Anthony Foley, the family man, was the central theme of the homily at his funeral mass in St Flannan’s Church, Killaloe today (Friday).
The homily, which reflected on the gentle side of a man who was a formidable presence on the rugby field, was delivered by Clarecastle parish priest, Fr Pat Malone, a long time friend of the Foley family.
Fr Pat said, “My first words and thoughts today go to you Olive, to [sons Tony and Dan, [parents] Shelia and Brendan, [sisters] Rosie and Orla; and they are simple words we use at funerals when we don’t know what to say.
‘I am sorry for your trouble’. These words say it all today. Sorry to see you in such shock and pain. Sorry to hear, as you expressed it yourselves in your very moving family statement earlier in the week, that “we have been plunged deep into an incomprehensible darkness and sense of loss”. Sorry to hear that Anthony has died.
“Olive, you have asked that we remember Anthony in prayer. We thank you for the beautiful, dignified and simple choices you and those who assisted you have made for this mass. We know that as a woman of deep personal faith, our praying together today is very important to you and I am very pleased to give you and all of us that space where we can continue that great Christian tradition of praying for the dead in the assurance of faith and the belief that what we engage in here today is that ceremony of the handing over of our loved one in the company of the angels to the care of our God.
“It is fitting that we celebrate with dignity the life and achievements of a man who lived life with great dignity and personal and professional integrity.
“How can one be so bold as to speak of the life of another on a day like this? I believe it is only words spoken from the well of experience of the person that allows one to engage in such a task, and so I will share a few reflections of the man I know myself.
“I have been privileged to have you as my neighbours and I have tasted the hospitality, care and concern of your neighbourliness. My first, and I believe my longest lasting, memory of Anthony is and will be as a family man. His family meant all to him. Olive, you were his true love, and how good ye were together. One could sense the strength of your relationship, the warmth of your love for each other, and the ways you supported each other through the easy as well as the difficult moments of life. Ye complimented each other so well, Ying and Yang in perfect balance with each other.
“As parents together, ye were second to none. My memories of Anthony as a loving, caring and interested Dad, revolve around the magical family moments in the garden. Anthony pucking a sliotar with his lads, kicking a football, swinging a golf club and erecting a trampoline.
“I could see he enjoyed the different temperament of his two boys, and with the wonderful sports brain he had, he was silently assessing their temperament for future sporting engagement. I remember him when the excitement of the hens’ arrival was the flavour in family life, him searching with his boys for the eggs that were laid. The excitement when they were found was shared and young Tony would look over the fence and invite all to the breakfast.These happy, cherished moments will hopefully in time offer many moments of pleasure to Tony and Dan.
“Brendan Foley, I can honestly say, is one of nature’s gentlemen. I can see some of you saying to yourselves ‘that guy knows nothing of rugby’. Brendan, you and Shelia, handed to your son a deep sense of being loved, valued and cared for, he has handed it on to his sons and, please God, having known that love themselves, they too, in time, will hand it on to their children.
“What touched me most in all the statements I heard or read about Anthony in the past week is the amount of care he offered to so, so many different people. He had that great human capacity to sense or notice those who were struggling in one way or another and the ability to reach out to them and include them in a sensitive and caring way. That outreach made all the difference to these people. He offered people hope when they felt hopeless, confidence when they were deflated and simply wished them on when they were unable to do it themselves.
“There is a lovely story, the Parable of the Pencil. I love it and often use it to encourage young people as they set out on their journey in life. The message to the pencil is to make your mark. Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley made many a mark in his 42 short years of life.”
A huge crowd followed the funeral cortège to Relig Lua Cemetery, where Anthony Foley was laid to rest.