Praying for the dead

I clicked on Fox News to see if the late Tony Snow’s funeral is being covered.

The Mass will be at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

I was struck be the lead up to the coverage.

All the talking heads were chatting about "remembering" Tony, and "eulogizing" him, and "paying respect", etc.

Folks, the purpose of a funeral Mass is the pray for the person who died.

I am not saying that the Mass itself will be lacking.  It has not started yet.  I am not saying that every TV wonk or anchor must have a Catholic understanding of Holy Mass for the dead. 

This experience simply spurred me to stress this point for you readers, some of whom may have never heard these things before.

Funerals are not canonizations.  They are not simply moments to "celebrate a person’s life" or "remember the good times".

The purpose of a funeral, of a Mass, is to intercede with God will forgive the temporal punishment due to sin the deceased may not have had the opportunity to do penance for while alive.

We are praying for God’s mercy, not that God look on us all and celestially opine "Boy, they’re all just wonderful as they are!"

Do not forget to pray for the dead.

Alas, decades of banal translations and white vestments, sentimentality and truly lousy theology have distorted the perception of the Catholic faith and priests about what funeral Masses are for.

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67 Responses to Praying for the dead

  1. Private says:

    I am seeking links to sites where appropriate music for a Funeral Mass, either EF or NO, may be found. Are there particular restrictions on which pieces may be selected? Is there a prohibition against mixing EF and NO music in an EF Funeral Mass? An NO Funeral Mass? Thanks.

  2. Chironomo says:

    This is a CONSTANT effort for musicians in a parish… the average funeral is prepared as though it is a “recap” of the persons life and an opportunity to display interesting things about the person to those who attend. From requesting “their favorite song” (most often by Frank Sinatra, Josh Groban, Bette Midler et al…)to displaying items from the persond life ON THE ALTAR and the endless “eulogies” that consist in sharing a summation of the persons life and relationships with all present… the actual purpose of a funeral Mass has been long ago lost in the shuffle. Again… another place where some decisive RULES (not “guidelines”) need to be enforced.

  3. Pater, OSB says:

    I once heard priest say “funerals are for the living” – I responded, “No, they’re for the dead.”

    Unfortunately, the former is the sentiment of many clergy and laity – and all the while to think that actually disrespects the living… as if prayer has no efficacy.

  4. LCB says:

    Fr. Z,

    You must still be stuck in pre-Vatican II theology of oppression. In the New Church we believe that everyone automatically goes to heaven, because a loving God would never punish us or make us responsible for our own actions and choices. Now Church teaching has changed, we believe that a funeral is really an inclusive time to celebrate ourselves and our diversity. It is through these things that we discover that we are Church.

  5. josephus muris saliensis says:

    Thanks for this, Father. In England, the eulogising, “life-celebrating” funeral is becoming ubiquitous, with otherwise good priests falling into this pattern and avoiding preaching about the theology of Christian death, supposedly in order “not to upset the non-Catholics present”. We need to be reminded about the need and possibilities of prayer for the dead, in the hope that we too may one day be the beneficiaries. Why has this doctrine of Mercy come to be presented as one of Judgement?

    On a similar subject, very little word has been said of the Plenary Indulgence attached to the Pauline Year. The English bishops have said nothing, and I know very few parish newletters have mentioned it. This indulgence under the usual conditions of Confession, Holy Communion and Prayer for the Poe, may be fulfilled daily through the the year by visit to a shrine of St Paul; or if this is not possible, any church; of if this is not possible (ie for the housebound), prayer at home. The indulgence is applicable to the faithful departed.

  6. TJM says:

    Father Z has nailed it again. “Happy” style funerals are the refuge of Catholics who have lost their way theologically. I also believe “Happy”
    funerals are a denial of basic human emotion. Tom

  7. josephus muris saliensis says:

    “Private” – the gregorian chant for the EF and OF Requeim Mass are more or less the same. The Gradual may be used in either, instead of the Responsorial Psalm on the OF, and the Dies Irae (that great hymn to Divine Mercy and Love, for some odd reason now regarded as being doom-laden) is omitted in the OF, but may be sung eslwhere, say at the Offertory. (At the OF Pontifical Requiem for the Grand Master of the Oder of Malta in the presence of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor it was sung at the normal place before the Gospel, so perhaps this is a response to the MP’s desire that the two forms illuminate each other ;-). ) The Absolutions have changed: the Subvenite is sung instead of the Libera Me, but again, this could be sung at Communion, if you wished.

    In the parish I was in for 10 years in London all Requiems were gregorian Novus Ordo Latin.

  8. Rev. Dr. Mike says:

    praying for the dead; is that like “limbo” for a child not batized?

    just what is the praying for the dead based on from the Bible? (or tradition; just wondering)

  9. Ken says:

    For the supposed Requiem Mass for Tim Russert, both Theodore Cardinal McCarrick and Sister Lucille said, from the sanctuary, that Mr. Russert was already in heaven.

    Makes one wonder 1) what news service they get from above; and 2) why anyone bothers with a Requiem Mass anymore. Just have the after-party.

  10. frobuaidhe says:

    …and pray for the living trying to do the right thing for the dead.

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/catholics-furious-at-funeral-songs-ban-13909443.html

  11. This past April 2, I attended a solemn high Requiem Mass for John Paul II (on his 3rd anniversary) conducted by the FSSP at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament (Mother Angelica’s) in Alabama. It being an EF Mass for the dead, there was of course no sermon at the usual point; indeed, no word in the vernacular either read, said, or sung during Mass proper.

    But after the Mass and before the blessing at the black catafalque topped with papal red, the celebrant removed his chasuble and donned the black cope that had hung during Mass in the sanctuary, lit candle on one side, processional cross on the other side, signifying the deceased pontiff, and mounted the pulpit for his “tribute”, which never until the last two sentences mentioned the deceased, instead outlined why the solemn Requiem Mass is the most impressive (and expressive) of all Catholic liturgies, dealing directly as it does with death as the wages of sin — after which each of us can expect judgment followed by either purgatory or hell — with the sole and undiluted purpose throughout of offering sacrifice for the repose of the soul of the deceased. He ended by saying (very closely, as I recall)

    “Perhaps someday we will be praying to John Paul as Blessed. But today we pray instead for the repose of his soul, that he may in time be permitted to join the ranks of the blesseds in heaven.”

  12. PG says:

    My father’s funeral this past January was like this; there was no mention in the “homily” about the need to pray for my dear Dad’s soul. After the homily the priest, a relative of the family, came over to us and whispered “wasn’t that a great commemoration” or something to that effect.

    It was a nice memorial, but it wasn’t the time or place for it. I was stunned but not entirely surprised. It was par for the course for this priest.

    I pray for this priest and all priests AND I continue to pray for the repose of my father’s soul and for all the faithful departed.

  13. Marilyn says:

    Father, thank you for your comments on this subject. I recently went to a funeral Mass (NO) for a very young woman who had died suddenly. It was a traumatic event for the family. The Mass was just as you have described–we were told this was a celebration of her life, and we heard how wonderful she was. Not once did the priest mention praying for her soul. I was saddened by the whole thing.

    I also appreciate anything anyone can post about appropriate music for a funeral mass in the NO. My mother is quite elderly and she has not been in good health, and I know that the arrangements for the funeral Mass will fall to me. I am most interesting in knowing what music can be used in the OF, and I would also like to know how easy or difficult it would be to find musicians who are willing/able to play those selections.

  14. Michael B. says:

    Rev. Dr. Mike,
    Here are some links to information about Purgatory and praying for the dead.
    God bless you.http:
    //www.catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0411fea3.asp
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04653a.htm
    http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ap070600.htm

  15. Prof. Basto says:

    Thanks, Father.

    Indeed Holy Mass for the dead is intimatelly linked with the doctrine on Purgatory.

    For, if the person is in hell, then there is no change in that. If the person is already in heaven, then that’s great, and the person does not need the Funeral Mass anymore. But we have no way of knowing that someone is in heaven for sure, even if someone was very pious, unless the person was formally canonized. And only a fraction of saints that lead exemplary lives are canonized as rolemodels for the Christian people. And, since we have no way of knowing who is indeed in heaven, even if we think that the person was very good and pious, we must not assume too much and pray for the repose of the soul, until recognition that the person is indeed in heaven is made by the Church by means of canonization.

    So, we pray for the dead in the assumption that they are in purgatory, in the hope that they are not in hell, and not assuming that someone is in heaven, because it would be wrong to assume that before canonization, since our private judgement could be wrong and even those non-canonized people that we privately think are in heaven can be in purgatory in need of our prayers.

  16. Mitchell says:

    We have lost so much..Reading posts like these just make me think.”What have we done?” The revolutionary changes that swept through the 70’s have just turned everything we knew upside down..A funeral should be a solemn event. If you even approach this topic with a Priest these days it is foreign even to them..At a recent family funeral I was coerced to bring up the “gifts” during Mass.. I flat out refused to do the reading. It was a NO service with the Priest in Violet. I brought my 1962 Missal and said the Prayers for the dead during the Mass. Not only were the liturgy and customs thrown out the window but so was the mentality. How do we recover that? It seems that will be the biggest obstacle. How do you make people understand they are supposed to be sad, supposed to pray for the deceased soul, as we do not know where it rests…People are now insulted by the subject. They want to Celebrate, and be told “All is OK, they are in Heaven now” Now may not be now.How do you get the message accross that this is indeed why we need to pray without stepping on people’s feet..And BTW I had everone asking me what I was doing with a Missal from 1962?. People still do not know they can be used.

  17. MAH says:

    Eamon Duffy wrote a good article on the poverty of the current funeral rite compared to the old Requiem Mass. I forget where it was first published (Priests and People or First Things maybe) but it is reproduced in ‘Faith of our Fathers.’

  18. Rev. Dr. Mike: just what is the praying for the dead based on from the Bible? (or tradition; just wondering)

    Someone familiar with patristics could supply numerous references from the apostolic fathers. But a standard biblical reference is 2 Maccabees 12:

    (43) And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (44) (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) (45) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. (46) It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

  19. Jim says:

    Rev. Dr. Mike’s comments leave me wondering whether Rev is a Catholic title as it pertains to him and whether his doctorate is in Catholic theology. If it is in Catholic theology, said education must have been sorely lacking in details, as prayer for the dead is a constant feature both of the Church Jesus established, and of Judaism.

