On Sunday October 26th, my father, Colm, died. Or rather, he was "born into eternal life", to quote his lifelong friend, Father T. P. Reynolds, who delivered the homily at his Requiem Mass.
Taking his basic premise from the Gospel reading: "A good man brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart" (Matt. 12.35), the priest spoke of my father as being, fundamentally, a good man. He was. He also was a good father, in the purest sense of the word and, as such, I feel, is with me in every good thing I have ever done as his son, or ever aspired towards.
Most recently this was evident in the conversations we had last year while I was composing Famine Remembrance, a piece I had been commissioned to write for a performance in St Patrick's Cathedral, New York. However, the project really didn't crystallise itself, emotionally or spiritually, until my father made the seminal suggestion that I should use as the libretto for the final chorus the De Profundis: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord/ Lord, hear my voice/ O let your ears be attentive/ To the voice of my pleading . . ."
My father strongly suspected that the Irish pre-Vatican II practice of the celebrant saying the De Profundis after every Low Mass may have had its origins during the Famine. Further research revealed that the practice was, in fact, more ancient. After he and my mother, Kathleen, contacted Archdeacon Cathal McCarthy, they discovered that "the most likely" and "most popular hypothesis" is that the De Profundis "was meant to be part, or really token, of various endowment Masses which, because of the outlawing of the Mass under the Penal Laws could not be said with any assurance."
This extended historic context for the De Profundis somehow made its setting in my composition, Famine Remembrance, all the more appropriate. Even more appropriate, however, was the fact that my father was with me in St Patrick's Cathedral, New York, for the premiere performance of the piece. At his own Requiem Mass the De Profundis also was said over his body. The evolution of our experience with the De Profundis, therefore, somehow seems to sum up the essence of what my father passed on to me, both in terms of his love of music and his belief that music stems from the highest possible source, namely God. And so I know that his spirit will remain with me as I strive ever-onwards to give physical form to this legacy through my own music.
Equally, although, as his son, I am reeling from the sense of loss, I do find great comfort in the promise of the final stanza of De Profundis and in the belief that I will be united with him again.
"Because with the Lord there is mercy/ And fullness of redemption/ Israel indeed he will redeem/ From all its iniquities."
Thomas Columba Cassidy, R.I.P.