Danielle’s funeral told that “light will outshine darkness”

Hundreds of people gathered in Buncrana this morning for the funeral of Danielle Mc Laughlin.

The 28 year old was murdered in Goa India two weeks ago.

Father Francis Bradley led the mass, at which people were asked to wear vibrant colours to match Danielle's personality.

In his homily, Fr Francis Bradley said the large crowd at the funeral was testament to the fact that although intensely private, Danielle made a huge impression on people’s lives.

She had a gentle but powerful way with her, for it seems that just one encounter with her was enough to change someone’s life.

He said across the world, people have sent messages of support and solidarity, prayers and good wishes, while the local response to the appeal after Danielle's death has been overwhelming in its generosity.

Just like the message Indian Holi celebration which Danielle was attending, he said it is clear that light will outshine darkness, good always overcomes evil and life will, by God’s gift, outwit death.

Fr Bradley said death would not have the final word, Danielle herself, with her kindly heart and searching mind, would never countenance such a thing.

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Homily full text -

 

Homily preached by Father Francis Bradley

As we look about us on this spring morning, around this church, on this hillside close to the banks of Lough Swilly, the birds in the trees, the flowers on the earth, the streams and wildlife, in short, the whole of creation is singing a song of joy.  The Met Office tells us that soil temperatures are two degrees ahead of average!  Fields are being tilled and ploughed; potatoes, barley, oats and wheat are being sown in hope of the early growth which has come of late.  Although we are in the purple of Lent, and Easter is still a few weeks away, it is as though an ancient poem by J M C Crum is being written in our hearts:

 

‘Now the green blade rises, from the buried grain;

wheat that for three days, in the earth has lain;

Love lives again, that with the dead has been;

Love is come again, like, wheat that springs up green.’

 

I often recall at this time of year how, when I was a child, I used to watch my grandfather every Good Friday prepare a set of ridges where he would plant potatoes.  He dug them deep, turning the sod and loosening the clay, raising them up by shoring the soil and layering them with farmyard manure.  And then he would do what was unthinkable to the mind of a child – with his bare hand, he’d plant the potato deep into the manure.  Trying to get my head around this, I asked him once why he did this.  And thinking that I was asking why he was planting potatoes on a Good Friday, he said, ‘So that death can never have the final word!’

 

Today we gather here as a heart-broken people to honour with Christian burial a beautiful daughter, a cherished grand-daughter, a thoughtful sister, a loyal friend, a free-spirit, a remarkable classmate, a gentle neighbour; the little girl who became the lovely woman who was Danielle McLaughlin.  We try to get our heads around her loss.  Her death so young; the suddenness of it; its callous nature would leave us speechless were it not for the fact that we gather here too as a people of faith, hope and great love, determined that in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we, as his followers, can never allow death to have the final word.  Danielle herself, with her kindly heart and searching mind, would never countenance such a thing!

 

For her, life was a journey, many journeys in fact.  Travel for her was genetic.  And her death too, must be seen, not as the end, but instead, the beginning of yet another stage – the most exciting perhaps of them all - as we pray she journeys now into eternal life.  She may, for a time appear to be beyond the reach of our touch, but she will remain forever within reach of our prayers.  And just as Danielle’s mother and sisters and friends accompanied her every step on social media no matter where she went, and just in the same way as her friends, Nicole Farren and Sherridan Smith made their way to Goa to accompany her on her journey home, so too, we now accompany Danielle with our love and our prayers as we bid her ‘safe home’.

 

This part of Danielle’s journey began in Scotland on Saturday 4 February 1989.  But it was here in Buncrana that she found a home, and here she grew up in a great community.  Strong and lasting friendships were forged here – the presence of so many of Danielle’s peers bear testimony to this.  She has been mourned by people of all ages who have been touched by her life and challenged by her death.  Although intensely private, Danielle has made a huge impression on people’s lives.  She was disarmingly kind and forgiving; her warm nature and open heart drew people into her ever-widening, extensive and international circle of friends.  A brief glance at the vast array of tender messages for Danielle’s mother Andrea, her family and friends, shows the immense esteem in which she was held.  She had a gentle but powerful way with her – for it seems that just one encounter with her was enough to change someone’s life.

 

A gifted student in dance and drama, Danielle became a colourful character, like a gem which caught the light and reflected it in all its beauty around her.  Even the Indian Festival of Holi which she liked to attend and celebrate, is all about colour and celebration, for it marks the end of winter, the arrival of spring and gives thanks for the blessings of the harvest.

 

It would appear that Danielle wished to leave a very light carbon footprint in her wake.  Her love of things natural is well documented.  Like Ezekiel, in today’s first reading, Danielle learned not merely to seek God in the huge, cataclysmic events of life – but rather in the refreshing stillness of a gentle breeze.  And I’m sure, from what I’ve learned of her life, that God would have spoken to Danielle in the gentleness of her heart, a heart made holy in baptism, a heart made wholesome in kindness, a heart so forgiving that it healed the hurts of those around her.  And today, in the spirit of Saint Paul’s words to the Philippians, her legacy should be that of joy and thanksgiving and peace.  We cannot allow the brevity of Danielle’s life, or the malice which cut it short, to spoil her memory or impair her beauty.

