funeral question

Are funerals really no longer for the purpose of praying for the soul of the deceased?

Do the dead no longer need prayers?

I’m just askin’

What are funeral Masses for?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Random Friar says:

    They’re usually “Celebrations of Life,” nowadays, as I saw one report call the late senator’s funeral Mass. Perhaps folks don’t do wakes anymore?

  2. shoofoolatte says:

    I have been thinking about this question that you have posed, Fr. Z.

    I have always thought that funerals were more for the living than for the dead. A way to renew our belief in the Resurrection, that death is not the end of the matter, for the person who died, or for the rest of us who are alive and fearful of death.

    So … I’m just not sure if the dead need our prayers or not. I know that we who are left here on earth definitely need the hope of Resurrection.

    This idea of praying for the dead brings me back to my childhood, when we earned indulgences and got souls out of purgatory with 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Marys, and 3 Glory Be’s. I got a lot out.

    I do pray for those who have died and who are dear to me every time I go to Mass. Whether it helps them or not, I don’t know. But it helps me.

  3. Fr. John Mary says:

    Gee, Father, are you being “overly negative” here?!?!

    Kidding aside, I am afraid I must voice a most un-PC opinion. The prayers as they are translated in the OF give the faithful this impression. When I offer the EF Requiem there is no question of the need to pray for the deceased, no matter WHO they are Popes, bishops, priests, etc.).

    Not to pin this on the OF, because I offer it regularly, but something is definately lacking in the vocabulary or translations of the prayers as well as the understanding the faithful have of praying for the dead.

    In the rural parish where our religious community presently resides, Mass stipends are very few for the deceased. This is not Catholic practice. And often I have heard it said that “so and so” is in heaven.
    How do you know that?
    As for me, I have instructed the members of my community that I want Masses for the repose of my soul after I die; lots of them. And I have even threated to raise up out of the coffin to demand this if my funeral becomes a “canonization”!

  4. jfk03 says:

    Most “Catholic” funerals in my area have become “celebrations of life.” The focus is on the deceased (always a good guy or gal), and not on the Lord’s Resurrection, which is the promise we all await.

  5. Gabriella says:

    Unfortunately, Fr. Z., you are right – funerals ae no longer for the purpose of praying for the soul of the deceased but only to celebrate life.
    But, as Fr. John Mary says, this only applies to the ordinary form of Mass NOT with the Mass of All Times and I go to both.
    Recently, at an ordinary form funeral Mass, the people present all clapped their hands (!) I found this very disturbing :(

  6. Mary Pat says:

    Shoofoolatte – Nothing has changed as far as praying for the dead. The souls in purgatory desperately need our prayers…please do not stop your prayers and sacrifices for them. I learned to offer up prayers every day “for all the souls in purgatory, especially for those who’ve been there the longest and that no one else prays for.”
    Fr. John Mary – I have left very explicit instructions with my children to please pray for my soul when I die…with a similar threat of a haunting!
    Fr. Z – Why and when did we start flying into heaven with a lifetime of sin staining our souls? I don’t want to behold the beatific vision until I am well cleansed of my sins.

  7. thereseb says:

    Tennyson, an Anglican put it better than I could, in Morte D’Arthur
    ” The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
    And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
    Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
    Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
    I have lived my life, and that which I have done
    May He within Himself make pure! but thou,
    If thou shouldst never see my face again,
    Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
    Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
    Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
    For what are men better than sheep or goats
    That nourish a blind life within the brain,
    If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
    Both for themselves and those who call them friend?

  8. Fr. John Mary says:

    Thank you Gabriella and Mary Pat for your kind words.
    In each Mass I offer, especially when using the Roman Canon, I pray for all the souls that are most forgotten. And there are probably A LOT of them.
    We must return to a proper teaching and understanding of the souls in purgatory. A most consoling teaching of our Faith, yet one that seems to elude many. They need us. We are never more united to them than when we remember them at Holy Mass. I am reminded of the words of Saint Monica to Saint Augustine to remember her “at the altar” after she died. I pray that when I die, the souls of the faithful departed who I remembered in my Masses, Rosaries, and prayers will be there to usher me into the Kingdom, even if I have a long time to be purified in purgatory.

  9. Jane says:

    Many funerals are presented as a celebration of life, but not all of them. I hope that mine is not presented as a celebration of life. The dead definitely need our payers, just as they always did.

    I pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and I hope that everyone else will do so also. Furthermore I hope that many people will promote devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

    Some relatives who were brought up as Catholics refused to have a Mass for their family member because as they put it: “He is up there in heaven with mum and dad”.

    That shows me that it is unlikely that their mum and dad were prayed for either, or if they were prayed for it was minimal.

    There is such a lack of faith among many Catholics today and also such a lack of doctrine in their head, such as the concept of Purgatory that there is an urgent need to teach people. If you don’t do this, fewer and fewer people will pray for your soul when you die!

    Please join me in praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and also get others to do so also.

    The powerful intercession of the Holy Souls in Purgatory for their benefactors and ways to help them is at the following link:

  10. Sieber says:

    Let us all pray that Fr. Z’s shadow drive is but in Purgatory as we wait, in hope, for its resurrection.

  11. MargaretMN says:

    I think there was a shift with the “mass of the resurrection” vs. funeral mass. When I was a kid, there was always a coffin, nowadays, half the time there is no coffin as we not supposed to dwell on death but instead on the resurrection. Unfortunately, I think that the focus has shifted to eulogizing the deceased, not resurrection at all. Also, from dwelling too much on death, now we seem to dwell on it not at all, which is just as unhealthy as the other extreme. The parish I grew up in changed their crucifix from a traditional one to one with Jesus standing in front of it, fully clothed, as resurrection. I am sure it is human to want resurrection with no crucifixion but it’s not right.

