Dan Magill CSsR - Perth
4th April 2010, Easter Sunday
Homily given by Fr John Martin CSsR at Redemptorist Church, North Perth, 9th April 2010:
On Holy Saturday afternoon, Danny said, “This would be a nice day to die!” Within 24 hours he had gone to God.
It is indeed a good day to die. We are in the Easter season and it is all about going through death into life. We gather today partly to celebrate the life of Danny, partly to celebrate his going to God and partly for ourselves as we look at our life and at our death. But Easter goes on today as it did on Sunday. And not only does Easter go on, but we believe that the person of Jesus is alive. And that is what makes some sense of our dying. Otherwise it is ridiculous to say that we live after death. The work of Jesus goes on. The message of Jesus goes on. He gave His life for the message which is that every human being is of immense value to God. Every human being is precious. He taught that. He died for that message. There are no exceptions. Every human being is of great value. Jesus living amongst us passes on that message through us. Today we think about that, as we think about the life of Danny.
I don’t know what to call him really. He is Uncle Danny, he is Dan, he is Fr. Dan, he is Fr. Daniel. I’m going to call him Danny!
Jesus carried on His risen life in the person of Danny. There are some things we know about him. We know him well or perhaps not so well. There are a few words that come to mind for me personally, having heard a lot of his stories.
He was a REFUGEE. His family fled Northern Ireland in 1925 and finished up in a funny place called Matamata in New Zealand. We have representatives of his family with us today. I looked up some history and I found that Danny lived in twenty different Redemptorist houses throughout Australia and New Zealand. I think he was a REFUGEE, to the end. On Saturday he was preparing to go to the Little Sisters, on Tuesday. He was a man “of no fixed abode”!
He was a FARMER. As a boy and as a young man he worked on the farm in New Zealand. There, I believe, he became that great family man. He became that hard worker. And there must be something in the water around Matamata, because everybody from around Matamata thinks and talks horses. Danny got more than his fair share of interest in horses! His family here will attest to that today.
Then, as a late vocation, he joined the Redemptorists, following in the footsteps of his brother John, who has since that gone to God. Danny lived as a Redemptorist for 62 years and as a Priest for 57 years, throughout Australia and New Zealand. I had a little joke with Danny. I would mention a place that I had been to and he would say, “I gave a Mission there!” You would go to some God forsaken place in the back of Queensland and he would still be able to say, “Yes, I gave a mission there!” Danny gave his life going here and there preaching the Good News.
Another word that comes to mind about Danny is that he was a MAGICIAN. He would do anything to “get people in” and he was great with kids. He was full of tricks and he won over the kids before he told them the Good News of Jesus. One of the emails we got was from our Redemptorist Community in Galong and it read, “We have lost a great magician who worked great magic in the lives of many”.
He was a WOUNDED HEALER. Danny had his struggles. Struggle with studies, struggle with work. He had a great struggle with drink. And I think because he struggled so much and went through the mill he had an extraordinary compassion for people. He became an AA Counsellor and he did, throughout his life, great work with the AA movement. And I know you are well represented here today.
He was a man of HUMOUR. He was a funny bloke. He said funny things. I hesitate to tell you this story but it is such a good story and it sums up Danny’s struggle and it sums up Danny’s humour. Back in the good old days when he was having a struggle with drink he was on one occasion a bit the worse for wear and one of his Redemptorist brothers carted him off to his room. And Danny was happy! And he turned to the bloke and said, “Thank God I’ve got a problem that I can enjoy!” I think that sums up our Danny.
Last week in hospital I said to him, “Are you ready to go home?” And he said, “What do you mean? Heaven?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Yes. I am at peace. I am relaxed and God is a great God of love and mercy.”
And so from the life and the beautiful death of Danny perhaps we too might learn to live our life to the full, make the most of what we have, and go peacefully into the arms of our loving God, when we are called.
One of the last things Danny did in his public ministry was to give the Novena here in this North Perth church, in the middle of January. He loved the Novena. In his coffin he has a novena book on his chest. He loved Mary, throughout his whole life – our Mother of Perpetual Help. How many times in his 87 years would he have said these words: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
John Martin CSsR