Funeral of Bishop Ian Murray

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On Friday 5 February 2016 clergy and laity of the diocese were joined by Bishops and Archbishops of the Scottish Hierarchy and clergy from other dioceses for the funeral of Bishop Emeritus Ian Murray, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles from 1999 to 2008.

Before Mass began Bishop Ian’s nephew, Edmund Bratt, delivered a moving eulogy expressing the important place that “Uncle Ian”, a man of great warmth and humanity, had held in the life of his family. He reminded us that Bishop Ian’s deep faith was the basis for his choice of episcopal motto “Obedience gives Strength”, a direct quotation from St. Teresa of Avila:

“when I was in Salamanca in 1571 the Lord said to me, Daughter, obedience gives strength.”

Mgr. James MacNeil, principal celebrant, also referred to this motto in his homily saying “Obedience is saying yes to what is, it is saying yes to death, it is saying yes to God’s love. Ian’s obedience was his striving for the blessedness of the pure of heart, as Meister Eckhart so beautifully said, “who leave everything to God now as they did before they ever existed.”

The readings, prayers and music for the Mass were those chosen by Bishop Ian for his Mass of Thanksgiving in St. Columba’s Cathedral at the time of his retirement. Fr. Michael Hutson led the choir and congregation in inspirational singing and at the Offertory Morag MacNeil sang the Gaelic hymn, Do Làmh a Chrìosda, which tells of Christ’s hand gently guiding us in life through death to eternal life.

Before the final commendation Mgr. MacNeil read a letter of condolence from Cardinal Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, on behalf of Pope Francis. The Bishop of Motherwell, Rt. Rev. Joseph Toal, who succeeded Bishop Ian as Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, paid tribute to him as  a ”wonderful and willing servant of the Lord”  and  spoke of some of the innovations that Bishop Ian brought to the diocese including the building of a new church in Skye, the establishment of a community of Sisters of St. Joseph in Caol to promote devotion to the then Blessed Mary McKillop and his tireless efforts to bring pastoral and financial stability to the diocese after some difficult times.

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A large number of clergy and laity accompanied Bishop Ian to his place of rest in Oban’s Pennyfuir Cemetery where the Rite of Committal was led by Mgr. James MacNeil with Fr. Michael Hutson and Fr. Donald MacKay, who served as Vice-Rector with Bishop Ian at the Royal Scots College, Salamanca, said the final prayer in Gaelic.

The words of Bishop Ian’s family are a fitting conclusion to a day marked by reverence, loving gratitude, prayerful stillness and that sense of community so characteristic of the people of Argyll and the Isles.


He was your Bishop.

His time as your bishop was most significant to him.

He was loved here.

He belongs to you.

We give him back.”


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Homily for the Funeral Mass of Bishop Ian Murray


It is always beautifully surprising when little things come together; and when they come together they take on a deeper significance. I am thinking of something that spontaneously came to me after I had read my prepared statement at the announcement of our Bishop Elect, Mgr. Brian McGee: “A word of warning, Brian!” I said, “we are very possessive in this diocese; you belong to us now.” There is an attractive flip side to that statement: our possessiveness is matched by our loyalty. Even Bishop Joe who was obliged to go elsewhere has been reassured that he is still one of us. Bishop emeritus Ian was still ours in his retirement; and he is still ours in his death. How beautiful was the confirmation given by Irene, Frances and Bishop Ian’s family when they made the decision that Bishop Ian should have his funeral Mass in the Cathedral here and be buried in Oban. “His time as our bishop were the most significant for him, he was loved there; he belongs to you; we give him back.” A deeper significance emerges. He will always belong to us.

Belonging is a very important human experience. The human heart was made to belong. Where we belong largely shapes and gives meaning to our lives; where we belong, largely determines our contentment and happiness and joy in living. Bishop Ian came to us after a confusing period in the history of the diocese and after years of being without a bishop. We welcomed him, and today we have the opportunity of thanking God for the service that Bishop Ian gave to the diocese: the stability he brought to the efficient running of the diocese; and particularly for the sense of belonging he brought to priests and people by his own contented humanity, humility and simplicity. How developed was his sense of hospitality – a very basic Christian virtue – that welcomes all and makes them feel they belong. Sharing a good table, indeed, is an inspired image of the Kingdom!  May the Lord reward him for his humanity, and for the enjoyment and sharing of his humanity.

Where we belong is ultimately where we can truly be ourselves, belong to ourselves. Observe how we hide or reject or suppress what we think does not belong, what will exclude us. The Good News that Bishop Ian was called to proclaim reassures us that everything now belongs; there is a place for everything. And in the light of the Cross of Christ the struggles and contradictions and tensions of our lives have a special – indeed, a sacred place. The more we are stretched by our paradoxes and sense of powerlessness, the more they belong; they fit in there. After all, we glory in the Cross of Christ. The cause of our downfall truly has become the means of our salvation. The language of the cross is tough talk; which we can so easily soften with a cosy religion and ritualism – which needs a really good wash!