  12. FrCharles says:

    In my (albeit brief) experience as a parish priest, I have found that our prayer for the dead is the preeminent place where one may see the problem of Catholic identity:

    1. Many families do not give want to bother to have Mass offered for the deceased, instead wanting the priest to bless the body at the funeral home and then go straight to the cemetery. They call this a “push-out” around here. I thank God that my pastor put an end to it. Do not the Christian dead deserve to have the Sacrifice offered for them? Do people believe in it?

    2. Many reveal that they have lost a Catholic sense of the human body and its destiny by refusing to have a proper funeral Mass, but instead asking for a “memorial Mass,” with no body present and during which they try to fill up the sanctuary with pictures and souvenirs of the deceased.

    3. Some refuse to bury the dead, instead wanting to cremate their bodies and scatter the remains or divide them up among lockets and urns so everyone can have some.(Except the Lord’s earth, which offers to hold them until the Resurrection.)

    4. So-called “eulogies” that consist of drinking stories and even foul language make a mockery of the Lord’s sanctuary.

    So, more than anything else in my life as a priest, funerals have convinced me of the need to do something active about our Catholic identity. We average about one hundred funerals a year in my parish, so I should know. Priests complain about all this stuff at gatherings and vicariate meetings, etc., but then when you ask them if they have preached on purgatory, the Resurrection of the body, or even the Last Things in general any time recently, it gets quiet.

  13. Henry Edwards says:

    I have posted before an account of a solemn high requiem Mass (EF) for John Paul II that I attended at a well known shrine, in April 2008 on the 3rd anniversary of his death. Of course, there was no sermon or eulogy during the EF requiem Mass itelf; not a word had been either spoken or sung in the vernacular until after the catafalque had been incensed and blessed.

    Only then, at the very end, did the celebrant enter the pulpit. His first few sentences described how the solemn requiem Mass is perhaps the most Catholic of all the Church’s ceremonies, devoted as it is to a single purpose — prayer for the repose of the soul of the deceased. In this Mass for John Paul II, he himself had not been mentioned until the priest’s final sentence, essentially this: “We cannot yet pray to Blessed John Paul, so instead we pray doday for the repose of his soul in hope that someday the Church may raise him to the ranks of the blesseds in heaven.”

    This was three years to the day after so many had proclaimed him Santa Subito.

  14. Brusselscalling says:

    Allow me to share a personal experience. My sister died a short time ago. Because of our father’s advanced age, it was decided that the Funeral Mass would be celebrated in his parish church not hers in a far-distant part of the country. As a result, the priest who celebrated the Mass had never met my sister – yet that Mass, celebrated scrupulously in the Ordinary Form according to all and nothing but the prescriptions of the liturgical books, was for all who attended a powerful expression of the true meaning of Christian death. My sister’s soul, claimed for Christ in baptism, was commended to her Maker. We begged forgiveness for her sins and called on the angels to lead her into paradise. The Mass was offered not in celebration of her life, but for the repose of my soul. The Catholic liturgy, properly celebrated, is ALWAYS enough……

  15. Agnes says:

    Well, apparently, Fr. Z, they are for political commentary.

    I’m just sayin’.

  16. TNCath says:

    I think this funeral is more of a canonization than a praying for the repose of the deceased.

    And, by the way, I think this funeral and burial is longer than Pope John Paul II’s. As of this posting, they STILL haven’t buried Teddy yet.

  17. Thomas S says:

    It really does get disappointing. So much reform has taken place thanks to the Holy Father. We constantly hear about seminarians and young priests getting on board. The case is made again and again for continuity and tradition. The “Spirit-of-Vatican-IIers are on their heels (if not on there backs).

    And then a Mass like this hits you right between the eyes.

    Patience, I guess. It’ll take a generation or two. But dammit, it’s frustrating as Hell in the meantime.

  18. Gus says:

    Fr. Z,
    This was a sad and scandalous celebration of a man who failed to live honorably as a Catholic nonetheless received all type of unwarranted Catholic honors in death.
    IMO, the Cardinal should have been the celebrant and preached a homily (instead of the eulogy delivered at this Funeral Mass during the homily time plus all the other eulogies after Holy Communion) on the Resurrection of Christ (instead of the presumptous one of Kennedy’s) and on the need to repent for not protecting human life and on the need to pray for the repose of Kennedy.
    How ironic that on today’s feast when we commemorate the decapitation of St. John the Baptist the Church in Boston capitulated.
    If the priests reportedly responsible for convincing Kennedy that it was ok to dissent from the Church’s opposition to abortion have a lot to answer for, so do all the other priests and bishops (and Catholic voters, etc) who have not made it clear to Kennedy and so many other Catholic politicians that it isn’t by appropriately castigating them both in this life and in death.
    Their silence serves only the muffle the cry of the unborn as they continue to be slaughtered.
    May God have mercy on them and on all of us.

    Pax et Bonum

  19. Tom Ryan says:

    Cardinal McCarrick just read some of Teddy’s letter to the Holy Father.

  20. sjg4080 says:

    WOW…I don’t think words can describe my anger at Cardinal McCarrick. For him to read that self-aggrandizing letter from Kennedy to the Holy Father and the reply that makes it seem as though the Holy Father blessed him regardless of his stance against the fundamental teachings of the Church is maybe the greatest of scandals from today. Enemies of the Church will surely use this segment to turn the Holy Father’s words against him. Though none of us know, my earlier words about thinking maybe a deathbed repentance occurred seemed less and less probable. Continue to pray for Cardinal McCarick’s conversion too.

  21. PostCatholic says:

    I presume this question you pose has something to do with a dissatisfaction that Sen. Kennedy’s funeral wasn’t slavishly correct in some way. It leaves me to wonder what is more important to the orthodox liturgist: adherence to rubrics or the pastoral care of the bereaved.

