Over these four weeks I have been moved and impressed by the number of people who have reached out to the Archdiocese, to me personally, to convey their sadness at the death of Archbishop Philip and their gratitude for his presence in their lives. Truly, the life and death of each of us has its influence on others, even to an extent that we might never suspect. I’m sure that Archbishop Philip would have been humbled by the sentiments of affection and loss that have been expressed by so many.
In the course of the past year all of us have experienced loss and sadness to an unprecedented extent and the death of Archbishop Philip has added to this. Right now, we need to seek consolation in our faith, in the person of the Lord Jesus. So, it is good to hear again his consoling words in the Gospel passage we just heard. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust God, trust me.” Our Father’s house is waiting for us and for all we love. A place has been prepared for God’s faithful sons and daughters and for our dear Archbishop. This must surely console us even as we mourn.
And as we experience God’s consolation, maybe we can begin to move on to feelings of gratitude for the life of a true apostle.
I have worked closely with Archbishop Philip since I was appointed General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland while he was the President of it. When I completed that appointment, he asked me to work with him as his Vicar-General.
Truly I was privileged and blessed to be able to collaborate with him in his sacred ministry as our Archbishop. Every day was a learning moment for me. I have been impressed by his intellect, his personal holiness and his wholehearted commitment to his ministry. He was a man of great compassion. He showed love and support to his priests, especially those who may been struggling a little. He was, literally, moved to tears at some of the tragedies that have afflicted this city and Archdiocese in recent years, most recently the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout the pandemic he remained faithful to his ministry of preaching the Word, doing so every weekend from the Cathedral.
Poignantly, one of the most profound lessons he taught us in these months can be found in the homily he preached on the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed, All Souls, just last November. Among the beautiful thoughts he offered us that day the following quote really resonated with me, especially given his own return to our Father: “Although we are mortal and we will all die, we can be sure that we were not made for death, and that death will not have the last word. We were made for eternal life, for glory, and for heaven.”
We must continue to pray for him, that our good God will grant him a merciful judgement and speedy entry into his eternal reward. This would be his most heartfelt request of us and we will continue to pray for him.
And then, now, we must begin to pray for the appointment of a new Archbishop who will lead us and guide us along the way to eternity.