Bishop John Mone - Homily for Requiem Mass,
By Bishop John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley
By Bishop John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley
Dear brothers and sisters,
1. Saint John encourages us to ‘think of the love the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children’ and adopting us as part of His family. Today we remember yet another dimension of that love lavished upon us by God when He raised up for us such a good shepherd in Bishop John Mone. Bishop John was gentle, kind and holy. The hundreds of tributes that have poured in, together with the fond stories and memories, can be distilled down to these qualities so uniquely knit together: John Mone was a gentle, kind and holy shepherd, usually full of fun.
2. Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled. Surely our hearts are saddened at the passing of a pastor loved so deeply by so many of us. And yet our sadness is overtaken by wider feelings of gratitude for a life poured out for us by this good priest and bishop. And that gratitude gives way to confident hope that Bishop John has gone no further than from his room in the Little Sisters’ Residence to a room forever in His Father’s mansion, prepared by the Lord Jesus, Our Saviour. Coming from such a large family himself, many of whom are with us today, and feeling at home in the big family of the Church, John would be the first to recognise the benefit to the Father house that it has many rooms.
3. The homily of any Mass, no less a Requiem Mass, should preach about Jesus. It is out of the Body of Christ, broken for us on the holy mountain of Calvary, that the Father Almighty has prepared the banquet of our Salvation in the rich food and fine wine of His Son’s redeeming flesh and blood. It is because of the humbling of Our Lord Jesus on the Cross that humanity’s veil of shame and disgrace has been removed. It is His death that swallows up our death forever. And so it is in the God of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we trust as we rejoice and are glad in His salvation. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life of our world, He and no other.
4. Yet, there is something in all of us that knows what Saint Thomas means when He asks, ‘How can we know the way, Lord? So in His mercy Jesus sends us holy brothers and sisters whose witness of good discipleship points our lives in the right direction. As Saint Paul said to the faithful in his care, ‘Copy me as I copy Christ’. Surely bishop John was just such quiet witness to follow. From his earliest years he chose the Lord Jesus to be his Way, his Truth and his Life and so his life is a clear signpost of the path we should chose if we hope to find salvation in our turn.
5. John Mone followed the “way” of Christ from his baptism. It was a difficult one at times, studying for the priesthood in post-war Paris, on rations with short supply of lighting and heat. Ordained priest and returning home to Scotland the Way of Christ took him through St Ninian’s, Knightswood, for twenty three years to Our Lady and St George’s, Penilee, for four and St Joseph’s, Tollcross, as parish priest for five. Always unassuming and attentive he left an indelible mark in all of those parishes. His incredible memory for people, names and places is almost legendary and you wonder if there was not something as much divine as natural about it. A parishioner from Knightswood, whom he met over twenty years after leaving the parish, was amazed how he could name all her family members, their home address and even the colour of their tenement door. It was no surprise to anyone when he was asked to take on the responsibility of auxiliary bishop of Glasgow, to which he gave himself without stint for four years.
6. John Mone witnessed with courage to the “truth” of Christ as a bishop. As president of SCIAF and of Justice and Peace he proclaimed truth as the justice of God, full of joy in his visits to the developing world while, at home, insistently challenging the government to show some mercy over the Dungavel detention centre. As a Pioneer he lived out the truth in penance for the redemption of poor brothers and sisters whom, following the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he took to his own heart with special affection. As chair of the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council he lived the truth as friend and confidante of men and women following the path of their lay vocations in the ups and downs of ordinary family life. Bishop John proclaimed every day the truth of Christ and yet he found his own unique way of doing so by leading always in love.
7. Eventually as Bishop of Paisley he found himself entering nearer the fullness of Christ’s life for him. He succeeded bishop Stephen McGill, having been baptised by the same priest as Bishop McGill, attending the same Primary School, having the same head teacher, and studying at the same Saint Sulpice Major Seminary.
8. As bishop, John distinguished himself as a pastor ready to listen, encourage and cajole. In no time he won the confidence and loyalty of his priests. He often told them you should never go to bed the same day that you got up as a way of letting them know they could get him, without hesitation, even up to midnight should the need arise. They knew he loved them, never tired of them and was among them as one who served.