    I’m thinking that perhaps I should make my wishes known beforehand, that when I die, I will not be eulogized at my funeral Mass. Also that it should be in the EF, with enough incense burned to block out the sun. I might also request that the priest wear black vestments (I may have to purchase a set of a reasonable size to accomodate the average height and girth of a priest).

    If they want to celebrate my life, I’d much prefer they hold a wake, and laugh and cry about their memories and my peculiarities over an ice cold keg of Guinness. Then when they get to my funeral Mass, it’ll all be out of their systems and they can focus on praying for my poor soul.

    Just a thought…

  20. Deusdonat says:

    FR Z- Do not forget to pray for the dead.

    Absolutely agreed. In my nightly prayers with my family, we go through prayers for the living for whom we have special intentions, then we go into praying for our deceased relatives, asking God to remember and receive them into His kingdom”. We have a shrine with photos of these relatives which go back 4 generations and we do this every night. I believe it gives subsequent generations a grounding in their own personal history as well as give them a sense there are people looking after them who are no longer walking this earth.

    Very good posts and sentiments, Father.

  21. Geoffrey says:

    Very interesting to hear about the Dies Irae making a return to its regular place before the Gospel in the Ordinary Form!

    Regarding people saying someone is in heaven: I don’t think people are being malicious or heretical, just hopeful, even if misplaced. They are mourning, after all. Let’s not be too harsh when people are grieving. Of course, pastors should know better. I for one pray for the repose of the soul of Tim Russert.

    Regarding the: “Perhaps someday we will be praying to John Paul as Blessed. But today we pray instead for the repose of his soul…” We can indeed pray to those in purgatory, if JPII is there. After all, his miraculous intercession is needed if he is to be beatified and canonized.

  22. Geoffrey says:

    “At a recent family funeral I was coerced to bring up the ‘gifts’ during Mass.. I flat out refused to do the reading. It was a NO service with the Priest in Violet.”

    My sister and I brought up the gifts at our paternal grandmother’s funeral Mass, and there was nothing wrong with that. And violet is better than white! Do they even make new/modern vestments in black?

  23. josephus muris saliensis says:

    No, I take it Rev Dr. Mike is a protestant Minister, so let’s be kind, please. I hope he will read the excellent links posted by Michael B. they will answer his legitimate question.

    The “Coffeeshop Apologetics” one was charming, and manages to slip great truths in alongside its conversational tone. I have bookmarked that site for future use.

  24. mwa says:

    Here is a basic article with some suggestions for funeral music from the Adoremus Society
    http://www.adoremus.org/0906FuneralMusic.html
    In most parishes the funeral music will have to be arranged through the parish music director; it may be difficult to use options not on the parish list, or to bring in other musicians.

  25. M. A. Labeo says:

    I am surprised that only one comentator has mentioned the possibility of applying a plenary indulgence for any departed soul.

    As per current version of Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, published by Paenitentiaria Apostolica, among other feasible ways, plenary indulgence may be earned by praying the rosary under the following conditions:
    1.- Usual ones (Confession, Holy Communium, prayer for Pope’s intentions)
    2.- To vocally pray five decades without interruption.
    3.- To pray it in in any church or oratory.
    4.- Misteries must be meditated (when praying alone) or proclaimed (if praying in group)

    I have no training in Theology but, as far as I can see it, after passing away, a soul:
    1.- May have gone to Hell; nothing can be done.
    2.- May be in Purgatory. A plenary indulgence frees him/her immediately and enters in Heaven.
    3.- May be already in Heaven… well, hallelujah.

    So you may guess what I do ASAP after anyone whom I love passes away.

    Upon the topic of offering Masses for people whom are believed to be already saints, even if not proclaimed, I recently heard Fr. James Manjackal, MSFS, to say:
    “Although I really believe that my parents are in Heaven, I offer them Masses every month, and Gregorian Masses from time to time. Why if I believe that they are already saints?. Because I love them and this is the greatest gift I can offer them.” (I’m relying on my memory, but it was very close to this).

    P.S. If someone wants to make use of this information, I beg him to double-check. I am native Spanish speaking and not fluent in Latin so this carries two translations (Latin-Spanish-English) which I do not vouch for being slavishly enough accurate (© Fr. Z)

  26. LCB says:

    Rev. Dr. Mike,

    Firstly, please know my previous post was satire ;-)

    Secondly, you wrote, “praying for the dead; is that like “limbo” for a child not batized? just what is the praying for the dead based on from the Bible? (or tradition; just wondering)”

    I reply: The links provided to you are solid. However, none of them will address the issue of limbo. Limbo is a theological concept (not a Church teaching at all) developed by some to try and discern “What happens to unbaptized babies who perish?” I’m sure there are some who would be glad to discuss limbo with you, but it’s not a Church teaching.

    The coffee shop link is really a good one. I’m sure we’ll be glad to answer any questions you have after reading those links. I look forward to feature dialog, and better understanding what it is you believe and why you believe it.

