Fr Richard Carter, a priest now at St Martin-in-the Fields in London, England, writes movingly of Br John Blyth, whose requiem it was our privilege to host at St James’ this past week:
‘Brother John and I were members of the Melanesian Brotherhood together. When I was chaplain of the Melanesian Brotherhood I asked him to become a mobile chaplain travelling from household to household. He did it with his usual care, consideration and dedication. It was a tough call with no creature comforts. He became a Brother in October 1999 and I a Brother in April 2000 inspired by his example and courage. He found in the Melanesian Brotherhood a family and a community who loved and respected him. He served in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Philippines. I will always remember John sitting with me each day on the polished wooden floor of the meditation chapel at Tabalia the motherhouse of the Melanesian Brotherhood in Solomon Islands. The wind chimes he gave would be softly ringing in the wind, his long legs and stiff knee stretched out before him. It was the time of the martyrdom of the seven Melanesian Brothers. No words could express our sorrow but together we prayed through the troubles – united in silence, united in God. Longing for peace beyond the violence- Yet finding Christ’s peace, as I look back, astonishingly even in the midst of it. He was a man of deep prayerfulness. Prayer was so much part of him.
Brother John used to gently chide himself: “Come on John,” He was a man of deep humility, faith, steadfast, loyal and true beyond words. When he got grumpy he would quietly take himself off to bed. When his memory began to fade and I was frightened he would get lost when he came to London to visit me, I would find him sitting next door at the café or praying at the back of St Martin’s, patiently waiting for me, or more probably God. “Come on John.” He lived a life stripped down of all excess – just John, his Brotherhood medal, black uniform and sash, his prayerbook and notebook, noting down everything meticulously and attentively persevering. He had learnt to live simply, obedient to God, without ostentation but with a wonderful, slightly self-depreciating, dry sense of humour. He taught me much so about obedience to the God he loved – and true poverty of spirit, not with words but by the way he lived – by letting go of desire, receiving all one can desire. Faithful humility helps us to find our way home to God – I loved him dearly – as did the members of the Melanesian Brothers. They know the real thing. The Brothers say that “If I honour myself my honour is nothing” John showed us all the true way of service- he quietly and thoughtfully put in place the things of God- humbly preparing, supporting and living a life devoted to Christ and by example teaching me, my brother Daniel, and many others to do the same.’
Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord!