Another bishop restricts eulogies

Sermons for the older form, Extraordinary Form, Requiem Mass are to be pronounced only with the permission of the local bishop and are to be delivered after Mass concludes, while wearing no vestments.

There is a lot of wisdom in this, especially in the older form of Mass which people knew well.  First, the Church herself presented what she knows we need to hear as we all march equally toward heaven through the doors of death.  In the traditional Requiem, we are equal.

Also, consider the possibilities of putting your foot wrong in a delicate moment or having a sermon turn into a political harangue or emotional outburst.  You can multiply examples of things that can and do go wrong.

And they can and do go wrong, often very wrong, when in the Novus Ordo eulogies are given at funerals.

This is why some bishops are wising up and beginning to restrict, in a more direct way, eulogies at funerals.  For a good example of that, and some background on the Church’s law, go HERE.  Bp. Morlino of Madison issued directives about this for the Diocese of Madison.

Bishop issues rules for funerals to stop ‘dumbing down’ of Mass

The Bishop of Meath in Ireland has issued new guidelines for funerals to counter the “dumbing down” of the Mass.

The guidelines clarified that eulogies had no place during a liturgy, but should take place outside the church.

They received some criticism, including from the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).  [To avoid the offense implied in this abbreviation, which we all know is a type of .45 cal ammo, it is better to use Ass.CP.]

In a statement Bishop Michael Smith thanked his priests for upholding the dignity of the funeral liturgy “often in difficult circumstances”.

Quoting a book by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he said secular culture tended towards the “materialistic trivialisation of death”. Cardinal Ratzinger, he said, wrote that: “Death is to be deprived of its character as a place where the metaphysical breaks through. Death is rendered banal so as to quell the unsettling questions that arise from it.” [Example: covering graveside dirt with artificial turf.]

Bishop Smith said the funeral liturgy had a clear focus. “It is a prayer of petition for the deceased, a prayer commending the deceased to God’s tender mercy and compassion, a prayer rooted in the hope engendered by the Death and Resurrection of Christ.”

Eulogies, therefore, as well as secular songs, poems and readings, “should not take place” during the Mass, the bishop said. He added that priests should only engage with the family about the Mass, not with a “funeral planner”. [Depending on the "funeral planner", of course.]

His guidelines were criticised by ACP spokesman Fr Sean McDonagh, who said he “doesn’t really understand” the reasoning behind the directive. He said: “As far as I can see there is no way that eulogies interfere with the integrity of the Eucharist. [aka "Mass"] Most of them are totally appropriate for funerals.” [The Church disagrees.]

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43 Responses to Another bishop restricts eulogies

  1. Palladio says:

    What, don’t all Catholics go to heaven?

    Seriously, I just heard a someone in the Church say (shan’t say who, shan’t say where) “We know that [they: dead guys] are in heaven.” Perhaps a moment of weakness, on my part, of understanding that person, who shall remain nameless, unless people convince me to say who.

  2. Palladio says:

    P. S. From Caeremoniale Romanvm:
    It is always a good time to think about death:

    Dies irae, dies illa
    solvet saeclum in favilla:
    teste David cum Sibylla.

    Quantus tremor est futurus,
    quando iudex est venturus,
    cuncta stricte discussurus!

    Tuba mirum spargens sonum
    per sepulcra regionum,
    coget omnes ante thronum.

    Mors stupebit et natura,
    cum resurget creatura,
    iudicanti responsura.

    Liber scriptus proferetur,
    in quo totum continetur,
    unde mundus iudicetur.

    Iudex ergo cum sedebit,
    quidquid latet apparebit:
    nil inultum remanebit.

    Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
    Quem patronum rogaturus,
    cum vix iustus sit securus?

    Rex tremendae majestatis,
    qui salvandos salvas gratis,
    salva me fons pietatis.

    Recordare, Iesu pie,
    quod sum causa tuae viae:
    ne me perdas illa die.

    Quaerens me, sedisti lassus:
    redemisti Crucem passus:
    tantus labor non sit cassus.

    Iuste iudex ultionis,
    donum fac remissionis
    ante diem rationis.

    Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
    culpa rubet vultus meus:
    supplicanti parce, Deus.

    Qui Mariam absolvisti,
    et latronem exaudisti,
    mihi quoque spem dedisti.

    Preces meae non sunt dignae:
    sed tu bonus fac benigne,
    ne perenni cremer igne.

    Inter oves locum praesta,
    et ab haedis me sequestra,
    statuens in parte dextra.

    Confutatis maledictis,
    flammis acribus addictis:
    voca me cum benedictis.

    Oro supplex et acclinis,
    cor contritum quasi cinis:
    gere curam mei finis.

    Lacrimosa dies illa,
    qua resurget ex favilla
    iudicandus homo reus.

    Huic ergo parce, Deus:
    pie Iesu Domine,
    dona eis requiem.

    Amen.

  3. Legisperitus says:

    Cool chasuble.

  4. Matt R says:

    A priest in Louisville was sued several years ago by a funeral director when he implemented policies that more fully conformed to Church teaching and liturgical law. Fr. Leger says the TLM almost daily, and has a radio show on local Catholic radio. He can be quite blunt, sometimes a little bit facetious, but Father is virtually always on the mark. I am so blessed to serve for him, and be around him. Deo gratias! http://www.deathcarelaw.com/uploads/file/courier-journal.pdf

  5. Cantor says:

    At my brother-in-law’s funeral last year, the priest announced at the end of the Gospel reading that we would now take a ‘pause’ in the Mass so that the children of the deceased might share with us. When they were finished, he moved to the ambo for his sermon and we continued.

    It felt somehow like I was attending St. VCR.

  6. Joe Magarac says:

    I have been part of a number of parishes where this would have been good practice at all Masses, not just TLM requiem Masses.

    I read somewhere that in the Middle Ages, sermons were rare and you needed a special license to preach one; most priests just said the Mass without any sermon and gave religious instruction outside the Mass as needed. Most priests today are not natural homilists and are scared to say anything controversial, which makes me wonder if a return to that former practice (if it existed) would be a good idea.

    I’m reminded of my late devout and housebound grandmother-in-law, who would watch daily Mass on EWTN but mute the homily. When asked why, she smiled sweetly and said “I don’t like to hear them talk.”

  7. VexillaRegis says:

    MattR: Interesting. Who won?

  8. StWinefride says:

    Palladio, I’ll add some music!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up0t2ZDfX7E

    Also, a Catholic Funeral is not a celebration of the life of the person who has died.

    Absolutely love that chasuble!!

  9. Palladio says:

    StWinefride, thanks. I will hold out for a simple majority, however. God bless.

  10. Gosh…who needs a homily if one can gaze upon the lesson taught by that chasuable? That’s got to be one of my all-time favorites!

    Of course, the lesson would be lost if the priest was reading the Mass facing the people.

  11. Legisperitus says:

    The mandatory Sunday homily is in keeping with the excessively didactic view of the Mass that also prompted celebration in the vernacular. I wouldn’t miss most of the ones being preached these days if they were discontinued.

  12. AA Cunningham says:

    Does the ACP think that the GIRM is simply a “suggestion”?

    382. At Funeral Masses there should usually be a short Homily, but to the exclusion of a funeral eulogy of any kind.

  13. AvantiBev says:

    This past Saturday we had the viewing, Funeral Mass (Novus Ordo) and burial of my Aunt Syl who died at age 96 on August 4th. She had spent the last few years of her life in an assisted living facility near her only daughter in Ohio. However, the funeral was in the small town of NW Indiana where she had grown up, married and raised her family, and worked; working part-time into her late 80′s.

    My cousin arranged for Catholic priest’s prayers at the funeral home during the wake and, before we proceeded to the church for Mass, she had an old and dear friend of my aunt give a brief eulogy casket side. He and his wife had known my Aunt for years and his talk brought both smiles, chuckles and tears as he really captured the woman so many of us had known and loved.

    Turns out he was a assistant pastor at the town’s Congregational Church. If only the priest that said the Mass had been as warm and articulate as him; alas, the priest though elderly himself, was new to the parish so had not met my Aunt who had been in Ohio when he was appointed. But at the very least his Novus Ordo Mass was not as goofy as the church’s interior design and he followed the rubrics even if his monotone delivery was rather pro forma and sleep inducing.

    I would imagine that the priest was happy for the Congregationalist’s knowledge of my Aunt and his stories about her as it added a personable and comforting tone to the day. I know the rest of us, both family and town residents, appreciated it.

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  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    I don’t really fault the people in the pew on this one, since too many years of abuse have made it seem like a eulogy is almost mandatory. The priests of the diocese or the bishop should do a better job informing the funeral directors and the loved ones what is permitted at the Mass and burial during their conversations with them at the funeral home. Often, the people who have lost a loved one are from out of town meeting with a priest they don’t know. It is, primarily, the priest’s responsibility to know the contents of the funeral mass and to clearly, but kindly, communicate them to the bereaved, who, often, are in shock.

