‘Experiences that gave him a radical openness to others, contemplative solitude’ shaped Corky.
By Kevin Corcoran
As my family filed out of Indy’s Catholic cathedral to a recessional hymn, a bagpiper fired up “Danny Boy.” That final touch, inspired by wife Lucia, culminated the funeral Mass and an “Irish toast” the night before at The Irving Theater that brought together an array of people to swap stories and offer support after my dad’s death from metastatic cancer. His close friends called him “Corky.”
At the get-together, I was heartened to see John, Rick, Mary Jeanne, and Chris, friends I had grown up with, as well as former coaches and other role models, friends, and current and former work colleagues. I was curious to meet others for the first time — people my dad had helped through Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholic Anonymous (including one young man who considered him a wise O.G. and another older man who loved him dearly and would miss having him along on his recovery from addiction). Also there were his lifelong friends, including some of the Jewish men he visited every Saturday morning at a local Panera Bread, the imam at an Islamic center where he had shown up and, over time, had demonstrated interest in Muslim teachings (“I wondered, ‘Who was this white guy, and what was he doing in the mosque?’”), graduates of Scecina Memorial and Crispus Attucks high schools, where he had taught, a former grade school basketball coach of my dad’s, and a gregarious friend of his from Youngstown, Ohio, among scores of others.
“Best government teacher ever!! So glad that he made it our 50th reunion! What a Man!!” a 1971 Scecina grad wrote. Another grad from the same year wrote, “Started my interest in politics when he ran for city council. Great teacher!” Another shared the Muslim greeting, “As Slaam alaikum” — peace be upon you, adding, “We’ll always remember you as one who loved GOOD TROUBLE.” I often joked with my dad that his funeral would draw a fascinating crowd; it did not disappoint. Childhood friends. People who appreciated his “shares” at AA meetings. My first and second grade teachers, who knew him. And friends of mine, including a friend who had helped bury another friend. Current and former journalists I have worked with. Family members, including newfound siblings (thanks to the availability of adoption records and genetic testing), whom we love unconditionally.
His Mass of Christian Burial was among the largest gatherings at the church since the pandemic began, according to a deacon. My dad’s longtime spiritual director, retired Msgr. Paul Koetter, is living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a degenerative nerve disorder commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He couldn’t attend but sent a special message. In his stead, Father Pat beautifully captured my dad’s essence in a well-crafted homily that distilled lessons from the Bible readings.
Funeral Homily for Michael Joseph Corcoran
November 24, 2021
For those who knew Mike and how he moved in and out of the groups and places of his life, perhaps you’re like me, and you still haven’t gotten your mind around that Mike isn’t going to come walking in … on his own schedule … upside-down cane in hand … and move to his seat … with out a care in the world that Mass has already begin … but listening with absolute focus to what would be said … and with a deep confidence in what he would say — to any who would listen — after it was over. I am still coming to acceptance that he isn’t going to just walk in the door.
Yet, the reality of death is part of this life for us, and seeing it with the eyes of faith, helps us to know and to remember that it is but a part of our journey with God: our journey from God and back again, as our first reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us. For “there is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens,” and “God has made everything appropriate to its time, but has put the timeless into their hearts …” The timelessness of God, which we call eternal and eternity, is what we are about today. Eternal life is what we pray that Mike knows today, even beyond his own contemplation of it on this side of the grave.
Mike’s meditation on the presence and activity of God was deep and consistent. He brought to those reflections of his own experiences of his life’s journey, the good ones and the bad, too. And he received many graces and mercies along the way to put the pieces of his puzzle together, cultivating understanding through insights and experiences that gave him a radical openness to others while at the same time calling him to times of contemplative solitude. He sought to move beyond the veneer of the surface to try and live the statement from our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: “… whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
We are the Lord’s, and that means that we can overcome and survive the storms of life. Doesn’t mean that we will always get it right or be perfect, but because we are the Lord’s, that is our deepest and core identity. Being made in the image and likeness of God, coming from the Lord and being called back to him after our earthly life, and belonging to the Lord all along the way means that God can be revealed through the people we are, whether it involves us receiving a share in the Passion and Cross of Christ or in how we glimpse his resurrection.
Martha reveals her belief in the resurrection of the dead in the gospel today when she says, “I know my brother will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
But then Jesus reveals to her that the resurrection isn’t just some warm and fuzzy theological thought but something that involves a deeply personal relationship. Jesus reveals, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in my, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
My dear friends, it is because of Mike’s relationship with Jesus that we are here today, to pray that he be drawn into the fullness of eternal life, where there is not cancer, no disease of addiction, no trauma, no pain or sadness, only light, freedom, joy, peace, divine love, communication, and radical solidarity. The reality of our lives of faith is that the relationship of perfect unity of the Holy Trinity is extended to us by God the Father, through Jesus the Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the deep, personal relationship to which we are called.
And what of our relationships with Mike? Well, whatever your relationship was with Mike, may the best of who he was life you up today. Where this is any brokenness or hurt, may there be healing. Where there is any challenge or obstacle to overcome, may Mike’s tenacity and perseverance give you hope. Where there is any need to make a fresh start or new beginning, may our fellowship today pull you from isolation and despair and plant hope in renewed hearts to live one day at a time.
Indeed, let’s let our loving Lord just come walking into our lives at this moment. He, too, is on his own schedule, but let’s let him move to sit right next to us, without a care in the world about our past and listening with absolute focus to what we will say … and then speaking a word of peace and comfort and encouragement to any and all who will listen. And his Word is true … it is full of much grace and mercy — and it is always enough.
The Very Rev. Patrick Beidelman is rector of SS. Peter & Paul Cathedral, Indianapolis. Kevin Corcoran is the son of Michael Joseph Corcoran, an alcoholic who went more than 47 years without a drink and went out of his way to help people.