    Yes, I understand why to the theistically-inclined mind that believes in an afterlife, it is important to pray for that the decedent doesn’t get the spit-roast treatment by an angry deity who has tallied personal failures and found some errors in the margins. And indeed, we heard those prayers spoken during the Senator’s funeral service. But it’s also important to enliven the memory of the bereaved with words of comfort, to tease forth the happy and poignant recollections, and to help them begin to heal in their grief. Even if you believe in it, to focus their attention on the possibility of an impending doom awaiting their lost friend or family member is an act of cruelty and a sin of omission. A funeral is not the accounting house for a life. The tools in the art of pastoral care for the bereaved are to allow the anecdote, to share remembrance of the passions and personality that has departed, to offer from a place of education the theological and philosophical insight needed to overcome a loss, and especially to make a safe place for a kind and loving humor.

    I hope your time as a clergyman has taught you this. I’m sure they have; it would be a poor officiant, adding anxiety and pain to the mourners, that chose to use a funeral to focus only upon interceding with an angry god so that their loved one might hurdle the obstacles of potential damnation. Funerals and memorial celebrations are as much for those living with loss as they are for the object of that loss.

  22. Who is the priest presiding at the Kennedy gravesite? Is this the NO rite or is it just some prayers and asides and left-wing talking points cobbled together? Or is that what the NO rite is? How does unsteady Teddy get a Catholic funeral Mass and burial? And a commercial for a left-wing program, a bunch of BS about how great Obama is, under the guise of a conversation with the Holy Father?

    And, more (here, implicit) lies about the Church’s perennial teaching on capital punishment. Maybe Archbishop Chaput can correct this. Once he comes to a full understanding and acceptance of that teaching himself.

    What a sad day for the Church in America. Of course, any day the Kennedy family has been featured has been such a day. Buh-bye.

  23. Oh, McCarrick. But of course.

  24. Jacob says:

    This is why I have this post at my blog.

  25. Random Friar says:

    I encourage families to do the “celebration of life” at wakes and rosaries the night before. I explain to them that many times, if they do not, when someone comes up to speak at the funeral Mass, they either get “deer in the headlights” syndrome, or all the emotions of their mourning come pouring out. All of which is true. Unless someone is used to public speaking, this is often a very stressful situation. And, it also helps to direct the eulogies outside of the Mass and to focus on Christ’s salvific action for us (I explain that as well to them).

  26. Tom Ryan says:

    Chaput once said when speaking about Scalia that capital punishment is to the right what abortion is to the left.

    Oh for the days of the Baltimore Catechism…

  27. Just watched the intercessions at the other post. I think today was the worst day for the Catholic Church in America since the abuse scandals dropped lower on the radar.

    Our betters (bishops) just don’t give a damn about those marginalized Catholics and would-be Catholics who are scandalized away from the Ark of Salvation by this rubbish.

  28. Girgadis says:

    Father, you ask whether the dead need prayers. If you ask it from the perspective of someone who would call Ted Kennedy a devout Catholic, the answer is no. There was no acknowledgement that I could detect that the senator fell short in fulfilling his duties as a faithful Catholic. A parish priest I know complains that when he urges lapsed Catholics to go to confession, the response is “why, I haven’t killed anyone”. For some, that is the criteria for earning the eternal reward so why would they think the dead need prayers?

  29. dawnmaria says:

    I am shocked and ashamed for the Catholic Church. Who allowed this to happen? Was it Cardinaol Sean??? I have always liked C. Sean, but if he approved this, it is blasphemy. I am horrified.

  30. NLucas says:

    What really worries me about these “canonization” funeral Masses is the misguided sense of charity, often in the name of pastoral care. Is it charity to deny a deceased Christian the fullness of the prayers of the dead or to encourage the family, friends, and parish to pray for them? Is it charity to mislead a grieving family on the reality of sin and the need for refection on our own mortality, especially when a loved one dies? Is it charity to ignore the teaching of the Church on Purgatory and the Communion of the Saints?

    In Christ,

  31. Marlon says:

    In the course of a year, I attended two Catholic funeral masses. The situations were sadly similar–each was for a young woman (around 30) who had died suddenly and unexpectedly. The first was an OF Mass, a canonization mass, a ‘celebration of the life of..’ mass. I left feeling cheated. I knew that young woman needed our prayers. The second mass was an EF Mass–we obviously prayed for the soul of the deceased, and the homily was no eulogy. I left with the firm conviction that the EF funeral mass is superior; it allows for no improvisations, and it teaches the fullness of the Catholic faith. As for the prayers of the faithful in Sen. Kennedy’s funeral mass, I only made it through the second one. The ‘intentions’ were so full of the ego of the deceased that I couldn’t make it any further.

  32. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Yes Father, witnessing Ted’s funeral today, it is easy to get the wrong impression.

    Maybe on my behalf someday there’ll be an angry rendition of the Dies Irae that scares the bejeezooos outta the attendees and reminds them of the terror of God’s Justice, when not tempered by His mercy. Then not only will they pray for my tormented soul, but maybe consider their own end.

    There is nothing more comforting to me than having the power to pray for a departed soul, and hear a Mass for the relief of a soul. How uncharitable to toss off a life with ‘oh theyre in heaven’ and to never pray for them. Telling yourself that ‘they are in heaven’ is just a method of self-comfort so you don’t feel bad, and that you don’t have to work at saying prayers for them.

    Gatherings outside of the Solemn Mass can include photos, food, drinks and happy remembrances of a life, comfort and companionship for the bereaved …not during Mass.

    Not only do people not understand Funeral Masses, 90% of Catholics don’t understand the Mass, period. Neither is a regular Mass for theater, or all about ‘me’.

