postulant and was clothed as a novice by Abbot Maurice Martin on 2nd May 1957, when he was given the name Bede. Br Bede made his First Profession a year later and then his Solemn Profession, always at the hands of Abbot Maurice Martin, on 3rd May 1961. The monastic regime at Belmont was rigorous in those days and Abbot Maurice was a stickler for the details of monastic observance. For manual work Br Bede was put to look after the pigs under the supervision of Br. Peter Jones, an expert pig breeder. There must have been times when Bede felt rather like the prodigal son, particularly was he was living in a world so alien to his native homeland.

            Even so Bede persevered where many gave up. Indeed, he is the sole survivor of his generation of novices. He remained faithful to his monastic vows to the end. He did all his priestly studies here at Belmont and was ordained to the Diaconate on 21st December 1962 and then to the Priesthood, together with Dom Cyprian Butler, at Our Lady and St Joseph’s, Carlisle, by Bishop Brian Foley of Lancaster on 19th March 1964. While still doing his priestly studies, in addition to the pigsty, he also spent time in the classroom, teaching Geography, and on the sports’ field, coaching Junior Cricket.  

            In July 1964 he was sent to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Redditch, as curate. This was an incorporated Belmont parish which at the time was served by four full time priests as well as the odd part timer. Bede loved Redditch, the parish and its people. And so it came as a shock to him when Belmont was forced to give up the parish early in 1968 due to the demands of an Archbishop who insisted that there be six full time clergy. In the event, once the parish was his, he reduced the staff to just two priests. Nevertheless, it was here that Bede developed his pastoral skills, not only with young people but also with the sick, the dying and the bereaved. It was also at Redditch that his gift for lasting friendship strengthened and matured.

            After Redditch, Bede was appointed to St Mary’s, Harrington, where he joined Fr Brendan Minney and Fr Paul Bloom. Perhaps Bede was rather too lively and active to share a home and a ministry with these two cultured, conservative and quiet monks. They were sometimes shocked at the amusing things he did and said. So it was agreed, and wisely so, that Bede should go to West Hill College, Birmingham, to study for a Diploma in youth work and ministry, for which it was obvious he had special gifts and the necessary talents. From Birmingham he returned to the Diocese of Lancaster, to St Cuthbert Mayne High School, Fulwood, Preston, where he remained for fifteen years as youth tutor and chaplain. This was work he loved and was exceptionally good at. He encouraged young people to serve God and helped them deepen their life of prayer and commitment to Christ and to the Church. In this he taught above all by his own example, showing us that being a priest and a religious can be fun and the source of true joy and fulfilment. In all, Bede was to serve in the Diocese of Lancaster for 43 years.

            Preston is, of course, the centre of the universe and here Bede developed what you could describe as a roving ministry. Long before the Anglican Church invented “flying bishops”, we had Fr Bede Moore. There was hardly a funeral he missed or a sick bed he failed to visit. It was obedience to the call of Christ that motivated him over and above any personal interest. You really felt, and rightly so, that his actions and decisions were the fruit of his love for God and at the same time an act of gratitude for kindnesses received. He loved the priesthood and he loved his fellow priests, both diocesan and Benedictine. It was truly impressive to see so many priests as his Requiem in St Mary’s, Harrington, on Tuesday night.

            In 1986 he was asked to become Parish Priest of the Sacred Heart, Conniston, where he was to remain for the next twelve years. Here Bede was blessed not only with serving in one of the most beautiful parts of the world but also with the resilience and enthusiasm to continue his ministry to the wider Church. From here regular visits to Ireland and Lourdes continued to be high on the agenda. He loved Ireland and he loved Loudres and both places played an important part in his life.

            Towards the end of his time at Conniston, he was invited by Abbot Mark to become Parish Priest of St Mary’s, Harrington. With this move Bede returned more directly, as it were, to service within the Belmont Community, for St Mary’s was, at that time, an incorporated Belmont parish. This was a twofold homecoming in that Harrington is just a few miles north of Whitehaven, so he would be even nearer his family; he had also served as curate here some thirty years earlier. But times had changed. The drift away from the Church and the regular practice of the faith, particularly marked among the industrial communities of the north, was well under way. And now Bede was no longer a young man and dogged with ill health. I can remember visiting him with Fr Dominic in the High Dependency Unit at Wythenshawe Hospital in 2001 after severe complications set in following surgery for a by-pass. It was touch and go and only the miracle of modern surgery and dedicated staff were able to save him. Bede was a determined man with an iron will and he usually got what he wanted. Although he always accepted the will of God without question, saying, “It’s in God’s hands,” nevertheless the Divine Will always seemed to coincide with Bede’s own wishes. “Blessed are they who put their trust in God,” says the psalm and Bede was truly blessed.

            Harrington was to be his last centre of activity. Here, as elsewhere, he loved and was loved by the people, both young and old. His particular pride and joy was the school, to which he dedicated so much time and energy. It was always a joy to visit him at St Mary’s and the many letters he wrote in his immaculate hand (perfect handwriting that remained with him to the last) were a pleasure to receive. It wasn’t only the content of the letters, always fascinating, for he had a precise, meticulous memory, but that elegant style of his, the perfect grammar and syntax, the right choice of words. He never lost his zest for life and his interest in others. Not once did he ever complain about anything or anyone. Even in difficult circumstances, there was always a positive word and an unexpected insight. Resentment and grudges were simply not part of his life. He was always thoughtful, generous and kind. He was a first class baker: only quality bread and cakes emerged from his kitchen to be given to friends on special occasions and to his brethren whenever he came down to Belmont. And what about his rum butter? The best ever made!

And, of course, he never missed a retreat or a chapter meeting at Belmont. You could be sure he would be the first to reply to the invitation and the first to arrive on the day. In spite of his precarious state of health, particularly towards the end, there was never an excuse and never a reason to stay away. And he was the epitome of generosity in so many ways. Ages ago I told him about my mother feeding ta large number of badgers in her garden. The next thing we knew - parcels of peanut butter started arriving in the post for the badgers’ supper. We will all miss him in so many different ways. And could he talk? Conversation was never a problem. He could say enough for all of us.

At the beginning of the year Bede told me that he was going into Boarbank Hall for a rest. He was expecting to be in about two weeks. As you all know, those two weeks eventually became six months. He loved Boarbank, the sisters, the staff and the other patients, not to mention the many visitors. From his letters, written almost every day, you would think that Boarbank was the centre of the world. There was never a dull moment, a constant flow of visitors, meals to look forward to (I was told the content of every sandwich) and, above all, daily Mass and Vespers in the chapel, his lifeline. As always, he also took an almost professional interest in his health. There were details about hospital appointments, visits, examinations, not to mention the consultants, doctors and nurses involved. On behalf of Fr Bede’s family and the Belmont Community, I would like to thank all those concerned, both at Boarbank and the various hospitals, as well as the chaplains, for the loving care given to him in his final months. He was so obviously very happy and content.

Bede was someone who never gave in. He always seemed to muster that extra bit of energy to survive, so it’s hard to believe that he’s actually in that coffin. Now he was really looking forward to visiting Lourdes and that’s where he went, against all the odds not to mention advice, with friends just a week before he died. He loved Our Lady and knew that she always answered his prayers. Someone said, “Lourdes finished him off.” Well, not quite. Our Lady did answer his prayers and this time it was the best possible answer she could give, a holy and a happy death. The good Lord took him from this Vale of Tears. Once Fr Bede gets through Purgatory with the help of our prayers, there will be Heaven from where he will pray for us as we pray for him today. May his joyful, friendly and faithful soul rest in peace. Amen.
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