Bishop’s Funeral Homily: Farewell, Archbishop, Farewell!
He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:
The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me, He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor. Luke 4: 16-19
God’s people have never been without their prophets – holy and wise men who are divinely sent to bear a personal testimony to the reality of God. Their prophetic voices never speak and are never heard in a vacuum, for they are always very much a part of the historical moment in which they live.
They share the same needs and the same hopes and aspirations as the people among whom they live and work. It is to these people that the prophets speak, bringing them the good news of all that God has done for them, giving them the hope needed to transform their human misery into joy.
Today we gather to honor the memory of one whose voice in the contemporary Church was truly prophetic. We come to express our gratitude to God for a man who understood and accepted the challenges of the present because his vision was broad enough to encompass both the past and future: Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan. Surely during his life he fulfilled to an extraordinary degree the mission of a prophet as described in the verses quoted from the Books of Isaiah.
It is not necessary for me to give you the Archbishop’s biographical data. You have read this in the many stories which have appeared around the country since his death. And besides, what is really important – the reason why we so loved and respected him – is the man himself. I want, therefore, to speak to you today about a fully human person who loved people and life. I simply want to trace the image of a completely dedicated person whose every moment was spent, both by word and example, trying to convince people that God really loves and cares for them and that, because of this, the world is not such a bad place after all.
There are two qualities which contributed more than anything else to his greatness. The first was his humanness. Despite all the honors which came to him, he was a very simple person who was always uncomfortable in the presence of anyone pretentious. He could speak as easily to a little child as he could to a college professor. And he was so sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Whenever he saw tension building up among those who worked with him, he always knew what to do or say. His wit and humor – no matter how incongruous it might have seemed at the time – always relieved the situation. He reached out to people with a genuine warmth that told them that they were important and that he was interested in them. Many of you here are aware of this from personal experience.
The second quality was courage. He had a deep faith in God which seldom permitted him to falter or to become discouraged when he was convinced of the rightness of a decision or course of action. He was a secure, humble man who never held back because he was afraid of the personal repercussions his stand might have. He frequently changed his position but not because of weakness or a lack of resolve on his part. Rather, it was
because he listened to people and was not reluctant or embarrassed to make a change when the circumstances warranted it.
It was his humanness which made it possible for him to relate to people; it was his courage always to do or say what he thought was right that made him a prophetic figure. Both of these traits in the Archbishop were tested time and again in the arena of Church renewal. Practically speaking renewal for him meant cutting through red tape in order to get to the real heart of the
matter as quickly and effectively as possible. “I am very wary,” he said last
year at the National Newman Congress, “of the safe Catholic, organized to
the hilt, but committed only to the superficial.” Getting to the essentials for
him meant, among other things, speaking out forcefully on the issues that
were relevant – the problems that were causing anguish for people – no
matter how controversial they might be. “The ordinary course of the Church’s
mission,” he once said, “must be openness. Secrecy for the sake of charity,
necessary privacy for the common good can be permitted only when it is of
the greatest urgency. Communication is the norm. ‘No comment’ must
always remain the exception.”
And speak he did. His voice was constantly raised in behalf of those who
were suffering because of prejudice or injustice. He was especially
concerned about the plight of the Negro. He insisted that the heart of the
race is essentially religious and moral and he never ceased to appeal to the
conscience of the archdiocese and the community to accept all men as
brothers. He worked diligently to eradicate all forms of discrimination in both
the Catholic and public sectors of North Georgia. He was pleased he was
named to the Community Relations Commission of Atlanta and worked
actively with this group almost to the end.
Another vital issue on which he frequently spoke was peace. He insisted that
new efforts must be made to end the war in Vietnam. While he admitted that
the intent of our country was good, he was deeply concerned that many of
the practical judgments regarding the conduct of war were wrong. He was
firmly convinced, for example, that a halt should be called to the bombing of
North Vietnam as a means of getting negotiations underway. He was
impatient with the clergyman who felt that all questions relating to the war
should be left to the military or to the diplomats and politicians. He once said:
“The churchman’s daily vision of the war is not statistics, or overkill, or
extermination. The helpless children and their terrified parents are his focus.
The victims of war are the dead fighters, both ours and theirs, the wounded,
the imprisoned, the nameless non-combatants. But the man of God must
look deeper to the sinister damage being done to our country. Apathy, false
pride and a hardening of public conscience are killers as well as bombs and
napalm. And the United States, Vietnam and the civilized world are the
The archbishop was perhaps best known for his vital interest in the liturgy.
He was convinced that the liturgy was one of the chief ingredients of the
renewal. He understood that to have this effect it must be a living liturgy,
intimately related to the realities of daily life. It is within this context that his
constant plea for liturgical adaptation must be understood. “This is the hour,
this is the day,” he said, “when we must find our identity as a people whose
worship flows from their very life.” And then he was quick to point out that life
is not static, that it is subject to growth and development. So too, must the
worship of God’s people grow and adapt, pruning off what is outdated and
grafting on what is needed.
As anxious as he was to keep up the momentum of the liturgical renewal,
however, he was always concerned about those who found it difficult to cope
with the changing liturgy. “Perhaps we did not instruct and motivate them,”
he stated in a talk at the University of Dayton last year. “Our own impatience
to get at the changes before the Church’s contemporary vitality was doomed
as ‘too little, and too late’, could have left many good Catholic people
confused and embarrassed. In any case, we must, as we push ahead,
pause long enough to be understanding of and patient with them lest we
lose our compassion.”