  33. Warren says:

    Well.. Catholic funerals should be the occasion when and where we enter into the heavenly court as heaven descends to earth. When heaven meets earth, who could not miss the opportunity to kneel in awe of the Eucharistic Lord, the same Lord Who created us and and redeemed us by the Blood of Christ His Son and, giving thanks for the life of the one now deceased and commending his soul to God, we pray that he may be granted a swift and merciful judgment and, God willing it so, may be welcomed into the light of God’s Presence.

    Senator Kennedy’s actions and funeral are a poignant reminder that it is all too easy to misuse religion (the mass, etc.) for purposes other than those that conform to the Lord’s will.

    Bottomline – Senator Kennedy is dead. He can do no more harm. Well, at least he can’t do any direct harm. His prior actions may continue to influence others to compromise their beliefs. If Kennedy does make it to heaven, perhaps he will pray for the souls of Pelosi, Beiden and their ilk.

  34. TomG says:

    Boko: Always with them negative vibes!

  35. Bthompson says:

    I will be honest, you question conflicts me. As a seminarian I often wonder about how I will behave in various situations. One such situation is the pastoral care of the dead and those they leave behind.
    On one hand, I feel a strong tug of justice toward the deceased to make the funeral an opportunity to invite people to pray for one who was hopefully an earnest though imperfect disciple of Christ; one who desperately needs our prays since sin, any sin, is utterly incomparable with beatitude and thus he needs God’s mercy.
    On the other hand, I feel a tug of justice to comfort the mourning, remind them of the Resurrection, and yes, give them an opportunity to ceremonially remember their loved one.
    Now, the obvious solution would be to speak about the Resurrection and the great mercy of God in the homily, and perhaps allow them to eulogize at the vigil or at the interment, but from what I have seen vigils are no longer very popular, everyone seems to want to “get it done” all at once. Also, there is the consideration of not pushing the family away at a sensitive time (though I also very much don’t want to disobey the Church as she lays out the rules in the GIRM, grr!) Thus, it seems that there is a pastoral conundrum.
    A third pull I can envision is a more public continuity, lex orandi lex credendi and the like. The de facto norm seems to be celebrating funerals in white, rather than the purple or black that seem to better reflect the need of a deceased sinner for prayer and mercy as well as our own sorrow at his passing. The dual problem I see in this is that white might run the risk of appearing to canonize the person, and routine use of white at funerals might rob the effect when/if it is used at the funeral of one who did not or could not sin personally (babies, small children, mentally impaired etc).
    Anyway, that’s my response, and I suppose I still have a few more years left to figure it out, but it really is a good question to think about.

  36. Traductora says:

    Fr Charles, I grew up in New York during the time of the Old Mass. I used to go to daily mass in a downtown church where there was a funeral or memorial mass virtually every day. Sometimes we would come into the church and the undertakers would be bringing in the body. The priest would come out and say the prayers, and then at a certain point (I don’t remember when they used to close the casket during the funeral mass, but I think it was different from current practice) they would close the casket and that was the last time that person would be seen on earth.

    Usually, nobody attending the mass knew the dead person. There were a lot of SRO’s (single room occupancy buildings) around there, and many of these people were elderly people, mostly Irish Americans, who had outlived/abandoned/been abandoned by everybody they knew. So it was just the people at daily mass who were there for their funerals.

    Some of them were Third Order Franciscans and could be buried in the habit while some of them wore whatever the funeral home had on hand, and nobody knew what they had looked like during their lifetimes anyway. But we would all file by the casket and some people would touch the deceased or stop and say a prayer; there was also a crucifix that some people would kiss. No matter what, we all knew that this was a brother or sister whose future was ended, he or she had reached that moment when no more change was possible, and whatever they were when they died was what they brought with them to Our Lord and Judge.

    I can still remember bits of the propers, both in Latin and in English. There was a very brief time after Vatican II when the changes to the Mass meant little more than a good English translation and a few relatively minor tweaks, and then, of course, the Novus Ordo replaced it. But if you look back at the old funeral mass, you will see that everything was as it should be. And the same funeral would have been given to some poor old Irish spinster from an SRO as to a Kennedy, because it didn’t depend on who you were, but on the event itself, this moment when the life of this person was suddenly fixed and sealed and from then on it was in God’s hands and all we could do was pray for the same mercy we would want for ourselves.

  37. Tom A. says:

    One of my favorite pieces of music is Mozart’s Requiem. Simply sublime. Oh that we could hear such music at every Mass.

  38. Gail F says:

    Gus: You mean there was no homily at all? Just the eulogies?

    PostCath: I don’t know why anyone who didn’t have a “theistically-inclined mind” would go to a funeral at all. That being said, although some posters here would indeed like to have seen the Cardinal or some other priest give Teddy the riot act, that is not the general idea. The funeral is supposed to be about 1) God, and 2) consigning the deceased person TO God with prayers for His mercy. It is not supposed to be a political commercial, a rundown of the person’s life, a thank-you to all the people who helped during a long final illness (heard that once), or a celebration of how now he or she is in heaven. A real Catholic funeral — and yes, they can be done with the NO mass — is extremely moving because it reminds everyone of death and of God’s constant presence and mercy throughout life. In case you want a real answer and don’t just want to sneer.

  39. priest up north says:

    As I said regarding the posted video of the so-called “prayers of the faithful:”

    Some people just don’t get it.

  40. Denis Crnkovic says:

    The question is broad enough to have elicited various responses:

    1. I recall a sad, epiphanic movement about a decade ago when our campus was destroyed by an F4 tornado. Two people in the area were killed. Our chaplain (Lutheran, ELCA) prayed long and eloquently for us, for the mourners, for the future, for the grace of God to pour down upon us as we re-established our earthly lives, but did not pray – of course – for the deceased. The entire ceremony seemed quite empty. I realized then the inadequacy of the Christian cults that reject the necessity of praying for the dead; in a sense they would limit the mercy of God to mere time, that is, to our short and imperfect stay on earth and within the ‘saecula’. It is a good thing that God allows us to work off our sins after we shuffle off the linearity of the clock; and, in fact, it should be a deep comfort for the living to realize that God’s mercy does not end at our death.