9. His humble, joyful method, with affection returned by the faithful, opened up Paisley diocese to the life of Christ. He loved to gather with his people in celebrating important stages in their lives like baptisms, confirmations, weddings and ordinations. He particularly loved our Chrism Masses and seeing our Cathedral full.
10. Saint John the Evangelist delighted in calling the faithful God’s children and bishop John had his own unique rapport with young people, whether it was visiting them in their schools or leading them in pilgrimage to Lourdes where he could often be found playing the piano in the Albertz bar well into the night, leading singsongs, unable to read a single note of music and ever at home with the young. Bishop John loved Lourdes because he loved Our Blessed Mother, he loved little ones, like Saint Bernadette, and he loved, above all, the sick and suffering. One thing he insisted upon in pastoral tours of parishes back home, we know, was that he be taken to visit the sick.
11. It is perhaps no coincidence that two of the three Readings for this Mass are written by Saint John, the beloved disciple. He, the one who leaned on the breast of the Master as the hour was coming for Jesus to pass from this world to the next, and knowing how His Master had loved Him to the very end, proclaimed the one abiding truth of our faith: that God is love. Saint John went on to say that when Christ appears those of his disciples who have seen Him as He really is will appear to us as just like Him. We give thanks to God for Bishop John Mone -a brother, priest, bishop and, above all a disciple- loved by God and beloved of his people who have had a shepherd among us just like Christ Our Lord, Our Only Saviour and Our Redeemer.
A life totally given to his people
One of Bishop Mone’s successors in Paisley Diocese, BISHOP JOHN KEENAN, pays tribute to the late prelate
In the days since the announcement of the death of Bishop John Mone the diocese has been in mourning but, overtaking this, is a feeling of gratitude for his years of loving service to our people and joy that this good and faithful servant has returned to His Father’s House to receive rest from his labours, and reward for the good he has done.
Within hours of the announcement we had received 900 tributes online and sympathies had reached 140,000 people. It is phenomenal to see how such a kind and gentle shepherd could have had such colossal influence simply by faithfully carrying out his daily tasks.
I want also to add to the river of tribute my own personal gratitude to Bishop John for his fatherly support of me in my first years as bishop of Paisley.
After I had been appointed bishop, and heard it was to be made public that Saturday morning, I called Bishop John and asked him to be with me in the diocesan centre while the announcement was being made. There was no press conference or the like so we just gathered in the kitchen with one or two priests and had tea and toast around the table. All I can remember is Bishop John’s cheerful and unassuming presence and how reassuring it was that he was there. I entered the diocesan centre that morning as a fairly unknown priest and was leaving it as Bishop of Paisley, but already I knew there was a grandfather bishop of the diocese standing behind me and willing me on. It meant a lot!
I immediately requested of Bishop John that we work together, hand in hand, and in the first months he was kind enough to process with me in diocesan Masses, side by side. I heard later that this meant a lot to the people. To me it seemed that, although I had been given the authority of office, Bishop Mone had the deeper and more appreciated authority over the people of years of loving service.
At the beginning, and parachuted in from another diocese, my voice must have had something of the ring of a hired hand to the people and must have been heard with caution. But Bishop Mone had the shepherd’s voice which the people knew and trusted to lead them in and out. I could see that, just by being close to him and associated with him, I was readily accepted by the people, so strong was their attachment to him.
He started to be known with affection as Bishop John the Elder around the diocese as we entered into my first Easter Confirmation season. Bishop John came along to all of the ten ceremonies except one and parents and teachers were, as ever, overjoyed to see him confirming their children alongside me. He had confirmed many of them years ago and still remembered their names! He had a unique gift for that. He missed only one and I felt, for the first time, quite alone and a little less sure of myself. In those first months he was still like a living staff for me to lean on and something of a loadstone where I could set myself secure.
Ever since his retirement 12 years ago, and up until a year or so past, Bishop John was the first port of call for our priests looking for a supply and he was in more parishes than me as he toured the diocese in his wee Honda Jazz to help out.
Latterly his health failed and he moved to the Little Sisters of the Poor care home where he graced the residence with his presence and prayers and where he was looked after in the most wonderful way by the sisters and their staff.