The most touching liturgical experience I ever shared with the Archbishop
was a Mass I concelebrated with him shortly before he died. Because of
weakness, he lay in bed, but this did not stop him from preaching a beautiful
homily on the Eucharist and what it meant to him personally. Those of us
who were in the room were moved to tears. That one demonstration of faith
did more for me and my appreciation of the Eucharist than all the articles he
had written and all the talks he had given.
Another great interest of the archbishop was ecumenism. He found it very
easy and satisfying to work with those of other churches and faiths. This was
because he loved people. He always saw the good in them and believed that
this goodness was a bond which already united them. Beyond this, he was
convinced that unity was Christ’s desire and that all men of good will, under
the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, must sincerely strive to prepare the way for
it. He was realistic enough not to expect more than the human situation
would allow. And he always insisted on personal integrity because he
believed that the watering-down of religious convictions would impede true
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ecumenism rather than foster it. Because of his tremendous confidence in
God’s grace, however, his hopes were always high. He watched these
hopes materialize into the spirit of brotherhood that unites the religious
traditions of this area.
In his optimism he frequently alluded to Newman’s vision of the Church
entering into a second spring. Last year in a talk entitled “Ecumenism in the
New South” he said that he believed that we could look forward to a second
springtime because God “has spurred on our instinct for religious unity and
corked the bottles of venom and violence distilled from our peculiar grapes
of wrath…” Later in the talk, after speaking of a new South emerging from all
the crosscurrents of the past – all the ugliness and glory, all the boasts and
humble prayers – he returned to the theme of a second spring. “We are
haunted with spring,” he said. “If we stay apart in sectarian isolation, it will be
a cruel, deceptive spring. But if we climb unity’s ladder, step by step, with
courage and patience, it will be a spring of Christian hope.” Archbishop
Hallinan’s life and his contribution to the Church and to humanity would be
extraordinary, no matter what standard we used to judge him. But the last
few months of his life, beginning in January with the recurrence of the illness
which had plagued him for the past four years, were his finest period. During
that time all of the qualities which had marked his life came into sharp focus:
his faith, his dedication, his courage, his compassion for the suffering of
Several weeks before we were told that this illness would be his last, he
wrote me a letter from the hospital in which he said: “Our last two
conversations have brought me a serenity that I have lacked. Since you
know me so well, this does not require another statement – that I am as
determined and probably as stubborn as ever; with the same lack of fear of
consequences when I am sure; the same will to live coupled (I hope) with a
Christian acceptance of death. I’m not sure whether the acceptance includes
suffering, pain, remorse, rejection or disorientation.”
When we learned a short time later that he would probably not live for more
than a month or two, he proved to us that his acceptance of death was
genuine. As was frequently his custom when something urgent was pending,
he called a “summit” meeting to discuss how he could best use the little time
which was left. After this was over, he pointed to a picture of the Sacred
Heart hanging on the wall and said, “I have no fears, because He is with
Never during his illness did his infectious smile leave his face; never did he
admit he was suffering; never did he lose his interest in people or their
problems; never did he stop thinking and planning for the Church. Two or
three days before his death, he even tried to dictate a talk that he was to
have given at the National Catholic Education Convention later this month.
He knew what he wanted to say, but he was too weak to communicate it.
During the 12 hours preceding his death, even though he was in a coma, he
kept calling the name of Jesus and this was the last word on his lips when
the last breath of life slipped from him just before dawn Wednesday.
His death is a great loss to all of us. In the name of the archdiocese, I extend
our sympathy to the members of his family, especially his brother, Arthur.
Our condolences also go to the many friends who have known and worked
with him in Cleveland, Charleston and Atlanta, and to his classmates,
especially Cardinal Krol.
We are grateful to all who have come to honor the archbishop by
participating in this funeral Mass. We are particularly pleased that Cardinal
Shehan, Cardinal Krol, Archbishop Raimondi and so many archbishops and
bishops are here with us.
I cannot express adequately my own personal feelings on this occasion. For
the past ten years our relationship has been as close as it possibly could be.
Although there was a difference of 17 years in our ages, we were like
brothers, sharing our ideas and our hopes, working together for the Church.
He was my teacher, my counselor, my friend.
But we must not dwell too long on the past. The important thing is the
present and the future. Archbishop Hallinan has left us a legacy which we
must not forget. He saw more clearly than many of us the real challenges of
our times. He understood that the renewal is more than a matter of external,
superficial changes; that it is basically a change of mind and heart which is
much more difficult to achieve. He was realistic enough to know that we
must have order; that without structure our human condition would become
chaotic. But he also believed that structure was always intended to help
people, to bring out the best in them and never to stifle them. By putting this
conviction into practice in his own life, he opened the door of hope for many
who otherwise would have been disillusioned or frustrated.
There may be some who say that he was ahead of his time. Perhaps he
was. But I think his genius was that he saw that time was running out. He
had the courage to take a bold step – that necessary, decisive step needed
to bring the Church into the mainstream of contemporary life. It is for this
reason that he was a prophetic figure. It is for this reason that his influence
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will long be felt.
Farewell, Archbishop, Farewell!
May God grant you the eternal rest you so richly deserve.
Bishop Joseph L. Bernardin