By Fr. Edmond Dunn
(Editor’s note: Father Edmond Dunn, a retired professor of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, and the administrator of St. Mary Parish in Oxford and St. Peter Parish in Cosgrove, gave the following homily during the funeral Mass of Ryan Quinlan at St. Mary-Oxford.)(Editor’s note: Father Edmond Dunn, a retired professor of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, and the administrator of St. Mary Parish in Oxford and St. Peter Parish in Cosgrove, gave the following homily during the funeral Mass of Ryan Quinlan at St. Mary-Oxford.)
“Lift up your heart and share with me, God wanted me now, He set me free.”Those words are in the final verses of the poem on the back of a handout for our farewell celebration of the life — too short a life — of Ryan Quinlan. And the note on the little bulletin board that the picture of Ryan is holding at the bottom of the page sums up Ryan’s perspective on life, “Always do what makes you happy and have no regrets.”
From the time Ryan was a little boy he had a fun-loving and happy personality. His teachers would comment on what a joy it was to have him in class. And he kept that outlook on life even as he grew up — except when something from the outside cast shadows on that life when he became hooked on the life-threatening matter of drugs. So often the “high” credited to drugs as recreation can lead to devastation. “My soul is deprived of peace,” we heard in today’s first reading from the Old Testament book of Lamentations. “I have forgotten what happiness is.” Still the other side of Ryan’s brain would fight back (still from Lamentations). “But I will call this to mind, as my reason for hope, ‘The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent. They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness.… Therefore I will hope in him.’”
Jesus tells us in the Gospel passage from St. Matthew that we just heard, “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” For Ryan, that struggle in his brain was between the addiction, “I’ve got to have those drugs and I’ve got to have them now!” and the sobriety side, “I don’t need them and I don’t want them!” That struggle led to what Jesus talks about when he refers to, “You who are weary and find life burdensome.” To struggle with an addiction does leave one weary and one’s life burdensome. We must be compassionate with those who have that struggle.I am reminded of a young woman who came to me many years ago and complained that she was struggling with demons “right here in my forehead,” as she lifted her hand to her brow. “And what is worse,” she continued, “they demand to be fed.” (And here, realize please, I am not making a case for demonic possession. I would see it not so much the devil sending evil spirits from the outside and taking over in our lives, as the dark side of our own psyche dominating our bright side.)
And how do you feed these demons?” I asked her. “Well,” she said, “I have to take a razor blade and cut my wrist slightly and feed them with the blood.” “Do you have doctor?” I asked her immediately. “And are you taking your medicine?Especially you young people here; do not start on drugs and do not let anyone lead you to drugs. It is not a suitable recreation; it often leads to devastation. I am confident that Ryan would say the same thing if he were able to talk to us today.
As Christians, we believe that “our God is kind and merciful.” And we are confident as St. Paul tells us in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, “The one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us in God’s presence… For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.”Ryan, our faith in Jesus Christ assures us that the joy and happiness that you did experience in this life will now be even greater, and … you no longer will have to contend with the weariness and burdens that at times you experienced in your short life here on earth. It is so evident that you truly loved your entire family and enjoyed the time that you were able to spend with each and every one of them. They will remember you always.
I am sure you will enjoy watching from above your little nephew, Brooks, who brought you so much joy. We will all miss you, but our faith gives us confidence that we will meet once again when every tear will be wiped away and all will dwell together in eternal peace — drug free.
To end as we began, Ryan, echoing words that seem so much your own: “Lift up your heart and share with me, God wanted me now, He set me free!”My God bless and console your family, Ryan, extended family, and all your many friends. Eternal rest granted to you. May you rest in peace. Amen.