Fr. Charles Macauley, OSB Monk and Priest of Ampleforth Abbey
Born 27 January 1932 – Died 17th June 2008 aged 76.
Came to Leyland 30th September 1993 as assistant priest Chaplain in the High School and friend to many Left to be Parish Priest of Easingwold, c. August 26th 1996 Left Easingwold on ill health grounds Ash Wednesday 2008 (6th February)
Wished to retire to Leyland and came here April 24th 2008 and was with us just over three weeks until 17th May 2008 Homily by Bishop Ambrose Fr Charles was a most cheerful, humorous character who had solid faith in Jesus Christ and put his heart and soul into whatever he was asked to do. He was ready to die and I believe that when his consultants suggested some treatment to prolong his life he told them not to waste their time!
He and I entered the monastery at Ampleforth in September 1950 together with 8 others and we were the two worst singers in that novitiate. After he had studied English at Oxford he and I were made the two masters of ceremonies and had a great time together. He was a wonderful companion and co-operator. I remember once when I had explained a complicated ceremony to a group of servers he turned with a twinkle in his eye to the younger ones and asked: Is that really clear to his delight they responded: As clear as mud together we organised the very elaborate consecration of the new Abbey Church at Ampleforth in 1961 and the simpler because it was the new rite consecration of this church in 1964. Charles was appointed manager of the School Shop which dealt with clothing, sports goods and all forms of tuck. Here he really came into his own and spent many hours chatting with and guiding many of the students. They were naturally drawn to him. Later he became school guestmaster and was equally good in conversation with parents, Old Boys and other guests and did untold good in helping them often in late night sessions. For many years he was involved with the beagle pack and went out hunting with them and many boys twice a week. He enjoyed the exercise and especially his contact with the farming community who followed the hunt wherever they met. He had a real talent for relaying his experiences and the stories he heard from the farmers. One Wednesday towards the end of a hunt he felt severe chest pains and so he sat down and smoked a cigarette! He had just had a serious coronary. He walked back to the van and was driven back to the Abbey. The ensuing weekend was the Exhibition, the main parent event of the year, and as school guestmaster he had much to do. He carried on as usual without thought for himself and then on Monday went to see a consultant in York who did some tests and then said: You ought to have been in intensive care for the last week! But as you aren’t I’ll just ask you to be sensible. This was the beginning of a series of heart attacks over the years, but he always managed to bounce back, helped by the excellent consultant who became his firm friend. Charles had a wonderful talent for drawing people to him and many admired and loved him. He could very clearly speak his mind but this never put people off but rather encouraged them. He developed wonderful turns of phrase and was a source of great humour and many good stories.
Fr Charles was leader of our Fire Squad and not only built up excellent relations with the local Fire Brigade but trained us so well that we had every fire under control before they arrived! And we also had a lot of fun. He was an excellent wood-worker although this talent only appeared at a later stage. His elder brother, who joined the monastery 12 years ahead of him, taught wood-work for a good many years. When he was sent to work on a parish I was briefly left in charge and Fr Charles immediately joined me. He soon took over and taught for a long time taking great pleasure in the high standard of work produced. Then he too was consigned to parish work here at St Mary’s and he quickly became much loved through his great humanity, humour and unfailing kindness. After a brief three years he was made parish priest of Easingwold where he really came into his own. He energised a rather sleepy parish, won the hearts of all and soon had many willing people actively involved. The congregation grew in numbers and income and he was able to renovate all the buildings including converting the old school into a beautiful parish centre which had previously been an unthinkable objective. He was a wonderful host and endeared himself to everyone. He continued until he could do no more. He will be much missed as he will be here after his all too brief return. I am sure you will see that he fits the readings from Scripture very well. He had unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ and sure hope in the promise of eternal life; he had to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials but never ceased to be loving and joyful. His life had a profound and beneficial influence on many people and he had no fear of giving an account of himself to God. He knew that because he believed he already had eternal life and he looked forward with confidence to the resurrection of the dead. May he rest in peace. Homily for the Funeral Mass of Fr Charles Macauley by Abbott Cuthbert, 25th June 2008
Dear Family and Friends of Fr Charles, you are very welcome here in the Abbey Church as we celebrate together the Funeral Mass for our brother. I want to welcome especially his sisters Barbara and Ada, and his niece Andrea who have made the long journey to North Yorkshire. May I welcome also his friends from our parishes in Leyland, where he served his first pastoral appointment, and Easingwold, where he was parish priest until his retirement through ill health earlier this year.
I welcome Mgr David Hogan who is representing the Bishop of our diocese. Then there are a variety of friends from other parts of his life: Old Amplefordians from his time in the school, friends from the Yorkshire farms and other colleagues from his Beagling days and friends from his time in charge of the fire squad. And doubtless there are others who came across Fr Charles in other guises who join with everyone else here to give thanks for his life and example and to pray that God will forgive his sins and welcome him into eternal bliss. Fr Charles welcomed his death as a man welcomes an old friend. He was remarkably peaceful and content in his closing days. He was still calm and lucid and making gentle jokes minutes before his death. The manner of his life and death reflect very well the prayer over the gifts set in the Mass for a Happy Death which you will find in the Roman Missal. There we pray: Lord, by the death of your Son, you have destroyed our death. By the power of this sacrament keep us obedient to your will until death. May we leave this world with confidence and peace and come to share in the gifts of his resurrection. As we look forward to our own death perhaps we can make this prayer our own and prepare to offer this holy sacrifice by calling to mind our own sins and asking for Gods loving forgiveness. Homily We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope (1st letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians, 4.13). These are the words of St Paul from his first letter to the Christian believers in Thessaloniki in the early days of the Christian Church. St Paul wanted to underline to his readers one of the principal differences between Christians and pagans: Christians are people of hope. They are most especially people of hope when they are confronted with the reality of death. Their hope is founded upon the reality of the resurrection of Christ who died and rose again and Paul wants them and us to hold fast to that knowledge and never to doubt that where Christ has led, we are called to follow; that as Christ has died, so we like all human beings before us will be called to die unless perhaps the end of time should intervene but that our death is not the end of everything as many pagans believe, rather it is the necessary condition for our resurrection so that we may share the life which Christ now enjoys in the presence of his Father in heaven. And so we believe that, please God, Charles is now with us watching us from his place among the heavenly host as we celebrate his Funeral Mass and we look forward to that moment when we shall be re-united with him in the presence of our Father in heaven. If this is the vision of faith, we all know, too, that we also have to face the reality of our humanity and one of the realities that we have to accept today is that there is a certain sadness among us as the man we had come to know is no longer here to bring his own particular way of life, of thinking and speaking, into our own lives.
