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Obituary – Brother Ronald SSF

Ronald SSF

Funeral address given by David Jardine SSF

Brother Ronald SSF

Brother Ronald SSF

I think we have come here today to say farewell to a great man.  For me greatness is judged largely by character, and by that standard Brother Ronald was a great man.

I have been visiting Ronald twice a year from Belfast for the last five or six years, and he always gave me a great welcome.

I always brought Ronald a good bar of chocolate, but when he opened the drawer I noticed that there were already about ten other bars there.  The most I ever saw him take was one square of chocolate.  I also noticed in that drawer a wide range of people and situations throughout the world that Ronald was interested in and praying for.

For some years Ronald had been profoundly deaf and almost completely blind.  I had to stand and shout into his good ear.  Sometimes I had to shout three or four times before he heard me.  But he never became impatient.  He simply put his hand behind his ear, smiled and invited me to speak again.  I think the staff found Ronald like that as well.  Some of them told me one time that he was the most peaceful man in the home.  When they did something for him, like help him into bed at night, he always said ‘God bless you.’  When I visited him I always finished with a prayer, and at the end he always said a very hearty ‘Amen’.  His faith was alive and well.

Rev. Sandy Montgomery, who faithfully brought communion to Ronald every month, said that when he received communion he always said ‘Thank you Jesus.  Thank you, Lord.’  And the whole atmosphere changed.  Sandy also said that there was a real feeling of holiness about Ronald.  He prayed for Sandy, and for many other people.  Who knows how many lives were touched by Ronald’s prayers as he sat in that chair every day, hour after hour?

It is only five months since we celebrated Ronald’s 100th birthday, in August, 2012.  That was a great day, well organised by the home, but for me the highlight was the service of Holy Communion in his room before we went out for the public event.

Ronald joined the Society of St. Francis in the late 1930’s.  It looked as if there was going to be a war with Germany.  Ronald said he had no quarrel with the German people.  He did not want to fight a war with them.  So he joined SSF.  Before joining he had been in the entertainment business, and performed with George Formby.  He was not boasting.  It was just a remark made in passing.

In the Society, Ronald served in many different places – Cerne Abbas, Cambridge, Stepney (Cable Street), and in industrial missions in Coventry, Warrington and Liverpool.  He also served in Barcable.  In Coventry he went about on a bicycle.  He told me that at the beginning men in factories laughed at him dressed in a habit, but that eventually settled down.  He had great entertainment skills, playing the ukulele and doing impersonations with wigs and disguises.  Children remembered Ronald for his beach missions.

Adelaide College in Saltcoats were grateful to have Ronald among them.   Members of the team said he was a very easy person to live with.  The life of the Holy Spirit was very important to Ronald, and maybe that was one reason he fitted so easily into Adelaide College.

It was great that Marilyn Patterson, the Principal of the College, and some of her colleagues were able to be with Ronald on the night that he died.  His passing was very peaceful.

The impression I always had of Ronald was that he was not in any way a self-centred person.  He was never trying to attract attention to himself.  His motivation was much more one of service.

What does the Gospel say to help us at this time?  Firstly, it tells us that this life is not the only life.  Jesus said to his disciples ‘Do not let your heart be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions.  If it were not so I would have told you.  I go there to prepare a place for you.’  This life is not the only life.  I don’t think Ronald ever had any doubt about where he was going.  Secondly, we are not given much detail in the New Testament about what heaven is like, but the little we are given makes it clear that it is a wonderful place:

‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has even conceived the wonderful things God has prepared for those who love him.’

‘I consider that our present sufferings are as nothing compared to the glory and the splendour that will be revealed in us.’

And in Revelation 21 we are told that in the nearer presence of God there is no more sorrow, no more suffering, no more pain, nor sickness, nor cancer, no more depression, nor deafness, nor blindness, none of the things that drag us down in life.

And thirdly, this dimension of life beyond the grave puts suffering in this life into perspective. Some people, some families, even some nations have to put up with more than their fair share of suffering.  If this were the only life, that would seem very unfair to those people.  For Ronald those last years were not easy, but now he is completely free.

My final point is that occasions like this remind us that we will all be in this position one day ourselves, ready to make the biggest journey we will ever have to make.  It is of vital importance that we be the best prepared we possibly can be to make that journey.

I said at the beginning that we have come to say farewell to a great man, who lived his life well for God.  We commit Ronald into God’s hands that he may live for all eternity with him, in a place far better than where we are now.  f

 Ronald died on 13 January 2013, and his funeral was held at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Ardrossan. 

He was aged one hundred years and in the seventy-first year of his professionin vows.