Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 15, 2004
Fr. Tardy's bittersweet farwell
Oblate Father Henri Tardy, who died last month at age 86, spent most of his priestly life serving in the Far North. He encouraged the Inuit people to preserve their traditions and enabled the inhabitants of the hamlet of Holman on Victoria Island to earn an international reputation for their artwork.
Always an innovator, Tardy wrote the following homily for his funeral Mass and it was delivered in French at the March 3 funeral. (The translation is by Father Camille Piche.)
My dearly beloved brothers, sisters and friends,
First of all, let me thank you for having come to celebrate with me my resurrection, and also to place my body in the Earth.
Since I was very young, God has given me the grace to reflect on death. Not a sad death, not a separation, not a punishment for sin, but a real birth, like a child that comes out of his mother's womb and can finally see the day and enjoy the tenderness of his mother. The birth of my death finally allows me to see God, who has loved me from all eternity, who wanted to become one of us here on earth to reveal to us the Father, to share our suffering until death, and finally to reveal to us the resurrection.
All of that I believed, but it remained somewhat hidden under the cloak of our materialism. But now, I don't believe anymore, I see. Everything has become simple, everything has become one, everything is love without limit. The few times that, as priest, I had the occasion to celebrate funerals, in respect for the family that was grieving, I felt somewhat paralyzed to express my joy in the resurrection. Today, in all freedom, I can celebrate my proper resurrection, on the occasion of this fraternal gathering for my funeral.
Although I was revolted during the war at seeing so many corpses of my companions, that sort of made me wonder about the sense of life. Later on, as I assisted at wakes, I found peace. It spoke to me of the infinite, of the absolute.
The death of Father Maurice Metayer, my friend that I accompanied the last five weeks of his life, was so detached and so peaceful that as I gazed upon his face, there emanated such a celestial beauty on his face that death has become for me a companion that speaks to me of freedom, of liberation, of entrance into the infinite and intimate love of God. It speaks to me of my real birth, the birth that we are celebrating today.
I always loved wide open spaces, the ocean, high mountains, the infinite of the Arctic silence, but like the cocoon, I always felt somewhat closed in, limited. I needed, during these last years, to fly away towards the one who slowly but deliberately was revealing himself to me, while at the same time, remaining hidden. Finally the day of the encounter has come. Let us celebrate together.
Separation does not exist. To be in God is to be intimately at the heart of creation. By contemplative meditation, I had already had that experience. To make interior silence is already to experience death, as your body has to remain immobile, and your mental faculties have to be free of distraction to leave all the place to God, who carries within him the whole world.
At present, I am in a special way with my dear parents, my brothers and my sisters, my brother Oblates, my friends, the Inuit. . . . I am totally present at the same time to this world as I am to the other world.
If I had, perchance, hurt anyone here on earth, I humbly ask forgiveness. God will, do the rest.
The sadness that abides in me is to see all the suffering and misery and to remain impotent in front of all the misery and suffering in the world. But during these last years I became conscious that the help I could give was exactly my inability, calling on Jesus who seems to be sleeping, to calm the tempest. And I remained at peace.
All the world suffers, at times of boring life, or because of sickness, of war, of deportation, of hunger, of prison, separations that are very, very difficult . . . the list goes on and on. All this world that is nailed to the cross with Jesus, I will find them now, and join the happiness of the Risen One. And the others, who have been abusing or persecuting, those that have without mercy pursued an easy life, money or power? The way I understand is that God's justice is much different than human justice. I am totally confident in God's mercy.
As I leave this world, I still have one thing to talk about. Every time I was asked to give a homily on the occasion of the feast day of Mary, the mother of Jesus, I have to admit that I was unable to do so. So I asked myself, how is that possible that an Oblate of Mary Immaculate cannot talk about his mother?
Well, I reflected. I thought that all the sermons about Mary, the libraries that talk about her, the books on Marian theology, the golden statues and all the rest, during all these many years I've sort of hidden the virgin that I love so much, and that the Gospel talks about in only a few words.
During these last years especially, I really loved to find myself alone with her, to stay with her in silence, to fix my gaze on this icon which spoke to me of the mystery of Mary. I am sure that when she sees me, it will be a loving encounter.
As to our holy founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, he will have pity on my ignorance. I know practically nothing of him, but due to him, I was able to bring Christ to the ends of the world, to the land of the Inuit. I believe he will be happy with me.
So here we are: I believe I have said all I had to say. So I will remain quiet now, to enter into eternal silence, where all is one, where all is love.
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