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In memory of Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

Dear friends, we are united with you today in sorrow at the death of Joe Fitzpatrick. The reality of death, with all its pain and sense of loss, confronts us at this moment. But as we are united in sorrow, we are also united by something else... our Faith. Confronted with the reality of death, we must allow ourselves to be confronted with the reality of our Faith. Our Faith opens our minds to the whole picture about life, death, and what happens after death. Only in the light of our Faith can we begin to understand what has happened to Joe and how we are to keep going from here.

Joe was born in Bannog, Donaghcloney in 1935. He was one of a large family born to Kathleen & Thomas Fitzpatrick. He went to school in Blackskull. His working years were spent as a farm labourer and barman in Mc Cartan’s in Donaghcloney; stone breaking at Tullyraine quarry and farming at Seamus Mc Cartan’s at the Fourmile Newry. He married Margaret Woods who died some years ago; they had four children Philip, Neil, Alan and Mary; he had five grandchildren; he retired some years ago with a bad back and enjoyed relative good health until his recent illness. Joe was well liked; he enjoyed people’s company at the Bannvale; he loved walking and all sports especially football and snooker. He was a Man United supporter – God forgive him. Now after all these years he has passed on to eternal life.

Death is not from God; death is turning away from God. Yet God did not leave us in death's power. He sent Christ, who died and rose again and conquered death! God has spoken to the world through Christ, and told us that He wants to give us victory over death in and through Jesus Christ!

Because of this, a Christian is not silent in the face of death! Many people, on coming to a funeral, do not know what to say! Death seems to have the last word. But we who believe are not silent. We speak! Christ is risen! Death has been conquered!

The end of the story is Resurrection and life that has no end! The farewell that we give to Joe today is a temporary farewell; the burial we give Joe is a temporary burial. He will live! He will rise!

The ceremony today contains many reminders of this, and it points us to the fact that Joe was baptized. We sprinkled the coffin with holy water at the beginning of the ceremony... This recalls the waters of baptism that were once poured on Joe - a sign of the new life of Christ given to the Christian. This large candle is the Easter Paschal candle; it is present at every baptism, and symbolizes the Risen Christ. When Joe was baptized, the life of the Risen Christ was poured into his soul! He began to share, here on earth, the life of heaven! Christ said to Joe on that day, "You do not belong to death! You belong to me!"

In the midst of all this, should we grieve? Yes, my friends it is OK to grieve; it is natural, because even Christ wept when His friend Lazarus died... and He wept even though He was about to bring Him back to life!

Yes, we as Christians grieve. But we grieve with hope. It is OK to be sad today that we do not see Joe anymore, but it would be wrong to think we will never see him again. It is OK to grieve, but it is wrong to despair. Christ is alive! We pray today for Joe that he may complete the journey to heaven. Pray for him every day, and for yourselves. Look at him today and say with faith: “Joe you do not belong to death. You belong to Christ, and so do we!" We have gathered here not so much to talk about Joe but to pray for him. We believe that our prayer here can help Joe where he is now. We know that prayer is powerful and we believe that we can help the departed by praying for them. The best gift you can now give to Joe is to pray for him. There is no better gift you can now give Joe. There is nothing that you could now do that would be more helpful and beneficial to him than praying for him. When we lay a wreath in someone’s honour the flowers will wither but the prayers we offer for someone will never wither. If you say just one prayer for Joe it will last into eternity.

On behalf of Fr. Mc Donagh and all of gathered here today to pray for Joe I would like to extend our sympathy to Joe’s loving daughter Mary, sons Philip, Neal and Alan, daughters in law Gillian and Tina, brother Paddy, sisters Mary and Phyllis, grandchildren, and the entire family circle. The family would like to invite you to the Bannville Hotel for lunch after the burial.

 

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