    2. The Requiem (both EF and OF) does not have to distinguish between praying for God’s mercy for the deceased and comforting the bereaved. It does both. The conversation here has hinted that because Holy Mother Church bans eulogies and personal statements, She is someone not concerned about the welfare of the living. Banning such displays is surely, though, a piece of sober wisdom, designed to help us avoid the mawkish, the political and the inappropriate in favor of the awe inspiring realization that Salvation is possible. And this at a very time when the devil knows many of the the living will be made vulnerable because of their human frailty, their inherited fear of death and their necessary reflection on their own shortcomings in the face of another’s passing away. Praying for the dead comforts us by illuminating the theological virtues for us: the charity of our prayers, that spring from the faith in the mercy of God, and the hope of our loved one’s and our own future salvation are all parcel of the services for the dead.

    3. While I was abroad for an extended period this summer, I lost two close relatives. I wasn’t able to attend either funeral. For me here was no ‘celebrating’ the life of my cousin, who died young, nor the life of my 89-year-old-aunt. But I can pray for them. I have been praying for the deceased Kennedys since November 22, 1963. It is comforting to know that all of us living have a role to play for the souls in purgatory and that they and those in heaven have their roles to play for us. The Communion of Saints is, after all, the universe’s largest support group…

  41. Jason C. says:

    I don’t so much mind that a funeral is a celebration of life. But I want my funeral to be a celebration of CHRIST’S life, not my own. I don’t want people to gush over me; I want them to pray for me, as I would want to do for them. I think of St. Paul’s words in Colossians 3:2-4:

    Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

  42. iudicame says:

    TomG: Woof woof


  43. Prof. Basto says:

    I find the very name “Mass of Ressurection”, now in vogue, completely absurd. The deceased is not risen. And we cannot assume that he is in Heaven. It would be presumptuous to assume that regarding a non-canonized person.

    In Catholic Liturgy, we must never assume that a non canonized/beatified person is in Heaven, no matter our personal opinion regarding the person’s holiness. That’s because we may be wrong about it, and the person may be in Purgatory, in need of our prayers.

    So we cannot assume the best case scenario. We can hope that someone is in Heaven, but, liturgically, we must pray for that person, in the hope that the deceased is at least in Purgatory.

    For if the deceased is in hell, then that will not change, unfortunatelly. If the deceased is in Heaven, then he/she is in no need of our prayers (but we cannot assume that without certainty, for we could be depriving a soul in need of prayers that will help it overcome Purgatory in a faster pace), so, in the end, we make a liturgical assumption that the soul is in the Church Suffering in Purgatory, and we ask the Lord our God to spare the said soul of suffering and to grant the deceased the Beatific Vision.

    Unfortunatelly, however, we seem like Anglicans now. It is as if there were “High Church” Catholics (doing things as per tradition), and a majority Protestant-like low-Church, composed of priests and faithful poorly educated in Catholic dogmas. Thus we have show-funerals, that serve the purpose not of giving glory to God and of asking mercy for the departed one, but that are like celebrations of the earthly life of the deceased, in which one boasts about the deceased’s supposed many qualities, as if he was in no need of Divine Mercy.

    And that scenario includes eulogies, that are absolutely forbidden by the current GIRM (no clarification is needed, the rule contained in the Missal is crystal clear: no eulogies allowed, period). Sadly, those funerals that only serve the purpose of boasting about the earthly qualities of the deceased only happen because there is a willing priest ready to at least tolerate (and often actively support) this grave abuse. This is a major source of scandal, in my view.

    That’s why we need black vestments, catafalgues covered in black with embroidered bones and skulls, Dies irae, etc, etc, etc, all back.

  44. MargaretMN says:

    I think the “push-out” solution is chosen by families where members no longer practice the faith or in the case of aged parents, the family is afraid that nobody will show up (friends/relatives have passed on ahead or will be too infirm to attend). They have an impossible image of a state funeral in mind and Uncle Al’s showing would be poor by comparison. Another thing they probably don’t know: this is a moment when a good parish will help to fill in the gap. If possible, the parish should publish funeral masses in the bulletin as daily Mass attendees will probably show up. (I know I have.) Also people acquainted with the deceased that the kids may not even know. Most of the parishes that I attend have funeral luncheon committees where volunteers bring food and serve lunch to the family and guests after the funeral, if they request it. I doubt many families know this exists until they have need of it but it’s a good lesson in christian charity and why not belonging to a church (any church!) creates such a gap in our social fabric today. You can not simply buy a service to replace that in your time of need.

  45. becket1 says:

    From our friendly Franciscans (OFMs of The Holy Name Province)

    Seems like the Franciscans in the US are becoming more liberal every day.

  46. Heather says:

    We have loved him during life. Let us not abandon him, until we have conducted him by our prayers into the house of the Lord.
    —St. Ambrose

    I think that funeral was worse and did more harm than the Notre Shame debacle.

    Father Euteneuer of Human Life International said it best:

    “We must, as a matter of precept, pray for the salvation of heretical Catholics like Senator Edward Kennedy, but we do not have to praise him let alone extol him with the full honors of a public Catholic funeral and all the adulation that attends such an event. There was very little about Ted Kennedy’s life that deserves admiration from a spiritual or moral point of view. He was probably the worst example of a Catholic statesman that one can think of. When all is said and done, he has distorted the concept of what it means to be a Catholic in public life more than anyone else in leadership today….

