Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Tidy Priest-The busy Bible

Peter Samwell Roper-A tidy Priest
The homily preached at the funeral of Peter Roper, husband, father  retired priest and faithful parishioner

I am two years older than Peter.
You may think I look remarkably well preserved! (he is 87 and I .well let's say "I'm not!)
In the way that all professions play their games
we clergy measure our age 
not from our birthdate
but from the date of our ordination
and I was ordained two years before Peter
so I am 33 and Peter was 31.
and ordained by the same Bishop. ( who was happily sitting in the congregation)

Peter followed me as an assistant St Mary’s Church, 
and then had solid  ministries as a parish priest at Bordertown and Port Elliot.
He was what one of my friends (who is much older than both of us!) would call a ‘tidy priest’
This is for Peter and I 
quite an accolade
(I am anything but tidy!)
It means...he knew what he had to do
and went about and did it thoroughly and well.
(Peter was also, I think, a “tidy man”)

This has its strengths and its weaknesses.
One of my abiding memories is how sometimes 
when I was not a parish priest
my family and I would go to St Jude’s Church 
for the lovely Easter Vigil
There would be candles, beautiful flowers 
Peter would preach a good sermon
and celebrate the Eucharist.
He would always be glad to see my family
and so Easter would begin.

I was delighted when he & Joan retired back home to become  parishioners
in this their home parish.
In a parish (any parish) where sometimes things are really difficult
it is good to have wise counsel (even though he was two years younger!)
He never let my UNtidiness (some would say...bizarreness)
stop him from being supportive. 
if ever he disagreed he would speak quietly and attentively
I always felt supported.
Most of you don’t know what it means to be a priest
(though there are quite a few gathered here
which is a tribute to Peter's character, life and ministry
and a witness to us, and particularly his fine sons 
about the importance and value of his life as a priest)

The call to be the Good Shepherd
was important to his family, as a husband, as a priest. (which is why we read it today)
He didn’t always get it right
sometimes was bit too conservative,
and maybe a bit dogmatic.
Infusing his life was the desire to be a Shepherd like Jesus.
Caring for those committed to his care
Peter’s ‘tidiness’ meant he did this in a certain conventional way.
I quite like that (but I am not like that)
I like his tidiness, thoroughness,.

Let me show you his Bible.
The workbook of the tidy priest...the good shepherd.
Notes, lists of people to pray for, comments and thoughts
pages falling out ....Bishop Bruce Rosier said to me once this is what a Bible should be like...we should have to replace is a workbook

Peter of course would have like to have been not only a Good Shepherd..but a better Shepherd,
Only too well aware  that as father, husband, grandfather, priest
there was great responsibility and some failure and disappointment
More than a little sadness

But we thank God for this tidy priest...this man...this Good Shepherd.

Thanks be to God

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