Queer Saint Michael Bernard Kelly

 This is my personal tribute to Rev Dr Michael Bernard Kelly , my friend Michael Kelly who left this world last Saturday

I wrote to him last week saying


T  hank you for being the person who enlightened me - made me realize I could be fully gay and fully spiritual and allowed me to draw on my Catholic heritage with pride. You gave me the words and concepts and confidence to express what I felt.


Michael was also a believer in the value of my art with all if its ambitions and flaws – he was MC at  my Scarlatta exhibition at the Convent in 2017 and went on to lead a ritual of cleansing in the convent cloister and we were working this year on a project to represent visually the ideas of his landmark erotic contemplative series . Michael also introduced me to the community of Easton Mountain his home base during frequent stays lecturing and giving retreats in the USA

Michael lived a life where he believed in the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh. There were aspects of Michael that were truly saintly.  While he tried to engage his nemesis Archbishop George Pell in conversation through the Rainbow Sash movement and was rebuffed, he never once responded with any enjoyment or sense of vindication when I would gleefully describe to him another step in the cardinal’s trial and imprisonment. On the fleshy side he was also open to talk about the joys of gay sex and appreciated a handsome and compassionate man as much as any gay man!


Earlier this year Michael showed me the grave site at the Sorrento cemetery where he will be shortly buried.  He chose a grave outside the denominational section of the Cemetery, in the company of other outcasts.  I said to him “Mike well chosen it will make a lovely site to visit in 100 years when the Catholic church repents of its treatment of its gay members and you are an official LGBTIQ saint!”

 He allowed himself a modest smile. Recognition of his seminal role in forming a bridge between the Christian and queer worlds will only increase over the years

Here is a quote from Bernard of Clairvaux

 “With my mouth I touch and worship Thee, With all the strength I have I cling to Thee, With all my love I plunge my heart in Thee, My very life-blood would I draw from Thee, Jesus, Jesus I draw me into Thee.”  


Thank you, Michael, for revealing what has been hidden in plain sight, may you enjoy the embrace of your resurrected lover.  I am working on a book “Ecce Homo Corona” of images done over the last few months. I wish I had the opportunity to collaborate more closely with Michael but there are several images directly inspired by the Erotic Contemplative ethos.

l dedicate the book to you Michael, Friend, Father , Mentor , Intellectual, Spiritual Director Brother.   I will keep you in my heart forever..


Sorrento is a beautiful sea side town 100 kms south of Melbourne 

Michael's service was held on a wet Monday morning - Michael had chosen a very humble postion at the outcasts section of the cemetery but recieved an upgrade of biblical dimensions when bones were discovered in his first choice grave.

Due to Covid 19 restrictions it was not possible to celebrate a requiem mass in a Church so the entire service was held grave side.  In Australia we have a tradition of DIY ( Do It Yourslf ) and we realized quickly that the Kelly family are really good at this.

The hearse arrived at the gates of the cemetery.

Michael was wrapped in white and laid out in an open wicker basket. He was escorted to the graveside by family members and friends from the Rainbow Sash movement . The rainbow flag was draped over the altar and the formalities began with a welcome by Michael's sister Noelene. Mike was very clear that he wanted the ritual to be planned and led by the family - with Noelene taking a key role.

Mother Irene Wilsom from the Emmaus Community, Father Barry Moran and Father John Rolley from the Old Catholics Church assisted the family.  Readings and speeches are described in the attached  program 

After a shared eucharist Michael's body was blessed with water and incensed 

After final prayers Michael was lowered into the ground and everyone threw flowers and shovelled sand into the grave 

Rest in Peace Michael 

Here is the text from the Funeral Booklet 

Our Farewell Ritual  

Our Farewell Ritual  

for our brother and friend,  Michael Kelly

Michael Bernard Kelly 

Born 27 July 1954 

Born deeper into Mystery 14 November 2020 

This is a very special day for us. The way we farewell Michael  today expresses much of the way he lived. You are part of that.  This celebration is also our gift to our brother, our mentor, our  lover, our spokesperson, our priest, teacher, our friend. Please  join us in making it beautiful and worthy of him.


Michael’s body will be brought in procession to the graveside by  family and friends.  

