Sermon preached at Funeral Requiem of Andrew Norton CR 18 December 2012
Our Lord Jesus Christ came among us. His mission was to change everything; to change the world. Surprisingly, he chose to do that by ministering to ordinary people. Jesus is constantly described as being surrounded by crowds, including the poor, the sick and the needy. The transformation brought by Christianity issued from a ministry to people as they were and where they were.
We can also say that about our Brother Andrew. Andrew, known to many as John before he joined our Community, was the archetypal pastoral priest. He had spent a lifetime in parish ministry. He was a matter-of-fact person for whom it was all perfectly straightforward. The people and their needs were there and you jolly well got on with dealing with them, with love, care and humour, as well as firmness, where needed. People who worked under John/Andrew, including his various curates, could find his unbending straightforwardness something of an ordeal but enough of them have survived to be present here today or to have sent messages to us. At least one of Fr John’s former parishes is also represented here.
He came to CR when he was 60 and found in this Community further outlets for his pastoral zeal. Ere long the Community sent him to South Africa, where he had an amazing ministry. By the time I became Superior ten years ago he was prior of our Johannesburg house, he helped on and off in parishes, helped to run courses on spiritual direction, he worked with retreats, Ignatian spirituality and a host of other things, as well as doing the shopping, running the house and dealing with many of the difficult characters who came to the door in that increasingly dangerous part of Johannesburg. By then he was in his eighties.
So on the other side of the world a great crowd is with us this morning. We have had many messages from South Africa. From the diocese of Christ the King, which is going to hold a memorial mass this Thursday, where they are expecting 300 people and various Bishops and other dignitaries. Staff of the Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre in Sophiatown also sent a message.
was struck, on my visits, by the love people had for him – this somewhat tough
person, sergeant-major of the Church with a dry sense of humour, which I had
learnt all about as we were novices together.
hugely active SA ministry came to a swift end through illness and the need to
return to Britain, at which point our Community’s presence in South Africa
came to an end.
It was difficult for Andrew suddenly to stop and he soon became confined to his room and then for the last 15 months or so completely immobile in bed. God led him into very unfamiliar territory. It was tough for him to stop completely – we could see that. I can confidently say that we looked after him well, with the help our wonderful nurses and carer, humouring his frequent trigger-happy sessions on the bleeper. So for a long time he just went on and on. Then, having spent all those hours with him, it was typical of Andrew to slip out quietly while none of us was in the room.
On behalf of many people in many places we give thanks to God for his faithful and dutiful ministry, carried out with wit, humour and total selflessness. We give thanks also for the ways in which he was difficult, for that also brought out grace in us. We commend the soul of John Norton, Andrew CR, to Almighty God, praying that at last he may have refreshment, light and peace, in the presence of Christ who is the heart of our life and our supreme example in being the servants of others.
George Guiver CR