    Senator Kennedy needs to be sent to the afterlife with a private, family-only funeral and the prayers of the Church for the salvation of his immortal soul. He will not be missed by the unborn who he betrayed time and time again, nor by the rest of us who are laboring to undo the scandalous example of Catholicism that he gave to three generations of Americans.”

  47. jbalza007 says:

    Just saw this from the California Catholic Daily:

    Following the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy last week, Liturgical Training Publications, an agency of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, sent out an updated version of their Prayers of the Faithful for August 30, the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Liturgical Training Publications send these prayers to subscribing Pastors and parishes.

    This updated prayers of the faithful include this: “For those who have given their lives to service to their country, promoting values of peace, justice, equality, and liberty; especially, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, that he may find his eternal reward in the arms of God….We pray.”

    To pray for Senator Kennedy as one who promoted peace, justice, equality, and liberty, ignoring the 49 million+ babies killed through legalized abortion, would be simply to pray a lie at Mass. Senator Kennedy’s pro-abortion voting record is well known. He voted against the ban partial birth abortion. He voted against the ban on human cloning. He voted to expand embryonic stem-cell research. The list could be extended. He has a 100% rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League.

    Please call or email Liturgical Training Publications. Respectfully request that they immediately send out an amended prayer: “For all our beloved dead, especially (particular parish intentions) and for Senator Edward M. Kennedy, that they may find their eternal reward in the arms of God…We Pray.” Also call or email the Archdiocese of Chicago. Respectfully request that they instruct Liturgical Training Publications to send the amended prayer

    Contact information:

    Liturgical Training Publications
    John A. Thomas, Director
    773-579-4900, ext 3557
    To send an email to LTP, go to:

    Francis Cardinal George, OMI
    Archbishop of Chicago

    Mary Hallan-FioRito
    Executive Assistant to the Archbishop

  48. accat88 says:

    This is actually what I’m writing my senior thesis on–a properly Christian theology of death and what the liturgical response to it ought to be, giving consideration to both forms of the Roman Rite (and possibly examining the Byzantine as well, although in an appendix to keep the scope and page count down…perhaps if I write a book….). This topic is fairly significant to me because I’ve been to enough canonizations in the last few years, I want to see an honest-to-God funeral. Most eulogies turn into big, drawn out collections of anecdotes and praise of the man lying in the casket, and so serious attention is drawn away from actually praying for the deceased.

  49. John UK says:

    Wear the black, do the Red ???

  50. I watched the whole Mass, and did not see anything off-book (I know, I know, there are not supposed to be eulogies at funerals – well, the archdiocese made provision, so that’s it – and that’s all of it).

    The remarks of the parish priests were, in context, fair and appropriate. I do not remember being outraged by anything he said, and with the Senator’s ability to do harm to the cause of life having ceased with the beating of his heart, the priest decided to remember the good. The world was watching, and would not have understood anything else.

    As for the letter at the burial in Arlington, I can only say that I was disappointed Cardinal McCarrick decided to share the passages on related to the Senator’s record.

    This reminds me: there has been some criticism of the inclusion of a prayer for universal health care coverage in the intercessions. Remember that the the prayer did not ask for divine intervention to see the present proposals passed. Asking to hasten the day when everyone in the US will have access to adequate care is not a bad thing, at the end of the day, is it?


  51. Athanasius says:

    If people are ever going to think that a funeral Mass is for the soul, the Vatican needs to eliminate the right to use white vestments. Their use in funeral Masses are a novelty destructive to the piety the Church has handed down to us. Although I favor black, funeral vestments should be black or violet. Anything else gives the idea of canonization.

  52. Some in the last few days have highlighted the Kennedy family’s Irishness and their Catholicism. One rich and genuine strain of Irish piety, not as strong as it used to be but still much in evidence, is praying for a deceased person when his name crops up in conversation. Our speech is still peppered with ‘God rest his soul’, ‘The light of heaven on her’ and such things.

    I remember my late father telling me a story about his foremen when Dad was an apprentice carpenter on a construction site back in the late 20s and early 30s. Men all wore hats or caps in those days. Ned Boyle, the foreman, whom I knew when he was an old man, used to regale the apprentices with stories about people he knew or had known. Whenever he mentioned someone who had died he raised his cap and said ‘Lord be good to him’ and the young men raised their caps too. One day when he mentioned someone the other workers all lifted their caps, to Ned’s great annoyance, as the person was still in the land of the living! But what a powerful expression of true regard for the dead was this simple way of remembering them with a loving prayer.

    In 1976 I visited Dublin after my first five years in the Philippines. Celebrating Mass one Sunday in the parish where I grew up I prayed by name for priests who had served there and who had died. I couldn’t remember one name – fortunately, as, like Ned Boyle’s friend, he was still around. A day or two later a man with a young child approached me in the nearby Phoenix Park and thanked me for praying for the deceased priests. I recall him saying too that he was particularly happy that his son had heard me praying for them.

    An article by Paul Kimmage in The (London) Times about Padraig Harrington the golfer has this about the funeral of Padraig’s father Paddy, a policeman: ‘When Paddy Harrington died, nothing that related to his life in sport was mentioned at the funeral. “It was how he wanted it,” Harrington says, his eyes welling with tears. “He wrote out all of the instructions. The biggest thing he ever taught me was when he died. He was very religious and part of that religion was his blind faith when he died.”

    ‘“That he was going to a better place?” I ask.

    ‘“No, that he was comfortable with it; that this was the natural progression. He died a slow death, six months, and if you are going to die a slow death, you had better have faith. He had faith. I can’t remember a day when he didn’t go to Mass [something I can say about my own Dad, SC], but he was paid back. He put so much effort into his religion and the payback was how comfortable he was. That was the lesson; there is a payback for effort.”

