Homily for Betty and Bob Hay

Over the last few months there have been greetings and prayers for Betty and Bob from Tertiaries from all around the Asia-Pacific Province of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis.  Many have sent their love and thoughts from the time that Betty really went downhill, to Bob’s death on Christmas morning.  Bishop Jeremy Ashton, Sandra Jackson and Bishop Bevan Meredith were particularly regular in sending their regards.  Unfortunately, Bishop Bevan died a few days before Bob and was farewelled on Monday in Brisbane.

Bishop Godfrey Fryar, our Provincial Minister, was hoping to be here today to represent the Third Order in honouring Betty but was unable to make it.  He did, however, send a reflection, which I would like to share on his behalf.

Betty Hay was professed as a Franciscan Tertiary in 1962. She was the most senior member of the Third Order in the Province of Asia Pacific.

Just as for members of her own family, it seems that she has always been there, and for Franciscans she was an anchor point of adventurous stability.

We only begin to understand the meaning of events, and decisions we have made in our lives, in the long view, and humanly speaking the full meaning may only possibly be known, to others when our lives have come to an end.

St Francis, at least on the human side of heaven, would never have imagined just how significant his life and vocation would be regarded by millions through more than 800 years.

A life can be marked by remembered events that took place, but more important than events, is the quality of the person and their interpersonal relationships.

I never actually met Betty Hay, but since I became a Franciscan, I have prayed for her every month on her prayer day.  I however do have some insight into her spirituality, which was Franciscan through and through.

Her motivation, since she began to live in the way of Francis in New Guinea, has been to make our Lord Jesus Christ known and loved everywhere, to spread a spirit of love and harmony, and to live simply.

Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past.

The well-known reading from Ecclesiastes 3 …

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven” describes the seasons of life, as a predetermined pattern, that no one can understand or change and that everything happens at the time fixed for it.

On the face of it, the reading can seem problematic, especially if it is viewed as a sort of predestined order that will be fulfilled, like it or not, because you have no choice in the matter. However, if it is viewed from the end looking back, it is more comfortingly descriptive of the journey of life.

We were born at a certain time, we did break down things and we did build them up, we did keep, and we did throw away, we did keep silence and we did speak, we did love, and we did hate.

The Christian way to find peace is to take each of life’s experiences, the bad and the good, the creative and the destructive, and seek, in faith and trust, to have them harmonised redemptively in Christ.  It is then, that we may be able to say that we can see something of God’s plan in it all, and then, we may come closer to seeing the end from the beginning, and the beginning from the end.

I believe that like St Francis, Betty did this.

May the love, joy and humility which marked her life be fulfilled in the great ocean of God’s love.  Godfrey.

For me, I have known Betty for many years, and yes, she was a hero of the Third Order in our Province.  I remember many an occasion before her memory finally left her, when I would get a phone call:  “Bob Hay here, Betty would like a few words” … half an hour later I would hear Bob in the back ground saying “I think that is enough now, Betty”.

I hadn’t met Bob in person until I moved to Denmark in August, and what a joy it was to meet this humble, gentle man.

A fellow Tertiary wrote:  “We often joke of our fourth Order, the dear husbands and wives of our Tertiaries who work with them in their service.  We need to acknowledge that, often, without this support that work could not be achieved.”

No truer are these words than in the case of Bob.  With out his love, support and practical assistance, Betty wouldn’t have been able to achieve half of what she did.

For me, personally, it has been a joy and privilege to have found my way to Denmark and minister to both Bob and Betty at the end stage of their lives.

As we gather here today, united in our love and regard for these two extraordinary people, let us pause, wrapped in our memories of them, and give thanks to God for them.

Bob and Betty, in the blessing taken from the Third Order daily obedience:

May our blessed Lady pray for you.
May Saint Francis pray for you.
May Saint Clare pray for you.
May all the saints of the Third Order pray for you.
May the holy angels watch over you and befriend you.
May the Lord Jesus give you his blessing and his peace.