Renowned Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne was laid to rest after a funeral Mass in the Pro-Cathedral, Dublin on Friday 8 November. Thousands of Irish people lined the roads as the cortege drove from Howth to the church, in order to pay their respects to the famed broadcaster, who died aged 85 after battling with cancer for some time. The celebrant and homilist at the funeral Mass was Fr Leonard Moloney SJ, Irish Jesuit Provincial.
In his homily, Fr Leonard remarked: “For as long as most of us can remember Gay was a remarkable presence in Irish life – a consummate broadcaster and a veritable choirmaster of the national conversation. But his greatness lay first in the intimacy of his family life, with his wife Kathleen, his children Crona and Suzy, his sons-in-law Philip and Ronan, his beloved grandchildren Cian, Sadhbh, Kate, Saoirse, and Harry, as well as his sister Mary; and then it lay in the richness of his life as a friend and a colleague. It is right and fitting that such a great number would mourn his passing.”
Fr Leonard then portrayed Gay Byrne as a person of faith – the kind who doesn’t have all the answers but who asks all the questions. He recalled that Gay would begin each of his interviews in the ‘Meaning of Life’ series with four big questions: “What’s it all about? Why are we here? Is there a God? What happens when we die?”
Did he have answers to the questions himself? Fr Leonard continued: “Somewhat coyly, he wrote in the introduction to the book of the series: ‘Search me, I’m just the fella who asks the questions. Don’t expect me to be able to answer them!'”
One trait of Gay’s stood out particularly, namely his ability to listen, to pay attention.
“This was not merely a professional talent,” Fr Leonard said: “It came from a deeper place than that. It came from a belief that nobody, no matter how ordinary they appeared to be, both to themselves and to others, was really ordinary after all. Gay often devoted large segments of his two-hour radio programme to reading extracts from the moving and often harrowing letters sent in by women from all over Ireland telling, perhaps for the first time ever, of sufferings and violations visited on them.” Gay recognised the dignity of these women and validated their experience. They were, as Fr Leonard noted, precisely the ‘poor’ to whom Jesus referred in the Beatitudes, which was the gospel reading of the Mass.
A large number of public figures attended the funeral Mass, including President Michael D. Higgins and his wife, Sabina. Two former presidents attended too, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. Renowned broadcasters, politicians, artists, and musicians were also conspicuous at the funeral. It was broadcast live across the country and further afield.
You can download the text of Fr Leonard Moloney SJ’s homily here »