    ‘It was his father’s final gift. His blessing.’

    For myself, I want no ‘Mass of the Resurrection’ – that seems to be largely an American phenomenon – but a Requiem Mass. I’ll be happy with violet vestments rather than white ones. And I certainly don’t want to be ‘canonized’ but my soul prayed for, not only during the funeral Mass but whenever my name crops up in conversation.

  53. shoofoolatte says:

    Reading through these comments, I’m wondering if we don’t need two Churches, or two Rites within the Catholic Church. One for those who want a Black Funeral, and one for those who want a White one.

    I want the Mass of the Resurrection. I am so moved by the white vestments, the white covering the coffin. I love the hope that it conveys, of a loving and merciful God.

  54. TNCath says:

    shoofollatte wrote, “I want the Mass of the Resurrection. I am so moved by the white vestments, the white covering the coffin. I love the hope that it conveys, of a loving and merciful God.”

    There is no such thing as a “Mass of the Resurrection” in the Roman Catholic Church.

  55. shoofoolatte says:

    Let me rephrase myself, TNCath, I was using the words that Fr. Sean Coyle used in the comment just above mine.

    I want Mass said at my funeral, and I want WHITE vestments worn by the priest. I want the emphasis on the death and Resurrection of Christ, and those attending to be consoled by this hope.

    For a long time I have been wrestling with what it means to “pray” for someone, so I’m not sure if I want people praying for me or not. This may cause some scandal with the readership here. So be it.

  56. Kate says:

    In a section of the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Sienna, our Lord addresses the problem of ministers who apply (I’m paraphrasing here, forgive me, my book is not handy) the healing balm without first applying the cauterizing correction.

    It seems to me that this concept can be applied to funeral Masses. If the priest does not (by his prayers, use of proper vestments, etc.) present the truth of death and risk of final damnation, how can we expect the congregation to even begin to understand the peril of souls? We have forgotten hell. It seems that simple, doesn’t it?

    I am comforted by the truth. Black vestments are a visual reminder of the death of the body and gravity of the situation. Hopefully, this deceased individual has received God’s mercy and is in Purgatory. With that hope in mind, it is clear that he needs our prayers to help remove the stain of sin from his soul so that he can enter
    into God’s glory in heaven.

    The white vestments and happy talk of a soul being “with God” and “in a better place” appear to me not to be a comfort, but a trap. If I am so comforted to believe the soul is already in heaven, I’m not going to bother praying for him. I will happily go on with my life and forget about him, sure that he is in Paradise. When I am so mislead under the guise of “comfort”, the deceased soul suffers for lack of prayers.

    The comment about perhaps needing two “…two Churches, or two Rites…” is silly. As I learned it, the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic; we all need to educate ourselves about the Truth if we are going to get anywhere at all. (And, for the record, listening to a holy priest explain the Gospels is a great education.)

  57. Ellen says:

    If I could plan my own funeral, I’d like the priest to wear purple. White seems presumptuous, and black is too depressing. I don’t want a eulogy in any way shape or form, and I want lots and lots of prayers for my soul.

    And if anyone sings Eagle’s Wings, I will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

  58. Re: “Dies Irae”

    I don’t know why people seem to think that’s an angry or scary song. It’s more… dramatic and sobering, really. It just says, “This is what is going to happen at the Last Judgment. Therefore, pray.” (And the court case imagery is really fascinating, poetically.)

    That and “In Paradisum” — we really all need to learn those songs, and they really need to be sung at pretty much any and every Latin Rite Catholic funeral. They’re so beautiful and true and excellent, too, that I find it hard to imagine why anybody wanted to drop them in the first place.

  59. shoofoolatte says:

    Oh how I love “In Paradisum” and “Dies Irae”. So beautiful. I’ll add those to my funeral wishes, along with the white.

    I was sort of kidding about the 2 rites, Kate. Yes, I think that we all need to be more educated in our faith. I wish that we could learn to listen to each other more too.

  60. Sid says:

    Most of what needs to be said in reply to Fr. Z’s good and pointed rhetorical question has been said. I was once a Liberal Protestant, and I live in an area full of Evangelical Protestants and increasing Calvinist revivalists. And I’m a Gringo. So maybe my 2 cents has something to add.

    1. Gringoland, right in the middle of a culture of death, is paradoxically a death-denying culture. Nothing scares the American more than his death. I know agnostics and atheists who deeply and daily fear their deaths. They don’t use this fear to prompt a better life, but as a reason to engage in as much (healthy) pleasure as possible while they can. And at the same time, death denying: Death is for moderns what sex was for the Victorians: not to be mentioned, and when it happens, be sure its out of sight, and gone quickly. Death is not to be discussed, planned for, prayed for. Benedict Groschel says that in his part of the Gringoland, the dead just disappear: taken in their clothes, cremated, and thrown to the wind.

    2. American is also a residual Protestant culture. And the quotidian Catholic funeral — and quotidian Catholic liturgy in general — has absorbed this general cultural Protestantism. First the dogmatic heresies:

    a. denial of Purgatory. “If the poor soul is in Hell, he can’t be helped; if in Heaven, he needs no help. So why pray for him?”

    b. Justification by faith alone, penal substitutional atonement, and assurance of salvation: That the angry Father wants to zap you, zaps instead the innocent Son, that the innocent Son dies in place of you (the NT says not “in place of” but “in/on behalf of”), and you’re assured of salvation by just believing this. “You may deny me, but I [IHS] won’t deny you” so my Evangelical friends. Thus no moral life is necessary for salvation — which is not what St. Paul says.

    c. Thus the Evangelical funeral (I attended one March 2008) isn’t for the dead but for the living, and becomes a “get saved today” exercise by accepting IHS as Savior and Lord (Decisionism), complete with an altar call; the Liberal Protestant funeral (and Liberal Catholics are de facto Liberal Protestants) becomes the fatuous “celebration of life”. My Unitarian cousin tells me “our god doesn’t send people to Hell”. I reply “Neither does mine! The hell-bound have freely chosen their destination.” — And this statement of mine upsets Calvinists even more.