    The Chicken

    The Chicken

  16. HeatherPA says:

    Another compelling reason to have your precise, very specific funeral instructions thrice printed- one for your estate lawyer or to place with your will in the home safe, one for the parish files, one for the funeral home doing the internment. It is the best way to (hopefully) ensure your wishes will be kept and high drama hijinks do not ensue, regardless of the circumstances of death- which we all are in the dark about in reference to ourselves.
    Also, go to confession.

  17. iPadre says:

    No eulogies here! A friend of my aunts wanted to do one at my grandmothers funeral and I gave them a choice I will say the Mass or the person does the eulogy. Take the eulogy and find another priest! Of course, I did the Mass and NO eulogy.

    Beautiful pianeta, by the way.

  18. Volanges says:

    I hate eulogies and canonizations at funerals as much as the next person posting here. But since the US Order of Christian Funerals allows for someone to speak of the deceased after Communion and before the Final Commendation, if I remember the placement correctly, I always associated GIRM 382, juxtaposing a homily and a eulogy, to be addressing what the priest must/must not do, rather than a eulogy by the family or friends.

    The Canadian Order of Christian Funerals has that same ‘family speak of the deceased’ moment incorporated into the Funeral Vigil rather than the Funeral Mass.

  19. frjim4321 says:

    The funeral servers and I have a little joke going. I’ve told them that 90% of eulogies are NOT about the deceased, but they are about the person delivering the eulogy. This rule holds almost every time. Whenever the eulogy person starts talking about him/herself it’s all we can do to not laugh out loud.

    I’ve been trying to get a handle on this by requesting that eulogies are typed out in advance, no more than three pages double spaced. And they should be about the deceased, not about the person giving the eulogy.

    This has been a really big problem in Ireland for a long time; if we don’t get a handle on it in the US it will get much worse here also.

  20. jhayes says:

    The issue is where in the service a eulogy may occur. Not in the homily, but just before the commendation. As the Order of Christian Funerals provides: “A member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation begins.” (OCF # 170)

    That is for the USA. It may be different in other countries.

  21. DanW says:

    frjim:

    Why don’t you follow GRIM
    382. At Funeral Masses there should usually be a short Homily, but to the exclusion of a funeral eulogy of any kind.

    Problem solved, with no wast of ink or paper!!!

  22. DanW says:

    frjim:

    Why don’t you follow GRIM
    382. At Funeral Masses there should usually be a short Homily, but to the exclusion of a funeral eulogy of any kind.

    Problem solved, with no waste of ink or paper!!!

  23. lizaanne says:

    Our Archbishop wrote a Pastoral Letter earlier this year on funerals.

    http://www.aod.org/being-catholic/prayer-and-worship/christian-funerals/pastoral-letter/

    Then about two months ago I attended the funeral for a priest who died far too young (40yrs) and the entire “homily” was nothing but eulogy. The Archbishop was the main celebrant, the eulogy was given by the deceased priest’s best friend (also a priest). After reading the Pastoral Letter of February, I was extremely saddened that his words were not heeded. I kept wondering what the Archbishop had to be thinking as he sat there listening to his Pastoral Letter essentially discarded.

    So while I think it is wonderful that the Bishop in question is doing this — actual execution of his directive is what ultimately makes the difference.

    I’m just looking for them to walk the talk — not a lot to ask, I don’t think.

  24. jhayes says:

    In the last couple of years, I have been to two celebrations of the “Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass”, where the priest (deacon in one case) came to the funeral home and celebrated the Liturgy there without the Eucharist. These included several lengthy “recollections” of the deceased by family members and friends.

    I would have preferred they had a Funeral Mass in a church. This may be a reason not to be too restrictive about eulogies at the Funeral Mass.

  25. frjim4321 says:

    I think, Dan, there’s something about words of remembrance after communion in the rite?

  26. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Joe Magarac

    which makes me wonder if a return to that former practice (if it existed) would be a good idea.

    I wonder.

    I think, though, that it would suffice to achieve the same effect (by which I do not say whether it should be done) to simply exempt the homily from the Sunday obligation again.

    I keep sometimes thinking that we have to endure the sermon first to be rewarded with participation in the Sacrifice afterwards. Nevertheless, things being as they are it is the sermon which makes the first attempt to the question “what is Catholicism about”.

    And speaking can be trained, think of Demosthenes.

