Rite of Christian Burial
for Fr. Jacky Merilan, CSsR
Saint Martin de Pores Chapel, Canefield
Friday, August 20, 2021
Wis 3:1-9; Rom 8:31-35, 37-39; Matt 25:31-46
Fr. Jacky was a Good Man
It is not very often that we find ourselves performing the rite of Christian burial for a priest, let alone a very young priest. The untimely passing of Fr. Jacky has generated many questions: questions about life and questions about death; questions addressed to God and questions that floated among loved ones; questions by his mother and siblings, I am sure, and questions by beloved parishioners and confreres.
No one has been able to fathom the significance of such a happening, even though today’s victim was very familiar with losses of this kind, even in the short duration of his priestly ministry. It is no surprise, therefore, that today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom rings so deeply as a challenge in the souls of God’s people in the face of such a tragedy. It becomes even more distressing as it pertains to someone who was permanently in search of God’s will. And so, we who are left behind are challenged to bring ourselves to believe that the soul of Fr. Jacky is in the hands of God; that really and truly no torment can ever touch him anymore. In the eyes of all of us he appears to die, and his going looks like a disaster, his leaving us like extinction, but he is at peace. This is the truth. But even more: If anyone of us would perceive his going as punishment, his hope was rich with immortality. That too, is the truth, according to the Book of Wisdom.
Many of us could have said, remorsefully, if only I knew a little more about his health condition, maybe I could have helped, and maybe he would be still with us? This may be true, but in the end, time and space elude us. We find no answer in our person, in our naked minds, and hearts. However, Saint Paul in today’s second reading provides some answers to our lingering question. This is his assurance:
“With God on our side, who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son but gave Him up to benefit us all … Nothing, therefore, can come between us and the love of Christ, … For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, not any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:31-32, 35, 38-39).
Then, today’s Gospel from Matthew Chapter 25, provides us with the permanent teaching on the judgment of character. How did Fr. Jacky fare with it?
Three Sundays ago, in this very Chapel, where Fr. Jacky celebrated his final Mass, we celebrated the feast of Saint Alphonsus Mary de Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorist Order, to which Fr. Jacky belonged. In my homily, I elaborated significantly on the life of the Saint in his quest to serve God with all that he had: with his intellect, his gifts of music, painting, writing, and his love for the youth and the poor. Along with the feast we also celebrated the confirmation of seventeen (17) young men and women. I profited the occasion to encourage the youngsters to find inspiration by the example of Fr. Jacky whom they loved.
From what I know of him, I would say that Fr. Jacky sought to serve God with all that he was and that all he had. His was not of the standard of Saint Alphonsus, one might say, but he seemingly gave all he had: his friendship with the youth and with everybody, his constant smile and joyous laughter, he always seemed present to people. I do not think that the word “No” was any great part of his vocabulary. His attention to the poor, the destitute, and the little ones was most evident, having been influenced by the Missionaries of Charity—Mother Teresa’s Sisters, during his early years in Haiti. His weekly soup kitchens (the Lazarus Kitchen), his home visits to the sick and the elderly; playing football with the boys, all speak to that early influence.
Fr. Jacky also served God with his very comportment. By this I mean that, he was always impeccably dressed and with sweet-smelling perfumes and the shining brown shoes too. It was evident that, for him, God deserved the best—the best way he could present himself, saying nothing of his deportment at the altar of God. He unreservedly displayed his love and commitment for Jesus in the daily exposition of the Blessed Sacrament one hour before Mass; his regular all-night vigils and occasional pilgrimages through the village of Saint Joseph.
For me, Fr. Jacky was a real person, a human person, a real priest, a happy priest, a priest according to God’s own heart and the heart of Saint Alphonsus as well. I am certain that the brothers with whom he lived, the parishioners of Saint Ann’s, whom he served in his first assignment, and the parishioners of Saint Joseph who, after just shy of two years of ministry among them, had embraced him as their very own, have a great deal to say about that appealing young man of God. The members of his own family who are here with us would have their own bit to say for which mere words would be insufficient.
Fr. Jacky had a welcoming personality which made everyone comfortable. This does not mean that he failed to challenge. On the contrary, it was precisely because, for him, the word of God was not one for compromise, that he earned the respect of many. In his homilies he constantly challenged the faithful to stop the divisions among them and to live in unity. The football team of Saint Joseph which he became a part of called themselves ‘chien lawee’ and he had them change it to mere ‘lawee’ which earned him the name ‘pèrè lawee.’ Fr. Jacky served God’s people with a passionate YES and a joy wherever he was called, and in humility, would often make the request “Pray for me, pray for me wee.’
As I end, I wish to thank his mother, Marguerite Dormevil, his siblings, Syntcha, Nancy, and Kendy, and friend Marline Noel for the gift of their son, brother, and friend to the Church and to the Redemptorist congregation. I also thank the Redemptorist community for assigning Fr. Jacky to the ministry in this Diocese. He was a real blessing to all of us. He will be greatly missed.
My prayer is that the Lord will say to Fr. Jacky at this end of his earthly pilgrimage: “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 … In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me” (Matt 25:34-36; 40).
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen!