Before he went into hospital last week, Fr Cormac Rigby wrote several of his weekly Catholic Herald sermons in advance. The last of them ends with the words: "And when it comes to my turn, I will repeat Thomas's phrase, 'My Lord and my God'. And Jesus will identify me by the name I was given in baptism: Cormac: the name that identifies me uniquely as a dearly-ransomed soul in the forgiving heart of Christ."
Sadly — for us. though not for him — Cormac's turn did come on Tuesday morning. He had been suffering from cancer for several years; his illness forced him to retire from parish life, though until a couple of weeks ago he was still hauling himself into his car to say Mass wherever he was needed. His cheerfulness in the face of impending death was not an act — Fr Cormac actually was cheerful, because he believed that only by passing into eternity could he fulfil his destiny. All Christians try to believe this, of course, but Cormac was so unshakeable in his faith that he was able to say that terminal cancer did not make him less happy.
And was there ever a man with more friends? Last Christmas, he sent out over a thousand cards, many of them to people who worked with him when he was head of presentation at Radio 3 and one of the most accomplished broadcasters ever employed by the BBC. Others knew him as one of Britain's most perceptive ballet critics, a balletomane if ever there was one.
Something rather wonderful happened during Cormac's retirement in Oxford. Family Publications brought out a book of the sermons he had preached as a priest in Ruislip and Stanmore, Middlesex, and the demand for them was such that they brought out three further volumes. Cormac started writing little Sunday sermons for The Catholic Herald, and often they were the best thing in the newspaper. He was so well organised that he would send his columns to us weeks before they were printed. A week ago, he sent his column for Easter Sunday, with the comment: "I'm so glad to have reached Easter!" Although he died in Lent, we are certain that he has now truly reached Easter.