Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mrs T and the Fannon

One of my parishioners was up at St Paul's with the great and the good at Lady Thatchers funeral, I can't help but be a little amused by the thought of "Mrs T" preferring a privatised funeral put out to tender, but let's leave that wicked thought there.

Looking at the footage there were quite a few politicians and public figures who are not known for their Christian faith. I sympathise with the authorities at St Paul's, there is strange mixture of Church and State coming together to provide a piece of national pageantry. Now, as a nation we no longer follow the rhythms of the Christian calendar, there is a need for public celebrations of public grief and joy, and Royal weddings or funerals, or funerals like yesterday's fulfil a need.

The problem for the Cathedral authorities is how to avoid, on the one hand, merely supplying a space for a national event and on the other hand presenting something which is beyond the comprehension of those present and those viewing on the television. The answer the cathedral authorities came up with was a blend of stately ceremonial, using such signs and symbols as black vestments, unbleached candles, together music and texts that spoke of Christian hope. I know the hymns were the Baronesses choice, and presumably the use of the King James Bible, but I suspect much else was provided by the clergy in consultation with her children. As a 'bespoke' liturgy it worked well, it spoke of a Christian sense of the tragedy of Christian death and of Christian triumph over death. For all its splendour it had a simple message. For a different congregation such as group of ardent believers a more complex message might have been given.

I had a conversation with a priest friend recently and we were trying to understand the difference between Benedict and Francis and came up with the idea that Pope Benedict could speak to those who understood the significance of the pontifical dalmatic or the fannon whereas Pope Francis is speaking to people who barely understand that Christians are supposed to be good and trust in God. Hence so many journalists seemed incapable of comprehending anything Pope Benedict said but seem to latch on the Francis' baby kissing or condemnation of grumbling or tarot cards.

I am not sure how Archbishop Nichols, or more likely his successor will deal with the semi-state funeral of Tony Blair - now we have a precedent it is bound to lead to that. As Catholics we do not have the facility to strip down our liturgy (or our theology) at Requiem  Mass to the kind of service St Paul's put on yesterday. The tragedy of Christian death and of Christian triumph over death, is certainly there in a Requiem Mass but actually for a modern mixed congregation without careful explanation half of what happens - the liturgy of Eucharist - most are lost and have no idea of what is happening at the altar, and even more so at the altar rail.

So many of the people we celebrate funeral's for, both the corpse and its relatives, are very far from being Catholics in good standing, they are often like Mrs T herself in irregular marriages, with their own theology and with a morality that is far from that of the Church.



Mrs Thatcher's funeral had an very interesting Christian back story.

She specifically requested that the reading from John which included the most famous evangelising quote of all time (John 3:16) to be read by the current Prime minister whatever political party they were from.

She knew that this was the one time that the Prime Minister was was specifically involved and that the cameras would not only be on them live, but that this would be one of the images that would be shown on news reels afterwards.

This is why we got the repeated clip of.......

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life".

She was evangelising from the grave (so to speak). I found this very moving. I even found myself thinking 'Good on you Maggie'.

Of course, Mrs T was a solid Christian who was brought up a Methodist in Grantham.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Fr.Ray. However, (That however is NOT a "but")
" As Catholics we do not have the facility to strip down our liturgy (or our theology)"

It is alleged that a major stripping down occurred at T Blair's reception into Catholic Church.

Sixupman said...

At a church I sometimes hear Mass, I noted that there were to be three funerals during the following weekdays. Two were described as Requiem Masses and one as a "Funeral Service" - I am confused.

Pablo the Mexican said...

There are many great and wonderful churches to live in.

Holy Mother Church is the only one to die in.

Outside the Church there is no salvation.

Satan has long ago set the almost churches in place as part of his long range plan for the destruction of the Kingdom of Christ.

Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Priests have labored mightily to destroy Holy Mother Church to no avail.

Our Lord is with it until the end of time.

Let the Freemasons have their 'Churches'; even some Catholic ones.

