Monsignor Eamonn Goold, chief celebrant at the funeral Mass of James Casey Butler, 7, told his parents, Edel Casey and Paul Butler, that the nation has been touched by the tragic death of their only child.
James died on Sunday a day after he fell into the river in Midleton, Co Cork.
“People prayed so earnestly that all would be well,” Msgr Goold said.
“Then we heard of the journey to Crumlin, and that alarmed us but I think it only intensified the prayer. Then the news that we all feared most came through — poor James had lost the battle for life.”
Addressing the little boy’s parents, who held each other throughout his funeral Mass in Midleton yesterday, he said few can understand their grief.
“I know what you all wanted was for him to grow into a teenager and then into a man. What we have instead is an angel of God. And he will help you,” said Msgr Goold.
James was swept away by flood waters after he fell into the Owenacurra river while playing with friends in the Tír Cluain estate on Saturday evening.
He was rescued about 300m downstream by two local men before being rushed to Cork University Hospital. James was later airlifted to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, where despite the best efforts of medical staff, he died on Sunday evening.
Yesterday, about 300 people attended the Mass of the Angels in the Church of the Most Holy Rosary.
Many walked behind the funeral cortege as James’s body was removed from his grandparent’s Michael and Eileen Casey’s home at Avoncore Place.
James had been waked there the night before, wearing one of his favourite baseball caps.
A hush fell over the town, drivers, and shoppers paused and blessed themselves, and parents clutched children close as the hearse carrying James’s little white coffin passed through.
Mourners, shivering outside the church, wiped away tears as Edel and Paul helped push the coffin up the aisle to the altar.
They were flanked by Edel’s parents, and Paul’s parents, Michael and Liz. Edel, her head bowed, caressed the coffin, as Paul bent down to kiss it.
It was then draped in a white sheet before one of James’s favourite books and photos of him laughing, were placed on top.
As Edel sobbed, Msgr Goold said the death of a young child is “so totally unnatural, so totally cruel” that nobody can explain why it happens.
Comparing the boy’s life to that of an apple blossom carried away by the wind, he said: “The fragrance and beauty of James’s life will last forever. He had a short life but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.”
And he said the little boy, who loved video games and science fiction, is now an angel.
He also asked people to pray for his classmates in senior infants at St Bridget’s NS.
In a tragic twist of fate, Edel and her family were in the same church almost two years ago for the funeral of her brother, Leon, who died in tragic circumstances. He was remembered in prayers.
The school choir sang at the Mass and among the floral tributes was a wreath from Midleton fire brigade, whose members fought to revive him on the river bank.
James was buried in the adjoining cemetery.