  27. Deusdonat says:

    Rev. Mike – just what is the praying for the dead based on from the Bible? (or tradition; just wondering)

    Actually, it is VERY scriptural/biblical. Although you most likely do not receive the benefit of this scripture and most likely you are working from an incomplete abridged/edited bible.

    One of the biggest references for praying for the dead comes from 2 Maccabees 39-46):

    40 But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain.

    41 They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden.

    42 Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen.

    43 He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view;

    44 for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.

    45 But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.

    46 Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.

    Were there no purgatory or period of purification after someone dies (i.e. simply heaven and hell) then there would be no reason to pray for the dead. Either they are eternally in heaven (no need to pray for them) or eternally in hell (no escape from hell, so prayers are futile).

    There are other scriptural references as well, but this one is the most evident.

  28. Matthew Robinson says:

    I am dreading not only the death, but almost as much, the Novus Ordo funeral of any close family member or friend.

    The contrived, forced “joy”, the eulogizing, the banality, the utter desolation of the “celebration of life” approach, it’s as almost as bad as death itself.

    Objectively speaking, I believe the soul also isn’t receiving the fullness of grace in these types of ceremonies. The kind of graces if would, when taking the traditional approach. I don’t care what arguments to the contrary, if I can’t even grasp a sense of grace in these impromptu canonizations, how can the deceased person’s soul receive a full measure from this (non)prayer? (not that supernatural grace is automatically sensed emotionally / physically but you know what I mean).

    I think our age is truly a tragedy….not only more sin around and less faith in the world, but the dead get a watered down balm as well.

  29. Dark Radiance says:

    Since I have an uncle that is actively dying of cancer, this was an especially important reminder for me. Thanks Father Z.

  30. Larry says:

    The funeral Mass as no where else shows the rupture between what Mass is supposed to be and what people think it is. No hwere else are the rubrics less regarded especially in regards to the homily.
    If the deceased is a notable the holmily ususally becomes a recounting of his/her life. Thankfully this tends to be only when someone is notable. Of ocurse for the ordinary person all too often the priest has no idea who he or she was; but, he still seldom calls on those present to pray for the deceased. Even though he knows little or nothing of the deceased he seems to assume that since he isn’t a known axe-murdereder he must be in heaven. Oddly enough yesterday after Mass at the TLM chapel they were preparing for a funeral. When I saw all the black being set out I felt a great aversion. While I have long desired that my own funeral would be of such a form merely seeing it’s preparation nearly horrified me. Perhaps it is the thought that I don’t want my loved ones to feel sadness. I have mixed feelings on the issue for whom are funerals celebrated. Yes very definitely they are for the soul of the deceased; but, they also serve as a stark reminder to the living that this is inevitable and they should get their act together. Of course with the NO getting the act together is more in planning another party rather than repentence.

  31. Réquiem ætérnam dona ei Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat ei. Requiéscat in pace.

    Tony Snow, rest in peace.

    Amen.

  32. mwa says:

    Some website had a form for a funeral “advance directive,” to prevent the hijacking of one’s requiem Mass by family-in-denial or parish “ministries” (check this story out http://www.canticanova.com/articles/misc/art7s1.htm). I foolishly didn’t copy it at the time–Does anyone know where to find it?

  33. Brian Day says:

    I have an elderly family member who will probably die within the next 6 months (she is 91 years old). The OF of the Mass will be the one used (the EF is not an option at the moment). Are there legitimate options within the OF other than the Mass of the Resurection/Mass of Christian Burial that I can ask for? Or is the Mass in Christian Burial celebrated in Violet vestments the closest to a Requiem Mass that I can get?

    I am swamped at the moment, and a quick search at the USCCB site was of no help. Any suggestions?

  34. Chad says:

    Amen, Fr. Z. Pardon my newbieness, but the ‘White Vestments’ comment went over my head. I’m pretty familiar with the travesty of losing Catholic Culture post-VaticanII, but this was new to me.

    Can someone explain the “White Vestments” comment?

    Thanks!

  35. Matthew Robinson says:

    Fr.Z can do a better job explaining this, but from what I understand, white vestments are used to symbolize the Resurrection (but doesn’t this already send an instant canonization message?) while the traditional black vestments were used to symbolize, penance, mourning and solemnity.

  36. MSusa says:

    Actually, we are putting it in our will least our children forget what we taught them.
    And also in case the priest gets “confused” and thinks we are already in heaven.

  37. Warren says:

    Are not funerals BOTH for the dead AND the living? The Funeral Mass (OF & EF) is a wonderful expression of the Communion of the Saints offering their prayers for the deceased. For me – this next phrase is admittedly a personal opinion – the white vestments express well the hope of resurrection without ignoring the fact that we must pray for the dead. “Lord, gran to [N] a swift and merciful judgment.” I agree, there is no place for sentimental eulogies at Mass, or even at the end of Mass. People should attend the wake or save their stories for a reception.

    The focus at Mass should be on the Resurrected Lord, given that the Lord is really present in the Eucharist. Indeed, if people graft themselves to the prayers said during Mass, there is great consolation to be found. If we acknowledge the objective fact that the Lord is Present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, should we not take the time to ask Him for the repose of the soul of the departed? And so, the Funeral Mass is also for the living, to strengthen us in hope, to draw us closer to Jesus, to help us meditate on that debt that all men must pay.

