Fr Kevin Laheen SJ, died peacefully on Tuesday 26 March 2019 in the Highfield Healthcare centre, Drumcondra. His Jesuit brothers, family and friends gathered for his funeral Mass in Milltown Park Chapel at 11am the following Friday. Fr Kevin died just a few weeks after his 100th birthday which he celebrated with the same family and friends and fellow Jesuits, back in February.
Charlie Davy SJ was the principal celebrant and homilist on Friday. He warmly welcomed those present and in particular the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and those friends who had been so faithful visiting Fr Kevin in his last five years in Highfield.
He also spoke briefly about Fr Kevin’s life, noting that he was born in 1919, so his childhood was in the troubled years before and after the founding of the state. He grew up during economic war of the 1930s and lived through the second world war as a scholastic. “They were authoritarian times in the Church and in the Jesuits,” said Fr Charlie, adding that this “did not favour a more rounded personal formation… but today we thank the Lord that Kevin along with seven others of his Belvedere year responded to the Lord’s call.”
That calling led Fr Kevin to become a teacher first, then for the greater part of his active life he was a preacher of parish missions the length and breadth of the country, helping many on their journey of faith, according to Fr Charlie. In later years he wrote books on Mungret and Tullabeg, the Mission crosses of Killaloe as well as many articles so that there would be a historical record of work done by his brother Jesuits of earlier times.
In his homily Fr Charlie spoke about Fr Kevin’s association with the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, whom he said, gave Kevin great support in his latter years, and share his love of the Holy Land. Fr Kevin had brought many groups there to visit the places where Jesus walked, and preached and healed.
He also spoke about the ‘Our Father’, as the prayer that came to him when he was reflecting on what to preach about at Kevin’s requiem Mass. “It seemed appropriate,” said Fr Charlie, adding,
“It’s one of the first prayers we learned at home. A prayer utterly familiar to Kevin from his daily Mass, and the morning and evening prayer of the Church which formed his daily prayer routine. It was surely a prayer that would have come to life for him in the Holy Land as he travelled through isolated places where Jesus would have gone off to pray to his Father.”
But it was the words ‘Our Father’ that Fr Charlie singled out as the most important phrase of the prayer, noting that Jesus invites us into the intimacy of his divine family allowing us to address God as ‘Abba Father’, encouraging to pray with the confidence of a child before its father. And he went on: “If Jesus asks us to say Our Father it surely means that we never pray in isolation from the needs of all our brothers and sisters. While it is natural that our own needs our foremost in our prayers it can never be the whole agenda. The intercessory dimension of praying for others has to grow and grow. And so it is that today we put our own concerns to one side as we reach out to pray to the Lord for Fr. Kevin and also all those with whom he lived and worked, those who crossed his paths: those who were helped by him but also those who maybe were hurt by something he said or did through human frailty.”
Fr Charlie also referenced the phrase ‘lead us not into temptation,’ noting that there is a great need to make this prayer in a world of so much violence and injustice. And finally he noted that, “The Our Father provides a sort of road map for Christian prayer and life. To let this prayer become part of we can follow St. Ignatius’ recommendation of praying it slowly, one phrase at a time.”
He then invited all the congregation to take a few moment to pray the words ‘thy kingdom come’ silently and slowly together so that, he said, “God’s kingdom would take deeper root in our hearts and in our actions and finally praying for Kevin that he might be made ready to enter his eternal home in God’s kingdom.”
Fr Kevin was cremated in Glasnevin Crematorium, after the funeral Mass.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.