I was able to visit him fairy often to let him know how things were going in the diocese, to benefit from his reflections and ask his advice. I told him he had been a great bishop and reminded him of just how dearly and deeply he was still loved by the people of the diocese. He said that his deepest consolation was how the diocese had all worked together as a family and he kept repeating, ‘We tried our best! We tried!’
During one of my last visits he told me that he was getting a new chair and then he added with a smile, ‘And the diocese is paying for it!’ I said, ‘it’s your new cathedra, your new bishop’s chair!’ and I added, ‘your chair is still the real cathedra of the diocese; I’m just keeping the one in the cathedral warm.’
He laughed heartily but I meant it really. As he was confined to the residence, often to his room, his days were spent celebrating Mass and praying the Office and Rosary for the diocese and, to the end, being the Bishop of Paisley in the only way that really counts, by merit of a life totally given to his people.
Now, please God, he has taken his seat in Paradise and, in the words of St Therese, I am sure he means to spend his Heaven working to continue the good he has already done on earth, in his beloved Paisley and Scotland.
Scottish Catholic Observer
Bishop Mone was the Bishop of Paisley from 1988-1998, an auxiliary bishop of Glasgow and priest of that diocese, and was well know for his work with the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), Justice and Peace, the Pioneer movement, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Scotland’s deaf community, and Lourdes pilgrimages.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow said Bishop Mone’s death was ‘a loss to the entire Catholic Church in Scotland.’
“The diocesan communities of Paisley and Glasgow especially are united both in their unbounded esteem and affection for Bishop John, in their sadness at his passing, and in confident hope of his salvation,” he said. “As for myself, Bishop John was my predecessor in Paisley and lived in the diocese as bishop emeritus during my entire episcopal ministry there. He was a kindly and fatherly presence to me and I appreciated his support and advice. He will be very fondly remembered in Paisley by the entire diocesan community. May he rest in peace and may he soon intercede for us in the presence of the risen Lord whom he loved and served all his life as a priest and bishop.”
Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh said that Bishop Mone had always ‘distinguished himself as someone who has been close to the sick and the poor, especially to the young handicapped people traveling to Lourdes.’
“He also showed himself to be a loving and a wise pastor, and a good and holy priest,” he continued. “Bishop Mone was a pleasure to get to know, to listen to, he was also an exemplarily prayerful man and it was always a pleasure to meet him and to work with him. He goes, after a lengthy and slow illness, to a rich reward and I think many of the people of Glasgow and of Paisley will today feel deep gratitude for the ministry of Bishop John Mone. May he rest in peace.”
Bishop Stephen Robson of Dunkeld said: “Bishop John Mone. A truly good man gone to God. Courteous, unassuming, kind—a true shepherd!”
Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell said he would ‘remember Bishop John for his goodness and joy as a priest and bishop.’
“He seemed to be able to bring a wise fatherly understanding to whatever needed to be done,” he said. “As the president of SCIAF, I have been reminded today of his fine contribution to its work during his time as president. So it is good to be reminded of his deep compassion for the poor both abroad and here in Scotland. He is well remembered in Motherwell also for his leadership of the St Vincent de Paul Society and the Pioneers Association.”
Alistair Dutton, SCIAF’s director, said the charity would ‘remember Bishop Mone with great fondness and gratitude for everything he did.’
“He was a fabulous man who always delighted in, and was proud of, this essential work of the Church, and worked tirelessly to make SCIAF the organisation it is today,” he said. “He was one of our earliest guardians, appointed chairman of the board of directors in 1974, and then bishop president and treasurer in 1985. Over many years, he travelled extensively to see the Church’s transformative work and stand in solidarity with the poor and oppressed in countries such as Sudan, India and El Salvador. He remained proud of SCIAF throughout his life and was eager to support our work in any way he could. We pray for the repose of his soul, confident that he is in a better place. May he rest in peace.”
The love and affection Catholics across Scotland held for Bishop Mone was shown by the overwhelming response to the news of his death on Facebook, with hundreds of people commenting on his ‘kindness,’ his ‘humblenesss,’ and his ‘goodness.’ The mood was summed up by Maria Scott who said: “A beautiful soul, heart and smile. We will not forget him. Rest in the peace and mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Bishop John.”