  38. “Or is the Mass in Christian Burial celebrated in Violet vestments the closest to a Requiem Mass that I can get?”

    No. Paragraph 346(e) of the (Novus Ordo) U.S. GIRM (http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/current/chapter6.shtml ) reads as follows:

    Besides violet, white or black vestments may be worn at funeral services and at other Offices and Masses for the Dead in the Dioceses of the United States of America.

    Thus black vestments are perfectly acceptable for a funeral Mass. If your parish doesn’t have any, why not donate some before they’re needed? And include in the conditions attached to the donation that your own requiem Mass is to be offered for the repose of you soul, not for the consolation of your heirs.

  39. petrus69 says:

    If I may make a comment concerning using white vestments for a funeral mass. The church has always used black vestments for funerals and or requiem masses because this is a sad day there is nothing joyous about this. The use of white vestment is a post-vatican ll concept because priest no longer preach about hell and or purgagtory. Everybody goes to heaven is the current mentality which of course is false. We know there is a hell because Our of Lady of Fatima revealed it to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, the latter of course are declared Blessed. And since we have not heard anything to the contrary from the Vatican that these visions were false we should believe and also and most important the Church teaches us that there is a heaven and that there is a hell and purgatory.
    If a baptized child dies before the age of reason the vestments are white they are the only ones accorded this previlege and instead of a requiem mass chanted, the mass of angels takes precedence

  40. Ken says:

    It’s amazing how President Bush, not yet a Catholic (although surrounded by them, including his chief speechwriter), has a deeper understanding of a Requiem Mass than many bishops and priests.

    From the Basilica Shrine today:

    The day Tony was born was also the day that many of his fellow Catholics pay tribute to Saint Justin. Justin was also a gifted thinker and writer, and a powerful witness for the Christian faith. Because of his beliefs, he suffered many times of trial, and in the year 165 A.D. he was arrested. Before he received a sentence of death, he was asked: “If you are killed, do you suppose you will go to heaven?” Justin replied: “I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it.”

    Tony Snow knew that, as well. That brought him great peace. When talking about the struggle he waged so admirably, he said that no matter how bad times may sometimes seem, “God doesn’t promise tomorrow, he does promise eternity.”

    And so today we send this man of faith and character and joy on his final journey. Tony Snow has left the City of Washington for the City of God. May he find eternal rest in the arms of his Savior. And may the Author of all creation watch over his family and all those who loved him, admired him, and will always cherish his memory.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/remarks-president-funeral-service-tony/story.aspx?guid=%7BAC67CEDF-91FC-478A-A0E5-1494EFCEB826%7D&dist=hppr

  41. Ken says:

    By the way, I’m not saying the above is perfect. For one, a eulogy itself is not appropriate at a Requiem Mass and the traditional feast day for Saint Justin is 14 April, not 1 June. But I thought it was striking to see — yet again — this president pray for the soul of the deceased rather than canonizing him like most novus ordo priests and bishops do during a celebrity funeral.

  42. Brian Day says:

    Henry Edwards,

    Thanks. But that wasn\’t quite what I was searching. I am aware of the options for vestment colors. I was thinking more of the form that the liturgy takes, in how to make sure that the Mass is not a celebration of the person\’s life, but to make sure that prayers for the dead are offered.

    I just reviewed the GIRM (chapter VIII) and that was of little help. Would specifying the Roman Canon (EP 1) be sufficient for a Mass for the dead, or do I need to spell out all \”options\” so that the priest does not offer a Mass of the Resurrection in violet vestments.

    (I’ll double check but I’m pretty sure our parish does not have a black vestment set. And I am not in a position to buy a $1500 vestment set to donate. Of course if anyone has access to a unused set, drop me a line at bd55 at pacbell.net)

  43. Mark says:

    from “evening prayer” (universalis version).

    Prayers and Intercessions

    Wed 7/17:
    Grant your mercy to our deceased brethren:
    -do not hand them over to the power of the devil.

    Fri 7/18:
    The thief called you Saviour and you opened to him the gates of paradise:
    -do not close them against our deceased brethren.

    Wed 7/21:
    Grant all the dead forgiveness of their sins:
    -in your mercy bring them to new life with the saints.

    did I miss something?, I thought there was a particular judgment at death. The point of these intercessions above, would be, what?

    I really hope the Latin underlying these (assuming they are not ICEL original compositions), is a tad more orthodox.

  44. QC says:

    Hopefully priests read what the Holy Father said about praying for the dead, etc. in his latest encyclical, “Spe Salvi.” I think it presents this truth in a great way that expresses the truth, in a manner that makes it comforting and helpful to those who are grieving–he shows how we can keep loving the deceased in a concrete way.

  45. Mary Jane says:

    The current state of Latin Rite OF funerals is an incentive to preserve one’s health and drive very carefully. As a music director, I was simply told what the family wanted and that was what I was to play – Eagles’ Wings, Amazing Grace, Be Not Afraid, and the setting of a version of the Subvenite (I think) set to Old Hundreth.

    However, if you get your hands on the big red book of Rites, you can find much better material tucked into the myriad options offered. The problem is getting the celebrant to use them. Priests, in my experience, have a certain way they’ve settled on for funerals and their openness to different prayers, psalms, etc. may be uncertain.

