Rest in peace Br James McCabe SJ
Brother James McCabe SJ died peacefully in Cherryfield Lodge nursing home, Dublin on Wednesday 21 September 2022. His funeral mass took place in Gonzaga College Chapel at 11 am on Tuesday 28 September followed by burial in Glasnevin Cemetery.
In his short homily at the funeral Mass which summed up the essence of Br James, fellow Jesuit Brother Tom Phelan said, “Jamesie spent 68 years among us Jesuits as the one who serves.” (Read full homily below.)
James was born in Dublin on 13 October 1929. Raised in Dublin, he was educated at St James’s CBS and trained as a glove manufacturer in Denmark Street Technical College. He entered the Jesuit novitiate at St Mary’s, Emo, Laois in 1951 at 22 years old.
He spent much of his Jesuit life as a cook in Milltown Park, Dublin, where he served Cherryfield Lodge nursing home and the Jesuit Community.
Many Jesuits and friends remember him for putting a smile on their faces with his inimitable sayings and wonderful stories. For example, he once referred to people who travelled to Dublin by train in the morning as ‘computers’ instead of ‘commuters’ – a play of words that was thought to have an element of truth!
He prayed for the Church and the Society of Jesus during his stay at Cherryfield Lodge nursing home. He died aged 92.
A faithful man of service
We are gathered today to say farewell to our brother James McCabe (affectionally known to us Jesuits just as Jamesie) and to give thanks for the gift of his life and for all that he meant to us.
Jamesie was reared in Stoneybatter one of the oldest parts of Dublin. He never lost his Dublin accent, which was music to my ears, being a Dub myself.
In 1954 Jamesie made his vows to serve the Lord in the Society of Jesus as a brother. It was also the year I was born, and little did I know that 22 years later I would join Jamesie in this band of brothers.
Being the youngest brother, Jamesie was always kind and supportive to me. With Jamesie’s passing, there are now 7 brothers left in Ireland. If we were a hedgehog or a bat, we would be a protected species!
Fr. Pedro Arrupe who was General of the Society once said, “The Brothers are the heart of the Society”.
From its beginning, the Society has conceived itself as a universal body. And the heart is an essential part of that body.
GC34 states that a vocation to religious life is distinct from a vocation to the priesthood. In some ways, the religious brother embodies religious life in its essence.
Jamesie, worked in many of our houses for 68 years. For most of these years, he was the cook and in the larger communities, he was also in charge of staff. Jamesie was a gentle soul, kind and welcoming, even if it was in a gruff Dublin accent. “Howya Phelan!”, he would say to me but always with a smile. A short or long conversation with Jamesie would leave me uplifted and in good spirits. What you saw was what you got. Honest and no pretense.
Jamesie lived a simple lifestyle. His possessions were few. He loved his football, music, and newspapers. He always had time for a little chat and a word of encouragement to those he encountered.
I remember one time when I was a patient in Cherryfield, I was attending Mass and it came time to receive communion, Jamesie was distributing communion. Working his way along the row of Jesuits, everything was going fine until he came to an elderly Jesuit who had fallen asleep. Jamesie waited for a few seconds. No sign of him opening his eyes, Jamesie gave the old Jesuit a gentle kick on the foot. The old Jesuit opened his eyes like a rabbit caught in headlights. Jamesie looking down at him just said “Do you want communion or what?”
Many stories and memories have been shared about Jamesie in the last few days and no doubt, more to come over the coming days. But for now, we prepare ourselves to say goodbye to our brother.
The Gospel today speaks about who is the greater Jesus addressed his disciples; “For who is the greater: the one at table or the one who serves. The one at table, surely? Yet here am I among you as one who serves.” Jamesie spent 68 years among us Jesuits as the one who serves.
And in the first reading of Timothy, Paul in the evening of his life says.”As for me, my life is already poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge will give to me that day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his appearing.”
Jamesie, you have fought the good fight to the end; you have run the race to the finish; you have kept the faith. Now it’s time to be gone. Go in peace my Brother to the Lord whom you have served so well and continue to pray for us all. Farewell Jamesie, till we meet again.