  27. Matt R says:

    VexillaRegis, good question. I don’t know as I moved here two years after the fact, but I wish we had more priests like him in our archdiocese, that’s for sure.

  28. rbbadger says:

    My home parish generally has a rosary for the deceased the night before the funeral along with a wake. It is after the rosary that the family is allowed to say their eulogies if they so desire. The eulogies never take place during the Mass. Also, my former pastor felt very strongly that there should be the opportunity for confession to be made available after the rosary and before the funeral mass the day before. As he told me, funerals are a time when people are often most open to returning to the sacraments if they’ve been away for a while. His sermons for funerals were generally the same. They all tended to focus on the Four Last Things, which a funeral Mass ought to remind of us anyway.

  29. Hidden One says:

    Is there anywhere one could buy a chasuble like that now? Black vestments are getting more popular around here every year….

  30. Jim R says:

    The last 2 funerals I attended were at the same church with the same priest. In both cases the decedent and family were practicing Catholics. In each case the priest: (i) invited everyone to communion; (ii) told everyone to sit for the Eucharistic Prayer despite kneelers (not that kneelers really matter….); (iii) ad libbed large parts of the Mass; (iv) said the Our Father in the customary Protestant form; (v) and “canonized” the decedent during the homily/eulogy….

    The only people confused were the Catholics who couldn’t tell what the priest would do next – the Protestants in attendance didn’t know what to expect or expect to know it. The only people who felt unwelcome were the Catholics who saw the Mass manhandled leaving all sorts of questions in their minds – the Protestants sort of expected a Catholic service with which they expected to be unfamiliar, but got one closer to a typical generic Presbyetrian/Epsicopal service with a few oddities.

    I’m glad some Bishops are focusing on the eulogies…I just wish we were far enough along the road here toward “do the red/say the black” to worry about the eulogies. sigh

  31. msc says:

    When my time comes, all I want is a traditional requiem Mass. Of course I’d like it sung, but I don’t think I’m going to get that where I live. But I have always disliked eulogies and I’ll be glad to spare my mourners one. I really like how the Mass makes it about God and man, not God and one particular man.

  32. Cantor says:

    DanW said:

    Why don’t you follow the GRIM?

    Certainly sounds like the appropriate document!

  33. MikeToo says:

    I went to a funeral at a Jesuit parish just over a year ago. They had a sermon from the priest and a eulogy from member of the family. The priest said we can pray to the deceased sine he is now in heaven. The family member talked about the deceased’s spirituality and good works and said that she knows we can’t proclaim he was in heaven with certainty.

  34. stwilliam says:

    We live in a drive-through country and eulogies within the Holy Mass are part of that so-called culture. A funeral home or a family home is perfect setting for eulogizing. If something indelicate or objectionable is said during a eulogy at a funeral home or in a private home, the people there can deal with it. And if the eulogies go on too long at the Funeral Home, they can leave for that reason as well – no harm, no foul.
    When I am asked about eulogies, I recommend them but in their appropriate place and not in the Church. If they like they can have a eulogy at the cemetery once the rites have finished. Then, people can vote with their feet if they choose. They need to plan the times and places for eulogies and put that in the obit. Let people know. If it is important to them, they will show up.
    Instead, people want it all to be in one place, like a drive-through window. Therefore they load up the Holy Mass as if it were a donkey and it’s too much for the poor beast to carry.
    In the end if you live with eulogies within the walls of the Church sooner or later the Priest is going to have to be the policeman. No thanks! We have enough problems with which to contend.
    It is best to agree with the family that eulogies are allowed and then direct them to some place other than the Church and the Funeral Rites. It is also best to have stated as much in writing in the Sunday bulletin from time-to-time.
    However, people can and do find reasons to be insulted no matter which way you guide them. So be content that this way is the path which protects the Holy Mass and those who really care about Our Lord and the family. With eulogies at the Funeral Home and not in the Church, the Priest cannot be pulled into the chaos which often accompanies grief at such a time. Fr. Paul, St. William, Greenville, TX

  35. Robbie says:

    It wouldn’t bother me a bit if homilies were eliminated totally.

  36. Marc M says:

    The “Ass.CP” line made me snort my tea. Thanks.