    The “celebration of life” approach is ubiquitous in secular and Protestant circles. My Episcopalian mother was recently shocked when she attended a funeral with the casket present. That’s “just not done” in her circles.

    Another thought – automatically promoting everyone to Heaven breaks our relationship with them. They don’t need us anymore and there’s nothing we can do to show our continuing affection. (Actually, this talk of Heave for most is just talk. The thought behind it is that we just “go to sleep,” you know, like puppies.)

  46. Mitch says:

    I would like to see the concept the last post put forward about “They don’t need us anymore and there’s nothing we can do to show our continuing affection” used as a bridge to re-educate people. This would be a good way to reteach the lay community how people who have departed this world indeed need out continued paryers for their souls. This angle provides a good intro. The approach is soft and reconfirms our continued connection in such a difficult time when we need to feel we are still doing something.
    Also I do not feel there is anything “wrong” with having to bring up the gifts which I did speak of earlier, but it was the coercion that I disagreed with. The guilt trip was laid on me to “participate” in my loved one’s memorial of life. That is not what I was there for as this was done after and during the wake. I was told I was expected to do so by the Priest. I do not wish to be an active lay participant in this way. And the readings I feel should be done by clergy. The whole event and preparation distracted everyone from what they really are supposed to be doing. Anyone else who was willing to participate in this way is welcomed to do so. But the Violet vestments I do disagree with…Not so much as being something wrong but in disregard for our history and traditions..Black is appropriate, if not where do we draw the line? Would we feel content to see pink, aqua, yellow as well in Masses…Familiar traditions bring untold comfort to grieving souls when so much else is changing rapidly in a moment of terrible grief.

  47. LCB says:

    What’s unorthodox about those prayers? God is not bound by time. We can pray for a person who died years ago, praying that they be saved from damnation.

    And our prayers (today) can impact an event that happened 5 years ago. Mary was kept sinless by the future merits of Christ. God is not bound by time in the same way we are.

  48. toomey says:

    Father, as usual, you have hit this on the head. I would also like to call attention to something else that has just about gone extinct since the “Spirit of Vatican II took hold of the Church. I am speaking of Mass enrollments for the dead. When my brother was killed in the mid 1960s, friends and family accounted for over 123 Mass enrollments for his soul. When my father died in the mid 70’s, there were 81 enrollments. When my mother died in the mid 80’s, there were 76. When another brother died in the late 90’s, there were 27. When my sister died three years ago, there were only 13 enrollments. The gradual entrenchment of a catechesis which affirms that Hell virtually does not exist has taken such a terrible toll on the spiritual well-being of Catholics, most of whom do not have any idea of the gravity involved. “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” No matter how long a loved one has been dead, please have Masses offered for them.

  49. Pray for the dead. All the more reason to insist on the Roman Canon, with the Memento, etiam, Domine…, in which the red says, Jungit manus, orat aliquantulum pro iis defunctis, pro quibus orare intendit…. This prayer is a public action at every Mass of praying for the dead. A perfect example of lex orandi, lex credendi. I’m sorry, but the other Eucharistic Prayers don’t carry the same sense of urgency to pray for the faithfully departed as does the Extraordinary Canon.

  50. RBrown says:

    praying for the dead; is that like “limbo” for a child not batized?
    just what is the praying for the dead based on from the Bible? (or tradition; just wondering)
    Comment by Rev. Dr. Mike

    Dr Johnson, who of course was an Anglican, has the best answer.

    They (the Catholics) are of the opinion that the generality of mankind are neither so obstinately wicked as to deserve everlasting punishment, nor so good as to merit being admitted into the society of blessed spirits; and there that God is graciously pleased to allow of a middle state, where they may be purified by certain degrees of suffering . . . if it be once established that there are souls in purgatory, it as proper to pray for the, as for out brethren of mankind who re yet in the life. Etat 60.

    And I will add that to presume that someone who has just died is in heaven is presumption, which is a vice opposed to Hope and a sin against the Holy Ghost.

  51. Jason Keener says:

    Regarding the impact of the reforms following the Second Vatican Council, William F. Buckley wrote in 1979:

    “As a Catholic, I have abandoned hope for the liturgy, which, in the typical American church, is as ugly and as maladroit as if it had been composed by Robert Ingersoll and H.L. Menchen for the purpose of driving people away.

    Incidentally, the modern liturgists are doing a remarkably good job, attendance at Catholic Mass on Sunday having dropped sharply in the 10 years since a few well-meaning cretins got hold of the power to vernacularize the Mass, and the money to scour the earth in search of the most unmusical men and women to preside over the translation.

    The next liturgical ceremony conducted primarily for my benefit, since I have no plans to be beatified or remarried, will be my own funeral; and it is a source of great consolation to me that, at my funeral, I shall be quite dead, and will not need to listen to the accepted replacement for the noble old Latin liturgy. Meanwhile, I am practicing Yoga, so that, at church on Sundays, I can develop the power to tune out everything I hear, while attempting, athwart the general calisthenics, to commune with my Maker, and ask Him first to forgive me my own sins, and implore him, second, not to forgive the people who ruined the Mass.”