Song: Be Thou My Vision  

1 Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; 

naught be all else to me, save that thou art-- 

thou my best thought by day or by night, 

waking or sleeping, thy presence my light. 

2 Be thou my wisdom, thou my true word; 

I ever with thee thou with me, Lord; 

thou my great Father, and I thy true son; 

thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one. 

3 Be thou my battle shield, sword for the fight; 

be thou my dignity, thou my delight, 

thou my soul’s shelter, thou my high tow-er: 

raise thou me heav’n-ward, O Pow’r of my pow’r. 

4 Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, 

thou mine inheritance, now and alway: 

thou and thou only, first in my heart, 

High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

5 High King of heaven, after victory won, 

may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun! 

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, 

still be my vision, O Ruler of all 

6 Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; 

naught be all else to me, save that thou art-- 

thou my best thought by day or by night, 

waking or sleeping, thy presence my light. 

Welcome and Acknowledgement of Country: Noelene 


Michael’s sister Maureen will share some introductory reflections and  invite Bob Hinkley to call us to gather in the spirit of friendship Mike  shared with us all.  

Sharing of the Word 

Friends and family will share scripture readings that speak to them of  Michael - his life, his work, his many gifts - offered so courageously  and elegantly to the world.  

First Reading John 10:9-10: Terry Walshe 

I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: they will  go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. The thief comes  only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life  and have it to the full. 

Second Reading Ephesians 3:14-19: Rose Marie Prosser 

This, then, is what I pray, kneeling before our Creator, from whom  every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name: 

Out of infinite glory, may you be given the power, through God’s  Spirit, for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in  your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love,  you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the  length, the height and the depth; until knowing the love of Christ,  which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of  God.  

Musical Interlude: Ashokan Farewell 

Third Reading Song of Songs 2:10-13, 16a: Will Day 

My beloved lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my love, my  lovely one, come. For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come,  

the cooing of turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming  its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance. Come  then, my love, my lovely one, come. My Beloved is mine, and I am  his.  

Fouth Reading Psalm 40: 8,10-11: Noelene Kelly 

‘Here I am! I am ready!’ 

I have never kept your righteousness to myself, but have spoken of  your faithfulness and saving help; I have made no secret of your love  and faithfulness in the Great Assembly.  

Prayers of the Community: Peter


Bread broken and shared 

The sharing of eucharist was central to Michael’s life. We learn again  the depths of ‘presence’ and ‘sacrament’ as we share this bread with  one another and, in new ways, with him - and with all our ancestors  in faith.  

Barry Moran of the Catholic tradition, John Rolley of the Old  Catholic tradition, and Irene Wilson who, with John and Michael, led  the Emmaus Community at Abbotsford Convent, will lead us in this  sharing of the consecrated bread of eucharist.  

Distribution of Communion: We invite all to share this sacrament  with us. Please wait until all have received so that we can eat eucharist  together. 

Song: Breathe on me Breath of God 

1 O Breathe on me, O Breath of God, 

fill me with life anew, 

 that I may love the things you love, 

 and do what you would do. 

2 O Breathe on me, O Breath of God, 

 until my heart is pure, 

 until my will is one with yours, 

 to do and to endure.

3 O Breathe on me, O Breath of God, 

 My will to yours incline 

 until this selfish part of me 

 glows with your fire divine. 

4 O Breathe on me, O Breath of God, 

 so I shall never die 

 but live with you the perfect life 

 for all eternity. 

Prayer after Communion 

Prayer of Commendation and Farewell 


With faith in Life, we reverently bring the body of our brother to be  buried in its human imperfection.  

We give thanks for the man we have known and loved in this human  vessel of clay.  

We now give it back to the Earth. Michael needs it no more. We  reverence it for the love we have known through it.  


Jo and Maria will bless Michael’s body with water. All life on this  planet is nourished by the gift of water. Jesus used it powerfully as a  symbol of Life and renewal, of healing and transformation. 


Peter will now give Michael a good dose of incense. All that exists is  holy. This body - Michael’s body - is holy and worthy of honour. We  have known so much and been given much through this body. We  reverence it as we prepare to lay it down.  


Michael, we are with you, and today, with joy and with sorrow, we  send you on your way with a loving farewell. 