Our Lord knows His sheep and His sheep know Him.

The Tridentine Mass Catholics are all about that, as well a few Catholics trapped in the Novus Ordo.


John Nolan said...

Tony Blair - it will be Westminster Cathedral, but without much pomp; a touchy-feely vernacular N.O. with hymns. Cherie will probably want white vestments (they like them in Liverpool).

You probably won't get to hear the choir singing "My way".

George said...

I wish what you said were true, but don't you think that the modern Catholic Church is all too accomodating to pulling off services just like the one performed for Lady Thatcher?

Today Cardinal O'Malley is hosting an interfaith service in Boston's Holy Cross Cathedral. President Obama along with a host elite non-Catholics are within the Cathedral and fully participating in the service. I hope the Blessed Sacrament has been removed, but I somehow doubt it.

Regarding your last line - was Thatcher really that opposed to Catholic morality? I mean both sides of the modern, western political divide are non-Catholic in their solutions. I personally think she is more Catholic than Gerry Adams.

Doodler said...

Baroness Thatcher was a widow and therefore not, at the time of her death, *in an irregular marriage*. Who are we to judge her?

johnf said...

The 'funeral service' that you mention might be presided over by a deacon rather than the Parish Priest.

We had one such service recently when the Parish Priest was not available to say a Requiem Mass and presumably a stand in could not be found.

Our Deacon, a caring and Holy man conducted a funeral service for the family.

akp5401 said...

In Gibraltar we only have funeral services. A Requiem Mass is then offered a few days or so later. Possibly this grew out of the need in hot countries to bury the dead quickly; even now funerals are still held on the day of death or the next; rarely later than two days at most. This service would most likely be ideal for the situation mentioned above; proper, but much less room for confusion.

JARay said...

It is only a week ago that a funeral service was held at our local cemetery for a fellow parishoner. At one time both he and his wife were active parishoners. His wife was always a bit "odd". She ceased practicing and when her husband died she refused to have a requiem Mass for him and insisted on a "service" at the cemetery chapel. I had a Mass said for him anyway.

Victoria said...

Some years ago here in Australia a convicted drug dealer and non-practising Catholic was given a cathedral funeral.

gemoftheocean said...

Pablo, you have a rather narrow view of the faith. How do YOU account for the fact that the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church holds Moses, Elijah, and other worthies as Saints?

Hint: I don't know what little pamphlets you've been reading, but I suggest you read something else to find the answer. Preferably the authorized catechism.

I suggest you start here and pay special attention to #847.

I suspect it may be nuanced to a degree that you are not customarily used to absorbing. But try and read it several times verrrry slowly, and God willing, and iffin' the crick don't rise, the light of Catholic wisdom may penetrate your skull.

Celia said...

The difference between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. I never had the faintest idea what all the vestments were about, but Benedict spoke very clearly to me (he's one reason I'm back in the Church after a long absence)and to anyone else capable of concentrating for 2 minutes. Francis ,and this is not an original thought, several others have expressed it, comes across like an old-fashioned parish priest, dealing in simple matters of morality. Should the Pope really have to be doing this? Isn't it in fact the job of parish priests many of whom in my experience have given up any idea of influencing parishioners long ago?

Mike Cliffson said...

FR :your final point about noncatholics at Catholic funerals.
This has not been our family's number one funeral priority, but has been taken care of , thanks to a century-and-a-bit-old skill , called typing, and the homePC's printer.
I pray that as well as their not being lost , it may have been for the good of good and wellmeaning attending friends' souls.
(NB NO eulogies. Solid sermons.)
At a national level, might work, too.
Worth a try.
As for foreseeable Beeb commentaries at a national, yet Catholic event........

Et Expecto said...

What a beautiful crozier the Bishop of London has!

Dr Frederick Jones said...

Why should the funeral of Mrs Thatcher set a precedent as that of Gladstone did not. In his case, to the disapproval of the Queen, the Prince of Wales acted as one of the bearers.

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