Let us recall the man, just for a moment: Fr Charles was the youngest of five children. Desmond, his older brother, preceded him into the monastery and took his younger brothers Christian name in monastic life becoming Fr John. He died in 1995. Of his three sisters, two Ada and Barbara are with us today at his funeral whilst he is now re-united with his sister Pat. John Macauley was sent to Gilling in 1942 at the age of 10 joining the school there on the same day as Fr Adrian. He left St Dunstans House in 1950 at the age of 18 and joined the monastery in September of the same year as was so common in those days. He received the habit and the monastic name Charles from Abbot Byrne on September 24 and four years later Abbot Byrne received his Solemn Profession. On July 19 1959 he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Brunner. He died peacefully in the company of group of his brethren on Tuesday June 17 at 9.45 pm. These are the basic facts of his life of some 76 years. What else can we usefully say? There is a tendency in funeral homilies to beatify the person who has died before even introducing their cause but I rather doubt that Fr Charles would have approved. He was very clear that he was a real human being: that is to say that he had his faults but also a number of God-given qualities through which he was redeemed. He was a man of strong opinions forcefully expressed. He could be remarkably obstinate quite cussed, in fact and this in a man who was only a Yorkshireman by adoption rather than birth. At the same time he was a generous man: he gave freely of his time and his interest. When he was parish priest in Easingwold he seemed to have a particular charm for the youngest members of his congregation. He cared passionately about people as many of you have attested in your letters and e-mails arriving at the monastery in these last days. Some of you have called him inspirational, and patient, and a wonderful teacher in the carpentry shop. Others have reminded us of his other loves: the fire squad, the beagles and his time on our parishes. Fr Charles had a very simple and straightforward approach to life: he simply took all that happened into his stride and got on with it. There is something noble about being ordinary it is, after all, what nearly all of us have to be.
Fr Charles took very ordinary appointments and made them pastoral opportunities because that was where his heart really lay: in the pastoral care of others. 21 years teaching carpentry; 24 years as manager of the school shop; 32 years in the fire squad, 26 of them as the Officer in charge; 37 years running with the Beagles, the last 5 as the Secretary; and finally 11 years as the School Guestmaster. At first sight these may not strike one as particularly exciting assignments but through them Fr Charles built up a network of lifelong friendships and pastoral contacts: they were his opportunity to reach out to others and to bring them into contact with the Gospel. It was the Gospel, introducing his friends and others whom he met to the person of Jesus Christ, which was the motivating factor in Fr Charles life. His faith was quite a simple faith: some things were right and others were wrong because that was how the Gospel presented them. It would have been a mistake to go to him for a sophisticated argument about life â€“ but it was entirely right to expect a sympathetic presentation of the Gospel and Church teaching upon it. In 1993, after some 43 years in the valley, he moved to our parishes for the final 15 years of his life. He had suffered a heart attack in 1988 and this led to coronary artery surgery in 1992. After his convalescence Abbot Patrick sent him to first to serve as an assistant priest in our parish in Leyland where he spent 3 very happy years. There then followed 12 equally happy years as parish priest in Easingwold. I know that he would want me to thank the parishioners there for their very great care of him, particularly in these latter years when his health was gradually deteriorating. Latterly, he was enormously grateful for the practical support offered by Fr Edwin each weekend. One of the great joys of his parish ministry was the celebration of Mass. The Eucharist lay at the centre of Fr Charles life. He sometimes joked that his idea of a perfect death was to celebrate the Eucharist in the presence of the parish, return to the sacristy, there quietly to collapse and die. Charles wanted to become like Christ and he wanted all those around him who shared his faith to pursue the same vision in life. He wanted us to identify ourselves with the Christ revealed to us by the Gospel narrative so completely that we became in the way we lived our lives what we received in Word and Sacrament at Mass. He was absolutely sure of the truth that the Gospel reveals: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me (John 56-57). Fr Charles was utterly convinced that simple trust in God was the key to happiness in life and in death. I saw this simple trust in God in his comment to me some 10 days before his death, a comment which inspired the choice of the short text from the letter to the Philippians at the front of this booklet. As we discussed his diagnosis and what it meant he summed it up as follows: You see, Fr Abbot, the Lord has issued my one-way ticket home, but he hasn’t told me the date on it yet. This was entirely in keeping with his straightforward understanding of the Gospel of Christ. He was on his way home. He was completely content, accepting of what was happening, joyful in anticipation of meeting the God whom he loved. Let us pray, first, for our brother that cleansed from all stain of sin he may be admitted to the company of the saints and then that from his place in heaven he will pray for us that we may follow where he has led the way.