This is the Homily I gave today at the Funeral Mass for Philomena Lynott in St. Fintan's Church, Sutton, Co. Dublin.
I first met Philomena Lynott in Cork around 2005 although of course I had known of her for a long time. She was staying with Edel in Connolly Road and Edel rang me one Saturday evening and said “Her Maj” is here and would love to meet you. I was based in our Capuchin Friary in Rochestown, Cork at the time. When I arrived, I was dressed in my Franciscan habit and Philomena was introduced to me as ‘Father Bryan’ She didn’t know what to make of me. There are no airs and graces with Edel and I made myself at home. Edel told me the kettle is boiled go out and make yourself a cup of tea. When I went into the kitchen, I could hear Philomena say to Edel “Is he really a priest?” “When he came in the door, I thought he was in fancy dress!”
In 2007, I was transferred to work as Chaplain in Beaumont Hospital. One evening on duty I recognised Philomena coming down the corridor. She was visiting her beloved Denis who was a patient there at the time. She greeted me “Oh, how are you? You’re Edel’s friend!” And later she phoned Edel to say she had met her friend and he really is a priest! She often reminded me of this when I met her again.
In the context of this funeral Mass this morning, some images come to mind when I think of Philomena. She was a mother who genuinely put people first. She lived her life at the service of others despite the difficulties and struggles that came along.
Certainly, we all know of her devotion to her beloved Philip. In the last 33 years, she made sure that his legacy as an artist, a musician, and a poet was firmly passed on. All across the world so many people loved his music and he was like a bridge between genres; Rock, Pop, Folk, Punk and the New Wave. Philip Lynott was a pioneer to many that came after him. His mam helped in passing on the message.
She always had time for the fans and so many felt comfortable coming up the drive way of White Horses and all were welcome. In fact, Philip and Lizzy were slow to refer to their legions of fans as fans. They were their ‘supporters’ and Philomena made sure to honour them.
I am reminded of the U2 song, Iris (Hold me close) from the album Innocence + Experience. Bono speaks eloquently of his mother who died before her time. He sings “I’ve got your life inside of me.” When a child is born, the mother passes on the light to them. We grow up carrying their love and light inside and it shows every time we reach out to one another. Philip died before his mother and it was as if she guarded that light again for him and passed it on.
When Philip died, Philomena was heartbroken. I see the image of Mary the mother of Jesus here in a sense. Mary who told us to do what her son tells us and then we see the miracles happen. Mary who suffered as Jesus did. Philomena devoted herself to visiting his grave and tending the flowers there. Now, of course Irish mammies are best placed to administer tough love. They want the best for their kids. Philomena wasn’t afraid to tell us that she was crushed and hurt when Philip died a young man. She made it her life’s work to be that mammy to so many others and to high light the dangers and the mirage that sometimes the entertainment industry can be for some. She talked of giving Phil’s gravestone a “good kick” for what he did to her…But it was always because she loved him so much. I believe I heard the rumble of thunder last Wednesday when she passed. Chatting with my brother Kevin about Philip and Philomena he said I'm sure when Philomena got to the gates of heaven, Jesus called Philip over, put his arm around him and said; “Guess who just got back today…?” When Philomena saw Philo, I’m sure sparks flew up there. She was a force of nature.
So, we bring her to her place of rest today. She will keep a good eye on him now. But she will keep an eye on all of us and make sure we pass on the light going forward. In the song Philomena which he wrote for his mammy. He says; “If you see my mother, please give her all my love. For she has a heart of gold there. As good as God above…” He has seen her over the years as she spread that love. Now, she sees him again and what a reunion it must be.
Philomena, may the angels lead you into paradise,
May the saints take you by the hand,
And walk with you into the presence of God. Amen.