In a funeral Mass marked with humor, sadness and solemnity, Bishop P. Francis Murphy was eulogized yesterday at Baltimore's Cathedral of Mary Our Queen as a man who "gave his life for others while he lived."
Bishop Murphy, 66, an auxiliary bishop who supervised the parishes in the western part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, died Sept. 2 of cancer.
In an overflowing cathedral on North Charles Street in North Baltimore, the bishop's coffin, draped in white, lay in front of the altar. His wooden crosier, the shepherd's staff that was a sign of his office of bishop, was to one side.
The Mass of Christian burial was celebrated by Cardinal William H. Keeler and concelebrated by three other cardinals, nearly two dozen bishops and about 200 priests.
Before the Mass began, Bishop Murphy's brother, Thomas Murphy, set the tone. In thanking the congregation for its support on behalf of the family, he said that Bishop Murphy, known for his support of the poor and disenfranchised, had sent him a message the previous night.
"He told me St. Peter appointed him to head up an advocacy group for human rights to help people suffering in hell," he said to muffled chuckling.
Bishop Murphy had selected the man who delivered his eulogy, the Rev. Robert F. Leavitt, the president-rector of St. Mary's Seminary and University.
Father Leavitt recalled Bishop Murphy's habit of repeating a person's name during a conversation. "He called us all by our names," Father Leavitt said. "Whenever he called me on the phone, he would always begin, 'Bob, what am I interrupting?' and then add 'Bob, how are you doing?' and always end, 'Bob, thanks for everything you do.' "
Father Leavitt noted that Bishop Murphy was vice rector of the North American College in Rome during the history-making Second Vatican Council, in which the church attempted to engage the modern world. As a priest and bishop, he said, Bishop Murphy was dedicated to making real the vision of the council.
"Not one or two, but many generations will be required to absorb and apply its vision and teaching," Father Leavitt said. "Frank Murphy, my friends, belongs to that first, courageous, bold and energetic generation."
That statement was greeted with several minutes of sustained applause. Then, starting from the back of the cathedral, people started rising, until the entire congregation was on its feet applauding, a sound that exploded to a cheer when the cardinals and bishops on the altar rose as well.
After the funeral, Bishop Murphy's coffin was taken out of the cathedral and carried to the cathedral's crypt, where he was buried. As the coffin passed, two lines of priests dressed in white albs sang the "Salve Regina," a hymn in Latin to the Virgin Mary.