  52. RBrown says:

    I didn’t know Tony Snow was a Catholic. But it seems he was not only a convert but also another of Fr CJ McCloskey’s “victims”–along with the likes of Sam Brownback, Robert Bork, and Larry Kudlow.

  53. RBrown says:

    The quotation from Boswell should be:

    “and therefore that God is graciously pleased . . . ”

    and

    “it as proper to pray for them, as for our brethren of mankind who are yet in the life.”

  54. Deusdonat says:

    They (the Catholics) are of the opinion that the generality of mankind are neither so obstinately wicked as to deserve everlasting punishment, nor so good as to merit being admitted into the society of blessed spirits;

    UGH. Another exercise in bad judgement and even worse theology. Why anyone would quote an Anglican to attempt to explain Catholic theology is truly beyond me. There is NOWHERE in Catholicism any statistics on who goes to heaven, hell or purgatory upon death. For the above author to say the “generality of mankind” goes anywhere is errant, wayward and false. The only people we know with absolute certainty that are in heaven are those who the church has deemed so (save the Holy family of course).

    And I will add that to presume that someone who has just died is in heaven is presumption, which is a vice opposed to Hope and a sin against the Holy Ghost.

    And I will add that you would do well to undergo further catechisis. What you MEAN to say is that “presumption of God’s mercy” is one of the 6 sins against the holy spirit. I will most humbly direct you to the Summa Theologica of St Thomas Aquinas: Presumption seems to imply immoderate hope. Now the object of hope is an arduous possible good: and a thing is possible to a man in two ways: first by his own power; secondly, by the power of God alone.

  55. pdt says:

    How interesting that you remind us today that funerals are for the dead, not concerts for the living. It would seem that the Diocese of Clogher in North Ireland has decided to remind the faithful of the same thing:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/foyle_and_west/7505319.stm

  56. Paul says:

    There is NOWHERE in Catholicism any statistics on who goes to heaven, hell or purgatory upon death. For the above author to say the “generality of mankind” goes anywhere is errant, wayward and false.

    Really? Because I was fairly certain that the Bible was part of Catholicism, and it is pretty clear that the “generality of mankind” go to hell, seeing how “many” enter the “broad gate” that leads to “destruction” and “few” enter the “narrow gate” that leads to “life.” So while I agree that the Anglican was incorrect about Catholic belief, so were you.

    In addition, there have been private revelations beyond counting regarding the fewness of the elect. While private revelations are not binding on anyone’s conscience, it seems fairly absurd to say that they are “NOWHERE in Catholicism.”

  57. In my own humble way, I try to promote prayer for the dead. Please take a look at my blog: purgatorianguild.blogspot.com

  58. Jack Regan says:

    Paul, One thing that any scripture scholar will tell you is that numbers and proportions in the bible are not meant to be statistically accurate. The synoptic Gospels (among other works) are also replete with examples of Our Lord being recorded as having taken something to an extreme in order that a point will stick in the mind. Why, for instance, does he talk about leaving his peace, but then he aslo says ‘I come not to bring peace, but a sword.’ Point being, that either Jesus or the tradition through which his teahings were handed was, in this case, trying to make a point stick in the mind. There are many other examples of this in the synoptic Gospels and throughout the bible, and it is fair to assume that ‘the wide road’ fits into this category.

    It’s worth nothing too that more than a few parables and illustrations of eshatology give a fairly even spread: the sheep and the goats for instance, and the ten virgins/ bridesmaids. I think I am also right in saying that in the original greek the parable of the sower has ‘seeds’ for the ones that fell in good soil and ‘seed’ for the instances of the ones that were impeded. Also look at revelation and the 144,000. THe number twelve in scrupture represents completeness/ entirity. The number one thousand represents an incalcuable total! Yet, this figure is twelve times twelve times a thousand. i.e. the writer was trying to say ‘a huge huge amount.’

    So there is a scriptural case from both sides.

    There is also loads and loads to say about the way that hell/ Gehenna is used in scripture as well as the words surrounding it. But that would be a huge tangent!

    As for private revelations, they are not dogma. And there are plenty giving a more generous view of salvation. I also find them somewhat contradictory. The point being, perhaps, that (as Cardinal Ratzinger said) they are not there to give an exact TV picture or accurate stats, but rather to communicate a message.

    Regarding who goes where after death, I find it best not to try to work out figures and stats. I try to just trust in God, love him, and live a Christian life.

  59. One thing that any scripture scholar will tell you is that numbers and proportions in the bible are not meant to be statistically accurate.

    I suspect an actual scholar might prefer to sort out the apples from the oranges in this assertion. He might suggest that the numbers in the bible are not intended as actual counts (or statistics), but rather as indications of general magnitudes or proportions.

  60. RBrown says:

    UGH. Another exercise in bad judgement and even worse theology. Why anyone would quote an Anglican to attempt to explain Catholic theology is truly beyond me.

    Many of the arguments in the Summa Theologiae are ex convenentia. These are arguments from Reason that favor Revelation but whose conclusions do not follow necessarily. That is the type of argument Dr Johnson is offering.

    And the fact that it is being offered by an Anglican strengthens rather than weakens the argument.

