Father Michael Williams, Chaplain to Broadgreen Hospital, died suddenly at 11.30 pm on the evening of Thursday 29 September, the Feast Day of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, at the age of 42.
Michael Williams was born in Liverpool on 17 January 1969, the son of William and Kathleen. His early education took place at Holy Name Primary School, and De La Salle Grammar School. His ecclesiastical studies were undertaken at Ushaw College, Durham, and he was ordained to the Priesthood at Holy Name Church, Fazakerley, on 25 June 2004.
His first appointment in September 2004 was to the Metropolitan Cathedral where he was Chaplain to the Royal Liverpool Hospital. In 2009 he was appointed Chaplain to Broadgreen Hospital, residing at Our Lady’s Presbytery, Wavertree.
Michael was a deeply spiritual, kind and gentle man who will be missed greatly by those who knew him and worked alongside him both at the Metropolitan Cathedral and in the Chaplaincies at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospitals.
May he rest in peace.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly celebrated the Funeral Mass for Father Michael on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Friday 7 October, at 12.00 noon in Holy Rosary church, Aintree Village, where he preached the following homily:.
Introduction to Mass:
It is the Feast of the Holy Rosary. Michael’s rosary there on his coffin speaks of his appreciation of that prayer. Then: we know we best keep this moment of grateful memories, of so sore loss, of searching for comfort and light especially for Bill, Kathleen, Rachel and Jackie, by obeying our Lord’s command on the night before he died: ‘Do this in memory of me’. Michael’s chalice there also before us speaks to us of the Bread of Heaven, before whom Michael taught us to love and adoring loved.
The Rosary, the Mass, have something in common which goes some way to explain the source of his infectious, mischievous smile, his humour, yes, wicked humour which burst all things proud and pompous and heavy.
The Rosary, the Mass, both made massive claims about the wonder of our being, the depth of our vitality, the well-spring of our peace:
The Rosary is us praying Mary’s own praying. The Mass is us praying her Son our Lord’s own praying. That must in the end be a mirth to enfold all our sadness, and an exhilaration to wipe away our tears.
I don’t think it’s just me who finds: every time we are attentive to that story silence becomes deeper: words fail: it seems wrong to rush into speech.
The reason: it is Saint Luke trying to share with us how Mary prayed: her openness to the Scriptures: her reverence for the wonderful deeds of God: her questioning and in the end her breathless, merciful, compassionate daring for your sake and mine: behold the handmaid of the Lord; oh that the promise of the Holy One born for us to be Jesus, Saviour for us, might be accomplished in, through me.
And this feast, the feast of us praying Mary’s own praying, the Rosary always begins the 20 decades with: the Annunciation. We enter into Mary’s own praying: because God out of love for the lowly, hungry, frail, yes, sinners too, wants through each one of us, once more for his holy Son to come down to burdened, troubled, mourning hearts.
Indeed one greatly loved Christmas carol and I am deliberately going to stress one word in its title, ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ makes this wonderful claim, ‘where charity stands watching, and faith holds wide the door. The dark night breaks. The morning wakes. And Christmas comes once more’
And the child born of Mary made it so amazingly clear: for one day our Lord said, looking round on those who sat about him: ‘Here are my mother and my brethren. Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’.
So Mary’s praying as she pondered and then embraced God’s plan is mirrored in the life of each one of us, not least of a priest who enables ever deeper, silent prayer, who reaches out in compassion, who knows how to share the forgiveness, the word: ‘Peace’ from our crucified and risen Lord to the sinner.
The angel Gabriel sent by God to me was a priest whose bike was a wreck, whose black coat had faded into musty green, whom polio had left with a hip so to my shame now I recall, but it was in truth affection filled with respect ‘Hopalong Cassidy’. And that shows I’m getting old.
I am certain Michael’s journey to become the priest we variously found him to be for us, was suggested, encouraged, questioned, shaped by many who now stand by him no less lovingly and securely today. Only his family in the affection, struggles, ever-changing reality within every family enter the depths of that. I suspect like Mary troubled at what was coming, like Peter the Fisherman, who begged the Lord to leave him alone, Michael’s wicked humour would have said, me Lord, you must be joking. But I am certain priests must be reluctant heroes. Thank God I never quite get over the panic as I come up the Cathedral’s ramp, or as Mass begins on days as poignant, affectionate, genuine, shadowed as this.
I’m sure Michael would have wanted to say: look, Lord, I belong on the terraces, not in Anfield’s squad: I belong in the audience: I cannot find time to be a trumpet call to your people: or a flute of light-hearted bird song when walking through a storm. I belong in the benches not at the altar.
But in the end he made Mary’s praying his own. ‘Behold the servant of the Lord be it done to me according to your word’. And so on 25th June, 2004, at Holy Name, Fazakerley, Bishop Vincent prayed in words endorsed by his family and all who know him: ‘Give to this servant of yours the dignity of the priesthood. Renew within him the Spirit of holiness. May he be faithful to the ministry he receives from you Lord God and be to others a model of right conduct. Because that prayer’s call is so massive now the chalice demands our respect: Michael was known as a fitting ambassador of God’s mercy, peace, reconciliation, not least for his brother priests.
We have entered into Mary’s praying, now our duty, which is also our sure hope and liberating truth, and unshakeable comfort, is to enfold Michael in the Lord’s own praying and recognise before us but for him the chalice of our Lord’s Blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins. That mystery is one of the mysteries of light in the Rosary given to us by Blessed John Paul II. Michael you give us no choice as to where this reflection must lead, it can only be this prayer:
Whose only begotten Son,
By his life, death and resurrection,
Has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life,
Grant that by meditating on these mysteries
Of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
We may both imitate what they contain
And obtain what they promise.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.