The journey that began 66 years ago in Middle Park reaches  its fulfillment today as you pass into the arms of love and  transformation.  

We call on all those who have gone before us, on the whole  community of Life, to welcome you - fully and joyfully - into the  ‘mysterious cosmic dance’.  

All: Go forward now, Christian soul! 

May the angels lead you into paradise. 

May the martyrs come to welcome you. 

May all the saints lead you, with rejoicing into the holy city  where we will meet one day in the presence of our God. 

Committal (As Michael’s body is being lowered)  


Having known and loved Michael, we come now to give his body  back to the Earth.

Michael, into the dark warmth of the Earth 

ALL We lay you down 

Into the arms of your ancestors 

ALL We lay you down 

Into the great cycle of living and dying and rising again All We lay you down 

May the Earth cover and protect this treasure which we now place in  her care.  

ALL May the God of Life gather you into fullness and joy. 

We give thanks for the depth of life and love we have shared with  Michael. We give thanks for how we have been changed because of  him. May we carry his legacy forward.  

May we continue to speak his name. 

ALL Amen 

Noelene: Invitation to fill Michael’s grave.

Thank you for sharing this day with us and for  making this such a rich and personal celebration of  Michael’s life.  

Michael said many times that, as a gesture of  thanks for all the personal and practical support he  received throughout his illness, he wanted to shout  us all lunch at a ‘tasteful’ Sorrento venue.  

Please join us on the West Deck of  

The Baths Cafe/Restaurant at 1pm  

to share food and drink and memories.  See you there!

Michael was to me  

always a friar minor  in his concern for the  disenfranchised, the  abandoned, the sick,  

the misunderstood, the  persecuted. He was their  champion. This concern  extended to the earth in  deep appreciation for our  home. Kevin ofm 

‘O captain, my captain’.  Mick was our ‘Dead  Poets Society’ teacher  …..and later, our ‘gay  Gandhi’. Anthony 

The Lord brought  

people into his life  like a flock. We were  so hugely varied but  

united in our friendship  with Michael. Kevin 

I love the memory of having  you in my home in Jerusalem  for that Advent gathering. I  remember looking around at  the room and realizing there  were almost more non-straight  people there than straight  people, but that none of them  knew about each other. They  had told me alone, because  they knew I was “safe”. Just  like you were safe for me.  Carrie

He was truly a  

gift from God who  showed so many a  way to have a truly  deeper relationship  with the Creator. I  

will always treasure  my fraternal  

relationship with  Michael. Dennis 

He was a great blessing in my life. If there is  any consolation in his death, it is in the fact  that his work will continue to inspire, guide,  and console so many for years to come. Bryan 

I am joyful that Michael’s decades of  faithfulness and audacity are soon  to be rewarded in the peace that  

passeth all understanding. Shalom,  good friend, and Godspeed. Jay 

I remember  

Michael at my  wedding with  

Tom. After the  readings and being  interviewed by  RTE television, he  has his tie off and  is in great form  on the dance floor.  Brendan 

Tribute by friend Will Day read out at the funeral 

Some Thoughts about Michael Kelly.


As our queer Godfather North American poet and mystic Walt Whitman reminded us: We contain multitudes...and Michael, like most of us has many aspects. I'd like to say a little about a couple of those which I greatly appreciate.

We first met at a cafe by the sea in Elwood about 25 years ago, one of many meetings in cafes overlooking Michael's beloved Port Phillip Bay. As we parted he said 'Lets stay in touch, its always good to meet another contemplative.'

I wasn't sure that I identified with that label but Michael knew he had a contemplative heart. Although he had his insecurities and doubts Michael had a confidence, a pride and dignity about who he was, about his calling, and his mission.

And he extended  this dignity, pride and confidence to include his queer community: he insisted we be respected, and he was indignant at any affront to us.

He was, and is, in so many ways our champion. And I believe that conviction, that self  belief and belief in his community was anchored in his contemplative heart.

Part of Michael's consciousness, it seemed to me, was abiding in, being nourished and energised by  very deep pools...  ...all those hours spent wandering the lonely coastal beaches, times alone in prayer and reflection (and at times great struggle), countless hours sitting by himself in a cafe, sipping coffee  and quietly gazing out at the waters of the Bay...