 

Death always brings a sense of powerlessness – never more so than when it happens someone so young, so kind and loving, and somewhere so very far away.  But Danielle did not leave this world alone.  Today’s Gospel tells us of what happened when Jesus sent his own disciples on ahead of him, across the lake while He remained alone on the land, praying in the hills.  This time, there was no gentle breeze; instead a head-wind which meant that the poor disciples were making nothing of it for all their effort, for all their rowing.  But they are not alone – for He comes to them across the waters.  He reveals Himself to them with those powerful words, ‘Courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.’  And as He climbs into the boat with them, the wind drops and calm is restored

 

Just over two weeks ago, Danielle faced a head-wind.  But she didn’t face it alone.  By the prayers of her mother home here in Buncrana, by the prayers of her grandparents at home in heaven, Christ, I believe, would have come to her with those same powerful words, ‘Courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.’  And I pray that, amid Danielle’s struggle, peace and calm came her way too.

 

The Gospel closes with words that tell us that the disciples ‘were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant; their minds were closed.’  The feeding of the Five Thousand had taken place on the hillside just before this episode in the Gospel of Saint Matthew.  In this Requiem Mass, we celebrate the same Feast of Plenty, the same Banquet of Life – and while we may still be bewildered, confused and dumbfounded, let us not keep our minds closed.  For in the gentlest of ways, the same Risen Christ is present with us, not merely to convince our minds, but to win and sooth our hearts.  His presence with us is the guarantee of His promise made to Danielle in baptism, eternal life.

 

There have been so many good things which have happened since Danielle took her leave of this world.  So very many people, many of them here this morning anonymously, have offered their time, their help, their facilities and their talents to comfort the bereaved, to bring solace to broken hearts.  We thank you sincerely.  Across the world, people have sent messages of support and solidarity, prayers and good wishes.  Locally, overwhelming generosity has been channelled and well managed by Christy Duffy, and the Kevin Bell Repatriation Fund has greatly eased the suffering Danielle’s death has caused.  May God, in His mercy, bless everyone with His peace.  Just like the celebration which Danielle was attending, it is clear that good always overcomes evil, light will outshine darkness and life will, by God’s gift, outwit death.  We have His word for it!

 

May Danielle, a searching and kind soul, find in heaven the peace and joy she sought and spread wherever she went.  Even as we bury Danielle here, beside her grandparents, in the warm soil of Cockhill, death does not have the final word – that belongs to Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life.  May the mercy He planted in her heart, the mercy that Danielle shared with others, now flower in her as the gift of life to the full.  Danielle has left a legacy of love; may she reap a harvest of peace.

 

As J M C Crum’s hymn concludes:

 

“When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,

by Your touch You call us back to life again;

fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:

Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.”

 

Requiescat in Pace cum Sanctis – May she rest in peace with the Saints

 

Prayer of the Faithful

Read by Father John R Walsh

Father in heaven, knowing that your people are precious in your sight, we now raise our hearts and our voices to you in prayer.

 

Read by Traigheannach Brannigan

As the followers of Jesus, may forgiveness be seen in the way we treat others and speak of them; encourage us to witness to our faith by the gentle manner of our lives.

Lord, hear us.

 

May the tenderness and support needed by so many people, especially those who feel abandoned or alone, find a response in the goodness and kindness of our own hearts.

Lord, hear us.

 

Read by Seanne Brannigan

May those who experience hardship never lose confidence in their ability to overcome their fears; by living the mysteries of faith, may they trust in the living presence of your Son, Jesus Christ.

Lord, hear us.

 

May we always appreciate the help of our families, neighbours and friends amongst whom we have heard your teaching, grown in our faith and experienced your love.

Lord, hear us.

 

Read by Sherridan Smith

May Danielle’s family: her mother, Andrea, her sisters, Joleen, Triagheannach, Seanne and Sky Marie; her many friends from everywhere and all those who experience the pain of sickness or loss never lose hope; may they experience the power, love and self-control of your Holy Spirit.

Lord, hear us.

 

May the dignity and beauty which you gave to Danielle; to John Brannigan; to her deceased grandparents, Joe and May, together with all the deceased members of the Brannigan and McLaughlin families, now continue for ever; through our intercession for her, give eternal rest to her soul; through her intercession for us, give us consolation and hope.

Lord, hear us.

 

Read by Father John R Walsh

We pray also, this morning, for the repose of the souls of Doris Gallagher, Carolina, who will be buried here this afternoon, and Harry Boyle, Tullyarvan, who will be buried here tomorrow.

Lord, hear us.

 

Heavenly Protector, as we pray to you with all our hearts, fan into a flame the gift you have given us so that your light may burn brighter in our hearts and your presence be seen clearer in our lives. We make all our prayers through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

Passage to be read post-communion

Danielle’s last Facebook post:

 

“Thank you to all my friends and family

for making home so special and always looking after me.

I am grateful and the luckiest person I know …

Off on another adventure!”