A tip of the biretta to Pewsitter for this piece from the Worcester Telegram:
Bishop McManus worried that some omit funeral Masses
WORCESTER — Bishop Robert J. McManus is expressing concern that Central Massachusetts Roman Catholics are not scheduling funeral Masses for their dead.
This month, he sent a pastoral letter to Catholics in the Diocese of Worcester, urging them to include a Mass in funeral preparations for their beloved dead. [I looked for it at the diocesan site, but didn’t see it. Maybe one of you…]
The sending of the letter coincides with the church’s traditional commemoration, in November, of the deceased.
The bishop’s missive has been read from church pulpits or included in parish bulletins. [Excellent.]
“I’m extremely concerned because of the growing practice of Catholic families in not providing their deceased with a Mass of Christian burial,” said Bishop McManus in an interview with the Telegram & Gazette.
Bishop McManus said the official funeral rites of the church include three parts: the wake, the Mass and the commitment service at graveside.
He said that during the Mass,that the family has a chance to pray for the dead, asking God to forgive the decedents’ sins and to welcome them into heaven. [It is a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the dead. It is a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead.]
“There’s a presumption today that everybody gets to heaven,” Bishop McManus said. “I don’t think that people should think that’s a given.” [There it is!]
Bishop McManus said the diocese has not taken a formal survey of how many families are taking spiritual advantage of a funeral Mass but added that the numbers are substantially down.
“All you have to do is open up to the obituary page in the morning,” Bishop McManus said. “It’s filled with members of Irish, Polish, and other ethnic groups that have his been important elements of the local church. You look at the obituary and there’s no funeral Mass scheduled.”
He said many of the deceased probably wanted funeral Masses scheduled for them but that the children, or others in charge of funeral arrangements, did not do so because they themselves are not practicing Catholics. [New Evangelization anyone?]
“There are a lot of people who have turned away from the church,” Bishop McManus said.
He said that, before the Second Vatican Council, about 80 percent of Catholics attended Mass. He said that percentage is now between 25 and 30 percent.
“That’s a substantial drop-off,” Bishop McManus said.
He said it’s important for individuals wishing for funeral Masses to let their desires be known, possibly in a will or by alerting family members.
For the deceased who do not get funeral Masses, the bishop said he’s asked their pastors to remember those individuals in memorial intentions.
Kevin Mercadante, the president of Mercadante Funeral Home and Chapel, estimated that at least 30 percent of the Catholic funerals that he’s been associated with, over the past ten years, do not involve Masses.
Mr. Mercadante blamed the drop-off on the growth of secularism and the fact that newer generations of Catholics just don’t go to church.
“They believe in God, they believe in First Communion, and the meaning behind the (religious) holidays,” said Mr. Mercadante. “They just don’t go to church.” [Well… then do they really believe? Or have they also been subtly taught over the decades through what they experience in church that going to church isn’t important?]
He said the cost of a funeral Mass do not factor in on the decision. Mr. Mercadante said the average cost of a funeral Mass is about $300 and diocesan officials said pastors often waive fees for those that can’t pay.
“Years ago, Sunday was a family day with everybody going to Mass and then enjoying the day together,” said Mr. Mercadante. “That doesn’t happen anymore. Instead of Mass, there are Sunday morning soccer games. And some parents have to work the day to make ends meet.”
A while back I had a Requiem Mass in the older, traditional form. Most of the people there had never been to one or hadn’t been for many years. After Mass many people told me how moving and impressive the rite had been.
Reason #78 for Summorum Pontificum.
And Fr. Z kudos to Bp. McManus.
A reader sent:
Litteras episcopi Wigorniensis in chronico dioecesis apparsae sunt: HERE