Father Luke McNally born: 1921 professed: 1957 ordained: 1959 died: November 8th 2010 Homily for funeral of Fr Luke McNally 12 November 2010 In the liturgy we have the perfect setting for putting our lives and deaths into proper context. Today we come to do that in the life of our Fr Luke. Charles McNally, as he was baptised, was born in Lochee – not in Dundee – as he would always emphasise. He was a colourful character with a good sense of humour which showed itself when it was his turn to give a sermon to the community in the chapter room on one of the major feast days But before all this happened the one big thing that influenced Charles’ life was the Second World War. He had been called up at the very beginning of the hostilities and served as an engineer in the Royal Engineers 51st Highland Division. As a sapper he saw action at El Alamein in the major turning point of the Western Desert Campaign and later when the war moved into Sicily and up through the Italian peninsula. With coming of D-Day and the Second Front, Charles found himself based at Nijmegen in the Netherlands. His platoon was involved in erecting a Bailey bridge over the river at that point for the advancing allied forces. Moving on, they came to a nearby farmhouse. There was a dead German soldier lying on the ground. While Charles was standing and looking down at the dead man, he made the sign of the cross on himself and then he was hurriedly warned that the farm building was still occupied by the enemy. Charles said that his whole life passed before his eyes. He was sure he was going to be killed. Somehow, he wasn’t. Later in the monastery he was to tell us that only a handful of his companions survived the war. These experiences could not but have had a direct influence on his later life. Charles had always been a great walker and cyclist. After he was demobbed, he used to spend a lot of his free time going out into the surrounding countryside to enjoy its sounds and sights, and that appreciation never left him. Nunraw with its colours and striking views which change with the seasons continued to fill his life to the very end. It is appropriate that Sr. Maureen chose the first reading from Isaiah (25.6-9) with its reference to God’s work taking place on the mountain. God is present in his creation and will save us through that same creation. It was only a few years before Charles’ steps led him to Nunraw. He entered with another old soldier, Br Stephen, on 8 September 1952. After the initial formation period, like most monks, Fr Luke - as he was now called - worked in various occupations. Initially he was put to working with sheet metal on the building site at the new abbey. In later years he became sacristan, and then he had care of the abbey shop. Eventually he ended up at what we call the ‘Front Door’, receiving day visitors to the abbey. It is extraordinary the number of people he met and helped over the years on their visits and through correspondence. For some he was a lifeline. He helped them search for and find God in their own lives. All during his life at Nunraw, Fr Luke was faithful to his attendance at the Work of God at the regular hours of prayer in choir spread throughout the day. Except in his latter few years when he had grown very weak, he was there, present and contributing to the sung office. He was blessed with a fine voice and put it to good use in choir. I remember that he was a favourite choice of deacon in Holy Week in the early years. Fr Luke had the gift of singing the Latin melodies of the long gospels well, but quickly. (The liturgy then was long and the fasting hard.) In later years, laryngitis restricted his singing to an echo of what it had been. Over the past six- or seven-years Fr Luke often caught infections. These left him quite weak. He always managed to build up his strength again. However he did not recover very well from the last one he had. When he was no longer able to do anything physically for the community, you would see him going round the Stations of the Cross or saying his rosary. He was unable to fight back from the slight stroke he had three months ago because of his weakened state. He was worn out. In hospital he was unable to read much. But when he was awake, he was aware of what was going on around him, and he would tell you what particular feast day it was. A deep sense of peace emanated from him and that stayed to the very end. In the today’s reading from John (14.1-6) Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled. That just about summed up Fr Luke’s state when he came to leave us. The way he went was to follow the Lord who says in this gospel passage that he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In his long life Fr Luke sought the Way of the Lord. He was his Truth which leads him, and all of us, to Life that is eternal.