  37. Jamie says:

    Interesting Slightly-off-topic Point, a thought of the day, if you will;

    The picture of that Chasuble that Father has attached, is actually strictly forbidden by the Ceremoniale Episcoporum; “Omnia paramenta, tam altaris, quam celebrantis, et ministrorum, librorum, et faldistorii sint nigra, et in his nullae imagines mortuorum, vel cruces albae ponantur”

    A few Documents from the Congregation for Sacred Rites expressly forbade the use of such vestments that depict an actual corpse throughout the 19th Century. Moreover, the Cer Ep also contains a rubric that forbids the use of “White Crosses” – and there is debate on this issue whether this applies to “white crosses” or “white crossbones” – which can also be seen on this Chasuble.

    The Chasuble is an amazing work of art, rest-assured, and that one in particular is a great reminder of how in death we loose all worldly possessions and wealth and we are all judged as bare souls and no more. The depiction plays a great and symbolic role in Christian Art, but in all honesty I would not be keen to say how well such a vestment portrays the great Paschal Mystery that one witnesses at the Holy Sacrifice of Mass. Certainly, it is fascinating to think such of the very true depiction we are given from such art, and such things are to be held still as Sacred, surely.

    Back to the topic:
    Eulogies are not a good idea, a Priest friend of mine had a horrible experience during his first public celebration of a Requiem Mass in the Novus Ordo. He had a member of the family who came up to the Pulpit to give a eulogy and the man publicly ridiculed the person that the Mass was offered for, and he embarrassed his family. Moreover, the man had a briefcase with him, from which he pulled out highly inappropriate items belonging to the dead person, such as underpants and soap. At which point the ushers thankfully removed him from the pulpit after Father gave the nod. I pray for that man still.

    Ban laypeople giving eulogies.

  38. Jamie says:

    Would a WDTPRS Poll on this matter be apt?

  39. edm says:

    Jamie,

    I admire the work done on the chasuble but agree totally with your comments. Bring on the black…but not this.
    Your explanation was both thorough and succinct.
    Thank you.

  40. Gratias says:

    If our bishops allowed the TLM for funerals then we would have a way of propagating the Catholic Faith, if only once. Go try getting a traditional requiem mass in Los Angeles.

  41. When my Dad died in February of 2012, my family was lucky. They had (in all humility) me.

    The planning began several months before, with everything meticulously appointed. The “ordinary form,” but with a good bit of Latin chant, the Roman Canon, and the “In Paradisum.” I went to the pastor, knowing what the normative practice was there: “Father, this is not a celebration of Dad’s life. We are mourning his death. I don’t want happy songs and gathering around the altar. I want weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” We got that for the most part. We also used the program to call for silence before Mass, to prevent the love fest that I had to witness at one a few weeks earlier. What we did not get, thankfully, was a eulogy, as I managed to convince my family that it was not permitted.

    We didn’t get dark vestments either, but that’s another story …

    Closer to home, and in my own diocese, I do not believe eulogies are permitted, although they manage to make exceptions for priests and certain prominent laics of the diocese. I’ve never read where earthly accomplishments were a sign of “heroic sanctity,” and I wish that jurisdictions which forbid eulogies would demonstrate some consistency, even with “famous” people. It would demonstrate their sincerity, and spare them having to insult our intelligence.

    Nonetheless, I hope those I leave behind will save their praises for the wake. As was the case with Dad’s passing, there will most assuredly be drinking there.

  42. Magash says:

    VexillaRegis says:
    MattR: Interesting. Who won?

    In the Archdiocese of Louisville matter the priest and funeral director settled out of court. According to the Louisville Herald [the story is behind a pay wall] the diocese agreed to allow the funeral director to use his own organist (who according to the story had left the parish over a dispute about whether she should be allowed to play the organ from an area next to the sanctuary or be required to be in the choir loft.) It is not clear from the story but it appears that the priest reinstitution the use of the loft. There were supporting quotes from a 70 year old woman of how the priest was so anti VII and how they’d complained to the diocese about him.
    The funeral director was to be allowed to select the music, as long as it conformed to Church requirements, a way for both parties to save face. Also the pastor agreed to allow other priest to to officiate at funerals. No word on eulogies though.
    The most interesting part for me was the contention by the judge that the parties should come to an arrangement because in his view the case, if litigated, had the potential to go all the way to the USSC over first amendment rights issues. Bereft of the anti-Catholic clamoring by people quoted in the story it look to me like the Archdiocese gave the funeral director a way to save face without making any real concessions at all. Father can still veto inappropriate music, and a pastor always has the authority to allow or prohibit any priest with valid faculties from using his church.

  43. VexillaRegis says:

    Magash: Thank you for researching that intriguing case! A diplomatic solution, I think.