Fr. Oman held out faithfully to the end
EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is the homily from the funeral Mass for Father Francis Mary Oman, IC. (See obituary.) The homilist was Father William Miller, pastor of Corpus Christi and St. Patrick parishes in Galesburg and Sacred Heart Parish, Abingdon.
“If we hold out to the end we shall also reign with Jesus Christ.”
These words from the second letter to Timothy were part of the reading from Midday Prayer the day after Father Oman breathed his last, and was chosen as the second reading for his funeral Mass. For a very important part of his legacy is that he was someone who held out to the end. He held out living his religious and priestly vocation to the end. He was faithful to offering Mass daily and praying his Breviary until he couldn’t anymore.
Father Oman was undemanding and uncomplaining to the end. He lived simply and it was hard to get him to say when he needed or wanted something. He even attempted to cut his own hair recently rather than ask to be taken to the barber — not the first time. Thank God it grew out in time for his visitation!
“Rest in God alone, my soul.”
This was the psalm response for the day after he died. Learning to rest in God alone can be hard earned through the gradual loss of independence. Father Oman had to let go of the ability to travel and then let go of driving and then let go of walking on his own and finally of being able to take care of his most basic needs himself. He accepted those stages of increased dependence with grace and wit.
HAD BOTH FUNNY, SERIOUS SIDES
God does seem to have given the Irish an extra dose of wit and God did not shortchange his servant Francis in this department. Father Oman could be very funny because he saw the funny side of life with all its little ironies. I imagine that one irony not lost on him was this old man who lived lifelong celibacy finished his days surrounded by doting women devoted to caring for him.
There was also his more serious side. As a man of few words, you wanted to listen when he had something to say.
Perhaps the most serious conversation of his life occurred exactly one month before the Lord would call him home. The supervisor of his home health care and his primary nurse explained to him the seriousness of his condition and what his choices were. He chose to not go back to the hospital but rather finish his days at Rosmini House, cared for by the people that knew him. He acknowledged that his time might be coming sooner than later and then came this very telling line that speaks volumes about the man.
“As long as I have a few minutes to ask the Lord for forgiveness for not doing some things, I will be happy,” he said. “I won’t be singing but I’ll be happy.”
He knew what was most important before checking out — asking the Lord for forgiveness. Apparently his conscience was unburdened by any wrong doing but he was also not focusing on the accomplishments of nearly 60 years of priesthood. He remembered what we often forget, even though the Church reminds us in the Confiteor at every Mass, that we can sin not only in thoughts, words and actions but also in what we fail to do.
I’m sure that our Lord gave him that opportunity to ask for forgiveness for Francis Mary was in the heart and mind of Christ as his future priest when on the night before He died at the Last Supper, Jesus said: “Father, I desire that they whom you have given me may be with Me where I am to behold my glory.”
That is our heartfelt prayer for this brother, uncle, pastor; that he is with Jesus beholding his glory. And that should be our ongoing prayer for him every time we participate in the Holy Eucharist.
And for ourselves, as we are commended in the psalm of this Mass:
“Trust in God at all times. Pour out your hearts before Him.”