These were the readings at Fr Theo’s (Theodore Young OSB) requiem Mass. Below is the sermon of Fr Prior on 7 November 2017 at Ampleforth.
Romans 14:7-12 (Lectionary vol 3, page , number )
The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord. This explains why Christ both died and came to life, it was so that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. This is also why you should never pass judgement on a brother or treat him with contempt, as some of you have done. We shall all have to stand before the judgement seat of God; as scripture says: By my life – it is the Lord who speaks – every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall praise God. It is to God, therefore, that each of us must give an account of himself.
Matthew 25:31-46 (Lectionary vol 3, page , number)
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me”. Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me”. And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’
The Homily of Fr Prior
We are here to pray for Fr Theodore who died peacefully in the Monastery infirmary on Monday of last week. And I want to thank all those who have come to join us as we pray for our brother Theodore, the oldest member of our community, and particularly all his friends from Liverpool, Knaresborough, Leyland, and many other places, including Archbishop Patrick Kelly and many priests.
Richard Young was born in Cheshire. The day after tomorrow he would have celebrated his 96th birthday. He grew up in Ilkley and came to school at Ampleforth. He joined the monastery in 1940 and was given the monastic name of Theodore. Theo and his fellow novices were the last group clothed until 1945, so they carried a heavy burden of monastic and sacristy jobs right through the war. Theo was ordained priest in 1947, and then worked in the school for a few years, amongst other things, being secretary to Fr Paul, the Headmaster.
But in 1951 he was sent on the mission, first to St Peter’s, Seel Street, in central Liverpool, and then six years later to Leyland as assistant. St Peter’s was in a densely populated part of Liverpool, but which had suffered extensive bomb damage in the war. Leyland, by contrast was an expanding town, and it was during Fr Theodore’s first stint at Leyland that the new Church, Priory, Club and High School were all built. He would spend 26 years as assistant in Leyland. Fr Theodore was heavily involved, particularly with the young people of the parish.
It was at Leyland that I first met him, nearly 50 years ago. I remember him telling me that he had made friends with the manager of the Charnock Richard service station on the M6. He knew the manager had trouble finding people to do the washing up and cleaning during the night. And, typically, Theo knew a group of young people who had been in trouble with the Police. He persuaded them to take the jobs – he explained they didn’t have to do it for ever, just for long enough that the manager would write them a good reference so they could move on, and anyway they would get paid. So the lads got jobs, a fresh start, and the manager got his plates washed. That was the way he worked, trying to help those in trouble, and it impressed me, a sixteen-year old, and I remembered the lesson to this day. Many people here will have similar memories of Theo. He was creative in finding the ways to help people, and he inspired others to do the same. Someone remarked to me that he was a Pope Francis sort of priest.
Then in 1983 Fr Theodore was moved to Knaresborough where he was appointed Parish Priest of a thriving parish. He spent fifteen very happy years back in Yorkshire, again heavily involved with the youth of the parish: drum-kits in the basement and so on. He had a knack of looking helpless whenever some financial or administrative demand arrived, and generally the parishioners rallied round to help.
In 1998 Fr Theodore moved to Grassendale as assistant. He loved being back in Liverpool. As chaplain to the local Catholic High School he was in the school almost every day, where he attracted the difficult kids. Then when we gave up the parish in 2012 he moved back to Leyland. Children and grandchildren of people he had known in the 1950s and 1960s helped to look after him. But the main burden of caring fell on the Leyland brethren and on the staff of the Priory. And it was a heavy burden. Then, as we all know, because of failing health he moved back to Ampleforth to be cared for in the Monastery Infirmary last July.
Last summer Theo celebrated a wonderful milestone of 70 years a priest, much of it devoted to ministering to young people on our parishes. As far as I can tell, he is only the second Ampleforth monk to pass that milestone (the other being Abbot Patrick). Frequently in the last week I emails have come in from people with happy memories of Theo: from people he had helped or befriended, from couples whose marriages he had helped to mend, from people who were received into the Church by him, from people who remembered the care that he had taken with a sick relative.
While Fr Theo’s work with parishioners, and especially with the young, is well-known to most of us, what is perhaps less obvious is Fr Theodore’s work with priests as a confessor and guide. He was committed to supporting and helping his brother priests, both those in the monastic life and the diocesan and religious priests with whom he worked. He was valued as a confessor, spiritual advisor, supporter and friend. Many priests have contacted me to say how much they were encouraged by him, how they would go on walks with him, how they enjoyed his hospitality, and how much they learned from him. He was a warm-hearted man. As we heard in the first reading, St Paul wrote to the Romans: “The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.” While not wishing to canonize Fr Theo, many of us here know that he had a profound effect on us. Not everyone found him easy to work with. He had his own distinctive style. But his influence was always for the good – it pointed us towards the Lord, and towards the poor, and towards all those in need.
Jesus in the Gospel told that parable about the sheep and the goats. It is meant as a challenge, to make us sit up and face the truth that there is a judgement. The people who are admitted to the king’s presence are not the pious and righteous, but those who fed the hungry, gave a drink to those who were thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and those in prison. In the Church’s tradition these form six out of the seven corporal works of mercy. Assembled here in Church we pray for Fr Theo, for a merciful judgement and for his eternal rest, and we prepare to conduct the seventh work of mercy: to bury the dead.
May he rest in peace.
If anyone has any stories or anecdotes about Fr Theo, please type them and send them to Jonathan Cotton osb, Parish Priest of Leyland on firstname.lastname@example.org