Last year there was the remarkable story, here in the UK, of the discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III under a car park in Leicester. Killed in 1485, he was the last Plantagenet King and it brought an end to the grim War of the Roses (which George R R Martin claims Game of Thrones is based on). Richards reputation is as unpleasant as most of the characters in the imaginary Westeros and beyond (did he really kill his nephews in the tower?) His bloody death would probably fit right in to one of GOT’s episodes ‘My Kingdom for a Horse….’ and all that, and the refusal of the Tudors to give him a Christian Burial shows the ruthlessness of the time.
Despite his bad reputation, which many say is exaggerated by Shakespeare, it was decided to give him a Christian burial in a place of honour in Leicester Cathedral. With thousands lining the streets to honour his coffin (only in England!). Then there was an interesting discussion whether or not as a Catholic King – The C of E (a Tudor development) hadn’t even been thought off – if he was to be laid to rest in a place of honour in Leicester Cathedral at least he should have a Catholic Funeral . Finally there was an ecumenically sensitive reburial presided over by Justin Welby with Cardinal Nichols in attendance which was broadcast live on Channel 4 (the Cardinal had said mass for his soul a few days before at All Souls Priory in Leicester).
So as 5000-1 Leicester City are crowned champions and make worldwide news, the same evening as another man from Leicester is crowned world Snooker Champion, is this a sign that the moral order of the universe has been restored? Is this the fruit of dignifying a King with the hallowed grounds of a Cathedral. On the BBC this morning was a wonderful fairy tale ‘The Fox and the Ghost King’ written by the childrens author, Michael Morpurgo (War Horse). Or could it be the Buddhist monk Phra Prommangkalachan who the Thai owners revere? Leicester Fans are already flocking to his temple!
Although this is obviously tongue in cheek – One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is Burying the Dead. In this year of Mercy we are asked to remember the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Usually burying the dead means helping those without the resources to have the dignity of a funeral – rather than just be tossed into a paupers grave. Following the example of some of the Jesuit High Schools in the US, I have asked our SVP group to negotiate with Manchester Council on offering a dignified funeral here at the Holy Name for those homeless who die on the streets of Manchester. We think of all those buried in unmarked graves in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. We also pray for Burundi and the alarming noises being made by the president of the senate about ‘Spraying cockroaches with bullets ‘ and ‘Starting Work’ (echoes of Rwanda) . There are growing fears of a Tutsi genocide in Burundi, more unmarked graves, more mass burials.