In that little contemplative classic 'The Cloud of Unknowing' the author tells us to 'Leave my contemplatives alone. Leave them to their sitting, resting and enjoying, you don't know what is happening to them.”




One of the precious things about Michael was that he both abided in those depths and worked deeply in our ordinary world.

I'd like to mention a couple of small but telling examples of  Michael's deep work, but also of the great, mysterious Love that lies at the heart of our lives, that Michael was inspired by, and that dances up through us and out into the world.


*I found it very moving to hear my dear old friend Tricia describe Michael's visit to her elderly mother's hospital bed.

Tricia's mother had lived a very long and good life but was agitated and anxious as she approached death, and her family, gathered around her in the hospital were also anxious.

Most of the family had never met Michael.

Tricia describes how Michael entered the room, sat beside her dying mother, took her hand, and together they began praying the rosary. Tricia told me that everyone settled and her mother relaxed into a deep peace. When it was time for Michael  to leave she didn't want to let go of his hand.

After Michael had left, Tricia's brother who she describes as a 'bah humbug athiest', turned to her, amazed, saying; “Who was that guy?!!”

I'm reminded of the first line of  the prayer of Michael's beloved Francis of Assisi; 'Make me an instrument of your peace.'


*About 10 years ago I was at a Radical Faeries gathering at the Abbotsford Convent where I got talking with a chap, a gay man. I  asked him if he had read the book 'Seduced By Grace' by Michael Kelly. There was a pause after which he said; “Yesterday morning I was sitting in a cafe reading that book, and weeping.'

I wonder how many people, and how many gay men, have been deeply moved  or brought to tears by Michael's writing, his workshops, his liturgies or conversations? Those  tears, as far as I can see, are holy tears; tears of cleansing,  of healing, of bringing in the new, of reclaiming life.

Michael's work reverberates and ripples out and I believe it will continue to do so.


*In 2009 the World Parliament of Religions met in Melbourne, over 6000 people attended and  hundreds of  talks and events were offered, centred around the Exhibition Centre in Southbank.

Michael saw an early draft of the program and at that time there were no LGBTI events offered. Michael immediately went to work to address what to him was a completely disrespectful omission.

On a cloudy Saturday morning Michael, myself and two others sat in a reasonably sized room preparing the session. I thought perhaps a handful of people would show up; it was a Saturday, the venue was very busy with about 30 other sessions scheduled at the same time as ours.

But our session was packed and very lively, with people standing at the back. We heard story after story of grief and hurt but the room was filled with joy and a kind of bubbling delight because we had gathered together, scores of queer folk from all over the world, acknowledging and sharing our religious and spiritual stories.

Conversations were had, connections were made, the channels of healing and change were enlivened and a whole new set of reverberations were set in motion. Thanks to Michael Kelly.

How often over the past 30 years has a version of this pattern been repeated: Michael's seed, once planted, sprouts and flourishes thereby enabling other seeds  to be planted, to sprout and to grow.




Michael died last Saturday morning and I heard the news on the Sunday afternoon but when I sat to meditate on Saturday evening, and began to include Michael in my prayers, as so many of us have been doing over the months, I was surprised by the sense of an open,  clear, clean space and the definite impression that this man did not need my prayers, that he was completely ok. The same thing happened on the Sunday morning. When I heard on Sunday afternoon that Michael had died it all made sense.

So in the spirit of that experience, and in acknowledgment of Michaels request, his insistence, that we ought embrace and celebrate beautiful gritty eros in both its earthiness and its Divinity, I would like to close with these lines of joyous arrival, of love and Springtime from the Song of Solomon:


My beloved  spoke, and said unto me,

rise  up  my love, my fair one, and come away.

For, lo, the winter is past,  the rain is over and gone;

the flowers appear on  the earth;

and the time of the singing of birds is come. Alleluia.

And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

the fig tree putteth forth  her green figs,

and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.

Arise my love, my fair one, and come away.

My beloved  is  mine, and I am his. Alleluia


I already miss Michael, and yet he is still here.



N.B. I was that radical faerie Will refers to, crying at the cafe reading Michael's book with the joy of finally being understood