    There is NOWHERE in Catholicism any statistics on who goes to heaven, hell or purgatory upon death. For the above author to say the “generality of mankind” goes anywhere is errant, wayward and false. The only people we know with absolute certainty that are in heaven are those who the church has deemed so (save the Holy family of course).

    You have just agreed with the essence of Dr Johnson’s argument.

    “And I will add that to presume that someone who has just died is in heaven is presumption, which is a vice opposed to Hope and a sin against the Holy Ghost.”

    And I will add that you would do well to undergo further catechisis. What you MEAN to say is that “presumption of God’s mercy” is one of the 6 sins against the holy spirit. I will most humbly direct you to the Summa Theologica of St Thomas Aquinas: Presumption seems to imply immoderate hope. Now the object of hope is an arduous possible good: and a thing is possible to a man in two ways: first by his own power; secondly, by the power of God alone.
    Comment by Deusdonat

    In so far as the topic in this thread is hope for the heavenly reward, my mention of presumption obviously refers to the vice against the theological virtue and thus implies its relevance is to God’s mercy.

    As immoderate hope Presumption is a vice of excess.

    BTW, the foundation of St Thomas’ argument is found in his treatise on Fortitude, in which presumption is considered a natural vice.

  61. Far too many funeral homilies are unfortunately eulogies and not about the paschal mystery and need for prayer for the dead.
    Then, there is the chance at the end of the Novus Ordo for family and friends to start eulogizing the dead.

    If followed according to the rubrics the Novus Ordo funeral could be fine. But, how many parishes follow thee rubrics?

  62. RBrown says:

    Paul, One thing that any scripture scholar will tell you is that numbers and proportions in the bible are not meant to be statistically accurate. The synoptic Gospels (among other works) are also replete with examples of Our Lord being recorded as having taken something to an extreme in order that a point will stick in the mind. Why, for instance, does he talk about leaving his peace, but then he aslo says ‘I come not to bring peace, but a sword.’ Point being, that either Jesus or the tradition through which his teahings were handed was, in this case, trying to make a point stick in the mind. There are many other examples of this in the synoptic Gospels and throughout the bible, and it is fair to assume that ‘the wide road’ fits into this category

    Let’s add Christ’s words: “For I came to set a man against his father . . . ”

    As a convert of almost 40 years, I have no trouble understanding Christ’s reference to stirring up trouble. And my experience of family antipathy toward the Church is light compared to what some friends have experienced. I know two priests who were Jews, one monk and the other one of my Roman profs. When they converted, both were completely ostracized from the families–never heard a word from them again. In fact, the sister of the prof, now a fairly well known mystery writer, became an Anglican, and her father (a univ biochemistry prof) burnt all her belongings and never spoke with her again.

    It’s worth nothing too that more than a few parables and illustrations of eshatology give a fairly even spread: the sheep and the goats for instance, and the ten virgins/ bridesmaids. I think I am also right in saying that in the original greek the parable of the sower has ‘seeds’ for the ones that fell in good soil and ‘seed’ for the instances of the ones that were impeded. Also look at revelation and the 144,000. THe number twelve in scrupture represents completeness/ entirity. The number one thousand represents an incalcuable total! Yet, this figure is twelve times twelve times a thousand. i.e. the writer was trying to say ‘a huge huge amount.’
    Comment by Jack Regan

    But in other places, Christ’s words are less optimistic about how many are saved. And St Thomas thinks the number is rather few (pauciores sunt salvantur).

  63. Jack Regan says:

    I think you sort of make my point there. In some cases father will indeed be set against son, but not in all. Hence the point was not a general one even though it is often received as such. Christ is not saying that he has come with the intention of setting people apart, but that it may at (rare) times be a necessary effect of discipleship. In other words, Christ spoke about the extreme cases in a context which seemed general to many.

    (I will pray for your friends and their families)

    As for Christ\’s words, you are right. But I was trying to make a point: that a case from scripture can be made for either viewpoint. I was also trying to make the point that we simply do not know and that I don\’t think that trying to figure it out is part of our calling.

    When we talk about saints & history it\’s probably also about remembering \’the doctrine of reserve.\’

  64. RBrown says:

    I think you sort of make my point there. In some cases father will indeed be set against son, but not in all. Hence the point was not a general one even though it is often received as such. Christ is not saying that he has come with the intention of setting people apart, but that it may at (rare) times be a necessary effect of discipleship. In other words, Christ spoke about the extreme cases in a context which seemed general to many.

    I don’t think it’s as rare as you imply–and it extends beyond converts. I know priests and religious from practicing Catholic families who were strongly discouraged by those families from their vocations.
    Comment by Jack Regan

    And it’s certainly not rare within the clergy–witness the resistance by American and English bishops to Summorum Pontificum.

  65. RBrown says:

    “Comment by Jjack Regan” belongs after the bold text.

  66. Jane says:

    I hope that no one celebrates my life after I am gone. I want people to pray for my soul. I will probably need all the prayers that I can get. If you share my sentiments about this, do all in your power to get people to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. To learn more please go to:

    http://missionbell.homestead.com/Afavourgrantedbytheholysouls.html

    Many people do not know about the interecession of the Holy Souls in Purgatory for their benefactors. There is some information on that also.