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Funeral Mass – Sr Antoinette Walsh RSJ

Baulkham Hills, Monday 19 February 2024


Wisdom 3:1-6 & 9

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,

and no torment will ever touch them.

2   In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
3   and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.
4   For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.
5   Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
6   like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering, he accepted them.
9   Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.

Philippians 1:3-11

3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

John 14:1-6

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”


Michael Whelan SM

Towards the end of last century, my ministry included retreat work. I met many fine people in that ministry. Some of them Josephite Sisters. When I encountered a person who had been on the way for some years and seemed psychologically and spiritually healthy, I asked them “Why?” Given all the criticisms about the inadequacies of our training and community life and work, I was interested to know how come they were not bent out of shape.

I can summarize the responses under three headings.

Firstly, they all expressed a deep faith in Jesus Christ. Each in their own way experienced his presence as “the way, the truth and the life”. Jesus is who the Gospels say he is! They staked their lives on that. Not many of them could have discussed Hans urs von Balthasar’s Christology – as indeed I could not! – but they manifested a knowledge of Jesus that spoke of a lived intimacy.

Secondly, they demonstrated epikeia. This term comes from the Greek word epieikeia meaning “reasonableness” or “the becoming”. Aristotle used it. In other words, we cannot foresee every possibility and enshrine that in laws and rules, so we must allow for the reasonable or becoming response. St Thomas Aquinas developed the concept, noting that epikeia is necessary to protect the higher values of the natural law in the face of the imperfections of human-made laws. Jesus showed epikeia when the religious authorities challenged the disciples for picking corn on the Sabbath – see Mark 2:23 and Matthew 12:1. The retreatants told me stories of bending or even setting the demands of laws aside in order to maintain reasonableness – for example, they ate meat on Friday when there was nothing else to eat or they missed Mass on Sunday because of the dangers in attempting to cross a flooded creek or they broke the grand silence to play cards with the Parish Priest who otherwise might turn to alcohol.

Thirdly, they demonstrated a healthy sense of the absurd. They all had a good sense of humor. Often, in telling their stories of the application of epikeia in particular, they would laugh quite a lot. Good humor and good faith go hand in hand. I have learned to be wary of those who cannot laugh – especially at themselves. Perhaps that will be one of the functions of Purgatory – teaching comedy to those who thought that God meant us to be miserable. Isn’t it reasonable to think that God laughs with us? “For the Lord takes delight in his people” (Psalm 149:4. See also Psalm 35:27 & 147:11.)

Yes, there were facets of religious life – our training, community living and working – that were not healthy. Indeed, the Catholic Church was unwittingly drawn to begin a remarkable journey under the instigation of Pope John XXIII and the Holy Spirit in the middle of last century. But the Catholic Church was in a position to embark on this journey because of people such as Sr Antoinette and thousands like her, many of whom walk among us still.

“Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.”