Father Angelo Anthony’s Homily at the Memorial Mass for Conway Family
“The Irish have a way of spinning wisdom and hope into prayers and blessings to aid us in the journey of life, like this blessing:
May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow
May the soft winds freshen your spirit
May the sunshine brighten your heart
May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you
And may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.
The Irish have a way of praying that acknowledges the presence of the cross in life while at the same time placing unconditional trust in God to bring all things to the good. No matter how difficult life may be we can turn to God who wraps us in the mantle of His love, enabling us to find joy and hope in life even in the shadow of death. It is this faith that sustained Robert Conway throughout his life and it is this faith that gathers us together today for we believe that Jesus Christ who died upon the cross is Risen and with us.
At the time of our baptism we became children of God and received the promise of God’s unconditional love. This promise was not for a life free from suffering. No, we can see from the very life of Jesus that you can be very good, you can be the Son of God and still get nailed to a cross. So the journey into suffering will be a part of everyone’s life. And yet we know through the very life of Jesus that the cross is not the last word. Jesus is victorious over sin and death and that our suffering can become redemptive and lead us to new life. A firm anchor in the life of Robert Conway was his faith. He took to heart St. Paul’s message to the Corinthians, “We walk by faith and not by sight.”
Faith is belief in that which can’t be seen. It’s like the little girl and her Mother who went sailing off the western shore of Ireland…as they moved out into the open waters the little girl squealed with delight saying: “Mommy, Mommy, I can see farther than my eyes can look.” This is what faith is all about. Learning to see farther than our eyes can look.
The gift of faith was beautifully given to Sarah Conway, the wife of Robert Conway in the summer of 1832. It was the heat of the summer day that caused the windows of the Conway house to be kept open as Fr. Collins offered the Holy Mass. During the Mass a bird flew in the room and landed on Mrs. Conway’s shoulder. This so impressed her that immediately after Mass she asked to be baptized. As Sarah made room in her home for Christ, Christ made her soul spotless in baptism. (Story from History of Emmanuel Church)
It seems to me that the members of the Conway family understood faith as seeing farther than the eyes can look. They were able to envision ways that life could be better here in Dayton and worked to bring them into reality. Life was an adventure and each new day held the potential for many wonderful things to be given and shared. Living by faith takes courage.
It’s interesting to note that the word “courage” comes from two Latin words “Cor” which means “heart” and “agere”—which means “to act with” to act with the heart. True courage is not about muscle and might…no, true courage comes from the heart, the place where love and our deepest beliefs reside. When someone lives courageously they are living from their heart.
Today we find strength in the words of Jesus “Do not let your hearts be troubled…In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…” We believe that the faithful who have gone before us now wear the crown of glory and have been received into the loving arms of God, to the dwelling place God has prepared for each of them. We take comfort in the words of the Prophet Daniel: “Those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”
Today, we remember Robert Conway and his family who so beautifully reflected the light of Christ here on earth. Their love will shine like the stars forever. May we who gather here today renew our commitment to share the light of Christ with others and to live our faith boldly so that one day we may share in God’s gift of eternal life.”