Bishop Ian has taken the final step; the final act of powerlessness; he has gone. Where is belonging?  As the poet Rilke said: “We know nothing of this going. It excludes us.” We need to refrain from imposing our scenarios on where he has gone; God alone knows. “What we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed.” There is only silence; a final infinite silence. When we have to use words, they need to land very softly so as not to disturb the mysterious silence.

Silence is essential – now. Exposing ourselves to that deep silence is part of the Christian experience. The silence of death needs to be anticipated in the silence of dying to self in prayer waiting for God to reveal himself; in the silence where we give up our own will, where we give up the pretence of being in control over our lives, where we even shed the beliefs that are merely human crutches, and which have little respect for what we do not know. It is in that profound letting go, that profound silence, that God will introduce himself. That silence is the brightest light that is cast on what has been revealed.

Bishop Ian’s episcopal motto was: “Obedience gives strength”. The silence I am talking about is the obedience. To obey is to listen. True listening, true obedience is the acceptance of the humiliation of being a creature, the acceptance of our ultimate powerlessness, the acceptance of how that powerlessness is uniquely and painfully experienced in each life.  That is what gives us strength, it is what enables us to participate in the life of God; it is what allows Christ to take over, to be us in every aspect of our lives. “When I am weak, then I am strong. Christ’s power really is at its best in human weakness.” It is a constant dying and rising again. Obedience is saying yes to what is, it is saying yes to death, it is saying yes to God’s love. Ian’s obedience was his striving for the blessedness of the pure of heart, as Meister Eckhart so beautifully said, “who leave everything to God now as they did before they ever existed.” Blessed are the pure of heart they shall see God.

Yes our constant little dyings, our struggles and troubles, quoting St Paul to the Corinthians, “which are soon over, though they weigh little, train us for the carrying of a weight of eternal glory which is out of all proportion to them.” Our prayer is that through his little acts of obedience, deep listening, right to the very end, Ian has been prepared by grace for the final act of obedience, which is the total acceptance of God’s love; as the Liturgy expresses it so beautifully, may he be able to see the face of God and live.

Meantime, we humbly celebrate the depth of our belonging to Christ and to one another, our oneness in the mystery of the Eucharist, knowing that it is a participation in the Communion of Saints, a communion which brings healing, a communion, a belonging, that will enable Ian who so faithfully served as a bishop, to bear the weight of eternal glory, to look on the face of God and know who he is, and always has been at every moment, in the eyes of God.

May Bishop Ian, the faithful servant, today hear these, the Lord’s words: “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world.”

All is grace [St Teresa of Lisieux]; and grace is everywhere [Georges Bernanos].

May he rest in peace.

Bishop Ian Murray

Born: 15 December 1932

Died:  22 January 2016

Bishop Ian was born in Lennoxtown on 15 December 1932, the eldest of the four children of John and Margaret Murray. He began his education at St. Machan’s Primary School and in 1944 went to St. Ninian’s High School in Kirkintilloch. In 1946 he joined the National Junior Seminary of St. Mary’s College, Blairs.

Four years later Bishop Ian was one of a group of eleven students selected by the Scottish Bishops to reopen the Royal Scots College, Valladolid which had been closed during the Spanish Civil War. For the next six years Bishop Ian was a student of the College, attending classes at the local seminary. He was ordained in the College Chapel on 17 March 1956 by Bishop Joseph McGee, himself a former student of the college.

Returning to the Archdiocese of St. Andrews & Edinburgh, Bishop Ian was initially appointed to St. Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh by Archbishop, later Cardinal, Gordon Gray. Three months later he was appointed curate in St. Kenneth’s, Lochore which was then a thriving mining village.

After a spell as curate in St. Columba’s, Edinburgh, Bishop Ian returned to Valladolid as Vice-Rector. In 1970 he returned to Scotland as the first resident Catholic Chaplain at the new University of Stirling where he remained for seven years. Thereafter, he served in Our Lady and St. Bride’s, Cowdenbeath and St. Ninian’s, Restalrig.

From 1987 to 1994 Bishop Ian was Rector of the Valladolid College and negotiated the transfer of the College to its present site in Salamanca. He later served in Galashiels and Falkirk and was appointed Vicar General of the diocese.

In 1999 Bishop Ian was nominated Bishop of Argyll & the Isles and ordained by Archbishop O’Brien on 7 December, the feast of St. Ambrose, Patron of the College in Valladolid. He retired in December 2008.


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