Father Benedict Gerard Duff born 12 June 1909 entered 15 Aug. 1930 professed 19 Oct. 1935 ordained 29 May 1938 died 12 Feb. 1996 Gerard Duff was born in Nenagh County Tipperary in 1909, the last child in a family of fourteen. He was a teenager before he saw one of his brothers who had gone to India as a Christian Brother before he was born. A second brother, who was a priest, lived to be 96. From the Christian Brothers' School in Nenagh he went to Roscrea College where he was College captain and rugby captain. His vocation to become a Monk developed in the College and he experienced great freedom when he joined Roscrea Abbey in 1930 It was soon discovered that he was one of those blessed with "green fingers", and his work in the garden yielded plentiful supplies of fruit and vegetables, a talent which was to be of great advantage in the post-war foundation of Nunraw. He came to Nunraw in 1947. The East Lothian Horticultural Adviser had a high opinion of his wonderful knowledge of flowers and plants. He loved manual labour and was very keen on baking, specialising in making apple pies. No matter how busy he was, the appointed times in the monastic day for Spiritual Reading and the Divine Office were kept regularly. His ease and readiness in the monastic life made him a very apt director of students and novices in the 1950s and 1960s. He had not much contact with the public until he began what was to be twenty years of service as Guestmaster. His friendly outgoing ways and straight thinking led people in trouble to open up their problems to him and to return to their Faith. His own enthusiasms, the only word for his ever fresh devotions, were based on people rather than 'theologies'. Figures like Pope John XXIII and Padre Pio exemplified the Gospel for him. This was evident in the very special devotion to Our Lady and the Rosary He made and repaired hundreds of Rosary Beads, with great skill, which he gifted to those, Catholic or other Christians, who found his teaching on prayer so helpful. Community Chronicle May 1968 - As Guestmaster, it fell to Fr. Benedict to look after the television crew making a film of the life at Nunraw. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote, "Father Benedict, the guest-master, provided me with the luxury of a guest-room to myself, and looked after me with loving care. When I thanked him he said that St Benedict had laid it down that all guests should be treated as though they were Christ. This rule, as I had every reason to know, he punctiliously observed." Of one time during his twenty years in the guesthouse, the story is told; Fr. Benedict used to do odd jobs around the guesthouse very early in the morning, before the majority of visitors wakened, wearing only his white robe. His head was definitely skull-like. Staying at the guest house was an ex-war time commando. He was enjoying an early morning shave when, all of a sudden, a white robed figure with a skull-like head appeared in the open doorway. Our visitor jumped, threw his hands up, crying, 'Oooooh! Oooooh!" When the apparition then spoke to reassure him, he cried out in distress even more vehemently! July 1982 - Fr. Benedict was cook on Friday. He had baked a brown brac which had gone decidedly wonky. So rather than throw the 6lb loaf away, he mixed it up with apple, covered it with custard, and gave it to us as a sweet: marvellous and concrete-ish. We were even given it twice. October 1982 - Chief Celebrant, 9th Oct., Golden Jubilee of his Simple Profession. In his Introduction to the Mass Fr. Benedict recalled standing with his companion, Fr. Bernard, in the Chapter Room of Roscrea, before the Abbot and the Brethren of whom today only seven are still this side of the grave. On being asked what he and his companion wanted, they replied, "The mercy of God and of the Order." Fr. Benedict went on to say that he had found both during the past fifty years, and then opened up the theme of living with the thought of death and of one's own dying, bearing witness to its help in living out the gospel. 29 May 88 - Fr. Benedict celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his Ordination. He took the High Mass, gave us two Blessings! In a few words of appreciation, the Abbot said, "A Golden Jubilee turns our thoughts to the future with the prayer, which must be ever more that of the elderly, for the love and fullness and perfection which will be the Golden quality of one's fulfilment in the Lord." 3 September 1989 - (Fr. Benedict loved Hurling. When Tipperary won the All Ireland, he was over the moon!). The All Ireland Hurling Final took place at Croagh Park today. Sixty years ago, Fr. Benedict went to the semi-final and then to the Final at Croagh Park, so the Abbot told him to watch today's match, even more so because Tipperary was meeting Co. Antrim. Co. Tipperary, Fr. Benedict's team, hadn't won the cup for over 18 years and it did today, (33-14), after a splendid game which had many exciting moments. It was quite an eye opener for an Englishman who had never seen the game before. As Refectorian, Fr. Benedict, one evening, muscled into the tea pantry doing his job. Fr. Felim and Fr. Stephen were there and Fr. Benedict remarked, "Fr. Felim and I work well together, we've done so for years." Fr. Felim observed, that he had often felt it more like three men working together against themselves! 