Michael Day

The following is taken from an obituary written by Fr Paul Chavasse and printed in the Oratory Parish Magazine for Christmas 2003.

Father Michael died peacefully in the Beaumont Nursing Home, St James Road, on Monday, August 11th. He was 83 years old. By an extraordinary coincidence, he died on the anniversary of the death of our Founder, Cardinal Newman, and just as we were in church celebrating the annual Mass for the Cardinal’s beatification.

According to a very old custom, no sermon or panegyric was given at the Requiem Mass of a Father of the Oratory, so I take this opportunity to record a few facts and memories concerning Father Michael.

Arthur Michael Day was born in Toronto, Canada, on January 7th, 1920. He was proud of his Canadian citizenship and always kept a Canadian passport. His family returned to England when he was still young and he was educated at Stanley House, Edgbaston and Wrekin College, Shropshire. On leaving school in 1938 he worked for a while, prior to seeing military service in the Second World War. He was an officer with the Gunners and was involved in the Siege of Malta. The experiences of the war, and of being evacuated from the island by submarine when his health failed, led him to think seriously about his life and its direction. The result of this was his reception into the Catholic Church in Egypt in 1943, and his decision to enter the priesthood.

After the war, in 1946, he came to the Oratory as a novice, and received his training for the priesthood at the Beda College (at that time based at Upholland College in Lancashire) and at Oscott. He was ordained priest in the Oratory Church on June 25th, 1950.

The rest of Father Michael’s life was spent here in Edgbaston, apart from the years 1964-65, when he went to Kenya to try his vocation as a Cistercian.

Fr Michael will be remembered in many different ways, but chiefly, I suspect, for his work with children. This embraced two particular apostolates. One was his chaplaincy at the Children’s Hospital on Ladywood Middleway, where he served with love and exemplary fidelity for over 40 years. Many families, from Birmingham and further afield, will recall with gratitude his care of their sick children. The other field of his work with children was in education. After ordination, Fr Michael gained a teacher’s qualification so that he could teach in our Grammar School, St Philip’s. He was also involved for many years with our other parish schools and with St Paul’s Girls School, Vernon Road. Most especially he was involved with our Primary School, where he was both Champlain and Governor for as long as most of us can remember. When he finally retired from the Primary School the new computer suite there was named in his honour.

Also to be remembered is Fr Michael’s literary work: he made new translations of St Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life and of St Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul, as well as himself writing several small books of meditations and reflections.

Fr Michael had a great love for the Oratory Fathers’ country retreat at Rednal, the place where he was buried on Monday August 18th, and where he spent so many hours in prayer and study.

His Requiem Mass that Monday morning saw the Oratory Church filled to capacity with many parishioners, past and present governors, staff and pupils of our Primary School, past and present staff and patients of the Children’s Hospital, representatives from the Oxford and London Oratories, Diocesan clergy, led by Bishop Philip Pargeter, Auxiliary in Birmingham, and many other friends and acquaintances. It was a marvellous tribute to a man whose life had touched and influenced so many down the years.

Father Michael bore the months of his final illness with great patience and good humour, and with complete resignation to the will of God, as a true son of St Philip. And so, at the end of his dedicated priestly life, we pray for him in the words of the Church’s liturgy: “Lord, you gave Michael, Your servant and priest, the privilege of a holy ministry in this world. May he rejoice for ever in the glory of Your Kingdom, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”