The former Liberal Democrat Leader was given high praise at his funeral today by his parish priest.
The funeral of Charles Kennedy MP, who died aged 55, took place at the St John the Evangelist Catholic church in Caol, Fort William.
Fourteen children, from the Catholic primary school that Kennedy attended as a child, sang the psalm “O God, you search me and you know me”. Mr Kennedy’s family selected a collection of hymns to be sung at the service.
Parish priest Fr Roddy McAuley preached the homily and spoke of the importance that faith had in Mr Kennedy’s life.
“Charles Kennedy was a humble man,” he said, according to a text released in advance. “When Charles’s parents died and Charles said a few words in the church, he wouldn’t come up here to the lectern but insisted on speaking outside the sanctuary, from the floor.
“In this church, Charles was one of the ‘backbenchers’. He didn’t always sit in the same pew but he always sat at the back of the church.”
Fr McAuley added that this humility was shared by Mr Kennedy’s parents, who both received a Benemerenti medal for services to the Church which was “never displayed”.
Mr Kennedy, Fr McAuley said, “was a much-loved and respected parishioner of St John’s and he will be sorely missed”.
Charles Kennedy was the first Catholic leader of a major party in Britain.
Full text of the homily
Charles Kennedy was a humble man. When Charles’ parents died and Charles said a few words in the church, he wouldn’t come up here to the lectern but insisted on speaking outside the sanctuary, from the floor. In this church, Charles was one of the ‘backbenchers’. He didn’t always sit in the same pew but he always sat at the back of the church.
The Gospel passage chosen for Charles’ funeral Mass today is the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector. I chose it because of the humble prayer of the tax collector. The word ‘humility’ was born from the Latin word ‘humus’ or earth, and is also the root of the word humour. This humility calls us to stay close to the earth with our feet on the ground. Six times in the passage the pharisee mentions “I”. He prayed to himself, not to God. On the other hand, the prayer of the tax collector is a model. He said simply, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner’. Is there a more beautiful prayer that we could say than that?
There’s a thoughtful reflection by William Barclay which states, “O Father, give us the humility which realises its ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognises its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke. Help us always to praise rather than to criticise, to sympathise rather than to condemn, to encourage rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy, and to think of people at their best rather than at their worst”. We accept and acknowledge a person’s giftedness and Charles giftedness was devoted to and shared with the community.
Ian and Mary Kennedy, the parents of Charles, Isobel and Ian, were both awarded the Benemerenti medal, Latin for the “well deserved” medal for their services to their church. The Benemerenti medal was accepted with great humility by Mary and Ian, and never displayed. That humility was inherited by Charles, Isobel and Ian.
Mary played the organ and Ian the fiddle here in St John’s for over forty years, and at their son Charles’ funeral today we are pleased to have a number of musicians who have come together to play, as they did for the funerals of his parents. Charles loved music and he famously quoted, “I couldn’t imagine a day without music. It relaxes and stimulates me in equal measure and, I hate the sound of silence – the concept I mean, not the track by Simon and Garfunkel”.
There have been beautiful tributes paid to Charles especially over the past week or so. Something we might add is the importance of Charles’ faith to him. He was a much-loved and respected parishioner of St. John’s and he will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.