Thursday, February 01, 2007

On funerals


I have been waiting for the photocopier man to arrive, I spend most of my life waiting for delivery or repair men/women, well in fact it is always men. I was listening to the Radio, there was a piece about funerals, firing ashes from rockets, green funerals, do it yourself coffins and the like.
I started thinking about funerals, which can be horrific for visitors or even for relatives, dreadful hymns, well I can cope with them, it is the eulogy business I hate. It is something new form America, or Protestantism, I think.
The Church very sensibly forbids them at funeral Masses, really because we are remembering the deceased in the context of Christ’s death and resurrection. For Catholics funerals aren’t a celebration of the life of a person but an occasion to intercede for them and entrust them to the mercy of God, to remember the Resurrection, and yes, an occasion to give thanks for the blessings that God has given us through the deceased but it is Christ's saving death that is important.
The revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal promulgated by John Paul II in year 2000, says, "At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind."
What I hate is a relative coming up to Holy Communion with a script in their hands, reading it and dreading it throughout the distribution of Communion and then breaking down when she talks about Nan’s love for dogs and breaks down halfway through it.
There is a need to share memories of the departed, there is no prohibition in this taking place at the Vigil for the deceased, or at a Wake but perhaps the best time is at a reception after the interment or cremation, I certainly don’t mind someone talking at the graveside or the crematorium which tend to be family occasions.
I now most priests don’t seem to mind, am I being a bit too hard-line?
For my own funeral, when I get round to making a will, I am going to insist that the preacher if he mentions my me at all asks for prayers for my soul, talks of my great sinfulness and God’s saving mercy.
And remember Sean it is the black vestments!

7 comments:

Mac McLernon said...

I'll never forget being told by a priest that one of the worst experiences he had was at a cremation. The family wanted a "nice" hymn to finish with, and picked "Colours of Day"

Imagine the consternation at the chorus...
"so light up the fire, and let the flame burn,
open the doors...
"

I still get the giggles when I hear that song...

Anonymous said...

Black vestments! I love them. Can you really ask for them for your funeral?

Amazed priest said...

Can I believe what I've read? Surely you tell mourners what may and may not be permitted at funerals? I've seldom had problems like this. If treated courteously and the Church's practise explained all comply. The time for a personal tribute is between the post-communion prayer and the blessing, NEVER during the distributions of Holy Communion.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I don't think I suggested that they did a "tribute" at communion but rather they are thinking about it during communion. I do not forbid it, I suggest that there might be a better time to speak about the deceased than during Mass. I encourage it happen at other times, but because other priests locally allow a eulogy, if people are really set on it, so do I, though it is contrary to the GIRM and to the spirit of the liturgy, which is always Christocentric.

I don't see where you find, "The time for a personal tribute is between the post-communion prayer and the blessing". This has come about by custom not by deliberate design. I understand various Irish bishops and even English bishops have started discouraging it or even forbidding it.

Rev John said...

As a permanent deacon and funeral director I hear more "tributes" than most. I have heard them promote re-incarnation, denounce the Church, accuse parents of abuse emotional or sexual, to announce the deceased was a Free Mason, to further family quarrels, on two occassions this ending in a fight, actually once in the Church. I have heard poems which seem to be a direct contradiction of a Christian understanding of death, others which are so mawkish that they are embarassing. I have been to funerls where the tributor begins and then freezes on one occassion becoming so overaught they had to be taken to hospital.
My firm does what Father suggests and encourages families to use the reception, when everyone is much more relaxed to share thoughts and reflections.

Anonymous said...

I am totally against eulogies at funerals........it is sad that the instruction on this is ignored by so many at Catholic funerals. Even for the greatest Saint it would be inappropriate and the only sermons I think are right are those that speak of The Faith - with exhortation to pray for the deceased........so many modern catholic funerals seem to be conducted as though there were no such place as purgartory......or does it just happen that suddenly in this decadent 21st century we suddenly seem to have everyone so saintly that they all bypass purgatory?

therese said...

Wow, I've almost been Catholic for 10 years, and I didn't know eulogies weren't allowed at funeral Masses. I always wondered why the priests at our parish never said anything about the deceased during the homily! They did allow people to speak after the Rosary the evening before. This became quite uncomfortable once when a recent convert from protestantism passed away and a few protestants were allowed to speak. Father said, "NEVER AGAIN."