12 November 1989 - Always ready to step in to do the cooking for a few days, Fr. Benedict has relieved Fr. Andrew in the kitchen. News came that Fr. Andrew's brother, Bishop William Hart, may be dying. 28 June 1994 - Fr. Benedict's "Rhypsalidopsis quartenri" is in full bloom. There are 30 blooms, some of them 10 inches across! Brilliant, a wonder to behold, in the glass porch near the kitchen. He continues to keep fresh flowers at the statue in the Lady cloister. 17 April 1995. Easter Monday - Snow! Fr. Benedict has finally given up any plans for more baking. He has accepted the dismantling of his "home- made" bakery which was fitted out with second hand dough mixer and ovens. Requiem Mass Instead of the usual panegyric, a Sermon by Fr. Benedict on All Saints was read. Introduction by the Abbot: Call me when my life shall fail me Command me then to come to Thee That I for all eternity With Thy Saints may praise Thee, Amen Not many people get to give their own Homily at their Funeral Mass. We are going to have Fr. Benedict speak for himself or rather of his Faith and Love. He was a great believer in the providence of the little details of life. Last evening I was in what used to be his room wondering how to make something of the wealth of biographical details, of which your Mass sheet has a very brief summary, when I found an old copy book of Fr. Benedict's Sermons - and the first place I opened had the sermon he preached for All Saints Day 1968. I did not look any further and that will give us our best remembrance of his simple open religious spirit and his loving all embracing affectionate nature. There are just two points to remember. His love of SOULS - and his love of his family, community and friends. He never took up anything without great enthusiasm. Two of those enthusiasms centred on the STORY OF A SOUL - the first one, in his early days, was the Autobiography of St Thérèse of Liseaux. And the second was the JOURNAL OF A SOUL - autobiography of Pope John XXIII. In that company, talk of THE LOVE OF SOULS has the fullest meaning and relevance for all of us. Sermon by Fr. Benedict for All Saints 1968 Saint John in today's Epistle recounts one of his numerous visions of the heavenly Jerusalem and ends up with these words, "And after this I saw a great multitude which no man could number of all the nations and tribes and peoples and tongues standing before the throne and in the sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands and they cried out with a loud voice saying "Salvation to our God, who is sitting upon the throne and to the Lamb. And all the Angels stood round about the throne and the Ancients and the four living creatures and they fell down before the throne upon their faces and adored God saying, "Amen. Benediction and Glory and wisdom and thanksgiving, honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen." This vision of St. John, my dear brethren, was not just a show put on, on one special occasion for his particular benefit. John was striving to do what no man could adequately do, to describe in human language, heaven, and the ritual of heaven which is continuous and never ending. We are not privileged to see the things that John saw but we believe in his words and we know that if we did see, we would see somewhat as John saw though we might not describe it in the same terms. But where is heaven? St. Teresa tells us that, "Heaven is where God is, and God is here amongst us, for where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them." God is present then amongst us today. Here He is receiving the adoration of His only Son, the man God, of Our Lady, of St. Joseph, of all the Saints; every petition, all praise and love directed to Him from heaven or from earth is received by Him here , for He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He is within each one of us, for our bodies are His temples. Within us then all this tremendous volume of praise reaches Him, and moreover all this we can offer to Him at any moment of the day or night, if we so desire. In celebrating any Feast-day, we need not strain to a heaven beyond the clouds - for heaven is where God is, close at hand within us. The Saint whom we wish to honour is with God by our side, we place him or her, as it were, on a pedestal and unite with all heaven and earth in praising God and Our Lady for forming such a masterpiece of beauty, purity and loveliness. This the Church asks is to do every day of the year; for on every day she celebrates the feast of some particular Saint or group of Saints. But strive as she might to honour with a special day each and every one of her glorified children, the Church could not do so, for their number is as the sands of the sea shore, as the drops of water in the ocean. In one great feast then she bundles them all together, our glorified brothers and sisters in Christ and calls upon us in the words of today's Introit, "Let us all rejoice in the Lord celebrating a Feastday in honour of All the Saints at whose solemnity the Angels rejoice and give praise to the Son of God." Yes, my dear brethren, let us rejoice today. Did we but see, as St. John saw how we would thrill at the sight of the beauty of the souls of our dear ones, our friends and acquaintances, who are now amongst the Saints, but who were but a short time ago wayfarers like ourselves. We would recognise a father, a mother, a sister or brother, a school companion or a brother monk. - Oh if we could but see! and the God to whom they owe their all and whom they will never cease to praise dwells within us as in a temple. An Irish mother faithfully recounting the death of her newly baptised infant, related that as the last moments drew near, she bent down to embrace for a last time the little one whom death had marked out, she heard coming from the child's mouth the sweetest of heavenly music and could discern quite distinctly the words Ave Maria, Ave Maria, Ave Maria, being ever repeated by millions of angelic voices. Perhaps this was just imagination. Yet was not God in heaven in undisputed possession of that newly baptised soul. We do not hear the choirs of the Angels and of the Saints singing the praises of God amongst us today, yet they are, for they are ever before the throne of god, night and day praising and blessing and thanking Him and He is amongst us. He is within us and there is but one God. But this is more than a Feast of All the saints. It is our feast too. sinners though we be; for are not we one body with them? - and the whole body participates in the good of any part. We honour the Saints and praise them because they have been faithful, have died in the Lord and are now glorious trophies of His most Precious Blood. And this very honour and praise which we offer to them redounds upon ourselves in the measure of our sincerity and makes us real sharers in their bliss and more and more constrains them, if constraint were needed to become our powerful intercessors before the throne of God, so that He may in the words of today's Collect "confer upon us the fullness of His mercy for which we long." All of us will this morning receive the Glorified Body of Our Lord, God Himself in Holy Communion. As we kneel in thanksgiving let us remember that even then, Our Lady, St. Joseph, our Guardian Angel, All the Angels and Saints, our brethren and countless other souls all over the world are there adoring, praising, blessing and thanking that One and Only God who is all ours. Our poor attempt, weak and perhaps cold will be as a drop in that immense ocean of praise, yet once joined with that ocean of praise it becomes itself the ocean and all becomes ours. Then again that same One and Only Jesus, though totally present within us, is even then and moreover always standing before His heavenly Father, as our Head in the presence of all the Saints praising the Father, offering Himself for as, showing Him His wounds and interceding with Him on our behalf, thus procuring for us graces without number. (And the Father looking down upon Him in us, with infinite delight will pronounce again those heavenly words, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"). What union then is brought about by Communion - it is not just Our Lord and me - though it is that. Supremely it is heaven and earth united at the feet of Our Eucharistic King, who is present within me. Surely, my dear brethren, the good things of our Faith are wonderful, wonderful beyond belief - too good to be true. Really did we but understand, even in small part, a little of what our faith teaches, Our prayer would become one continuous act of silent wonder. Wherever we are today, whether in Church or about the house - at Mass or at the Office, or saying our Rosary, let us strive to realise our closeness to or, better still, our oneness with all the Saints for we are really and truly one body with them; all gathered round as it were the One and Only God, who is really our Head, to whom they just as much as we owe their all. Indeed we are not only one with the Saints departed, we are one too with all Gods lovers on earth for love and prayer eliminates all distance , for is not the humble prayer of a poor soul in far off Chinas or Japan directed to the One and Only God who dwells within you and me as in His temple. A realisation of these truths, my dear brethren, would surely lead on to an ever increasing thankfulness towards God and to a more constant fidelity in all our duties. It would increase too our love and respect for our brethren - for all men, God- bearers like ourselves. These are some of the graces for which we should petition the Saints today. Let us ask them too to give us a share in their own generous spirit, or in the words of Dom Marmion, "to make us great souls, who will be big enough to forget ourselves so as to think all the more of Jesus and of souls. So big that we may not be stayed by the trifles which occupy the thoughts and the lives of so many consecrated souls - that they would make us true followers of Christ - finding all our happiness in Him and seeking nothing apart from His good pleasure and the interests of His glory. If we become Saints, concludes the holy abbot, our hearts will thrill throughout all eternity, with the joy that we should give to Christ in singing the triumph of His Precious Blood and the almighty power of His grace. Amen.