    3. And now the heresies in moral theology:

    a. It is presumption and moral injury to say that the job of the funeral is to console. To grieve after Death has robbed us is natural; it is exactly what one should do after having been so robbed. Let the grieving grieve. What the funeral ought do is not console — and that’s God’s job anyway — but to fortify the grieving as they go through the process of grieving. The Catholic funeral and the Office of the Death, if done well, can so fortify.

    b. Against the virtue of Hope: A Liberal Protestant “celebration of life” and vulgar eulogies actually make the congregation more despairing: “Oh what a wonderful person he was, and now we’ve lost him!”

    c. The ultimate presumption and ultimate injury to the faith: “This is Billy’s first day in Heaven!” We don’t know that, and you can be sure that as all kinds of wonderful cotton-candy fluff are being said about Billy, someone in the congregation knows a different — and more pejorative — Billy. Thus that someone’s faith is undermined, he leaving the church thinking that believers (and to believe) are just plain stupid.

    4. So the funeral has become a scandal in our culture. My own habit is twofold. If the one dead is a relative of a friend, I go to the viewing, speak to my friend, and avoid the funeral. If it’s my own friend or relative who’s dead, I suffer through the funeral.

    5. Twice in the past two years my relatives — typically American in that they believe in God but don’t go to any church — have asked me to do a graveside funeral. I took most of it from the Office of the Dead and ending with the Requiem prayer, said in union from a handout.

    6. Both my assumption about who reads this website and simple charity oblige me to think that PostCatholic is writing a satire of Liberal views at 714pm.

  61. I presume this question you pose has something to do with a dissatisfaction that Sen. Kennedy’s funeral wasn’t slavishly correct in some way. It leaves me to wonder what is more important to the orthodox liturgist: adherence to rubrics or the pastoral care of the bereaved.

    Um, adherence to rubrics IS patoral care – for the deceased. Mass, especially a funeral, is not some freaking encounter session for sharing our feelings and having group hugs. It’s a sacrifice for worshipping God and asking for mercy on the soul of the deceased. You said in another obnoxious post that “maybe there should be two churches, one you rigid right-wingers and one for we sensitive, caring, more wonderful Catholics.”

    Well, that’s not an exact quote, but it gets the spirit of what you said. Go on to the Church of St. Narcissus if you like, one that affirms you in your okayness, and give yourself a big, wonderful hug.

    And while you’re there, contemplate this: that for many us us, our one hope of getting to heaven may be a proper and reverent funeral Mass, which adheres to the rubrics that you apparently have so much contempt for, not some self-aggrandizing crap-fest that enables only the narcissism of the bereaved. How many poor souls lost their one chace at eternal salvation just so their living friends and relatives could feel better about themselves?

  62. shoofoolatte says:

    Hello Sid. I agree with your recounting of the heresies in moral theology.

    a. Yes, the purpose of the funeral is the fortify the grieving. (Perhaps “console” is the wrong word to use, but it could mean the same thing as “fortify”.)
    b. Yes, again. HOPE is the virtue we are reaching for.
    c. Exactly. We really don’t know what happens after death.

    And I definitely agree that we live in a death denying culture.

    But I don’t think that PostCatholic is writing a satire of Liberal views. I think that he was reacting to the criticisms of the Kennedy funeral that were posted in this thread that had nothing to do with the liturgical context.

  63. shoofoolatte says:

    I’m sorry that you took my words as offensive, Sean (9:34AM). I did not mean them in the way that you interpreted them.

    Believe it or not, I struggle with my choices, and can be very hard on myself.

  64. jfk03 says:

    Having reflected on the Ted Kennedy funeral overnight, and being an eternal optimist, I see it as the end of an era —not just the era of the Kennedy family, but also an era of the Church. Hopefully, this political funeral will cause the bishops to press for catechesis about what a Catholic funeral Mass is all about; what is proper and what is not proper. I see the “anything goes” era coming to a gradual conclusion over the next decade. Obviously, this is just a prediction, an education guess.

  65. FrCharles says:

    Traductora: Thank you for sharing this. Early on in my religious life I had the intense privilege of serving funerals at which it is only the priest, deceased, and me.

    MargaretMN: Thank you for the kick to do something pastoral about the ‘push-out’ problem.

    Becket1: Hey, I was fed and housed by those guys for 572 days in my youth, then dismissed!

  66. mjbfjs says:

    What does it matter nothing is going to change we might think it is but it’s not. I tell you why. It all comes down to words. Before Vatican II everything was black or white we Roman Catholics had the truth we were the Rock we had a universal Roman Mass were we could go to any
    Roman Church in the world and pray that Roman Mass and feel at home. We Roman Catholics were organic growing from the year 30 till Jan. 25th 1959 then it all stopped for everybody but the few. For example when recieve Holy Communion now they say we recieve the Body and Blood of Our Lord but you don’t here about Our Lords Soul and Divinity. What happen to the gift of Charity they turned it into the gift of Love well you can keep that gift of Love because I can love one and hate another but if you have Charity for one you’ll have Charity for all that is why it’s the greatest gift why you can have Love without Charity but you can never have Charity without Love and anyone who ever went to a fureral Mass in the 50’s you never seen a person without a tear in their eyes I am from a small coal mining town in Pa.
    and on the fueral team to searve Mass I would look out before Mass and see the coolest and most cold person and think you’ll be cring before it’s over for there was a Irishman with a deep voice who would always closed the state liqeur store he ran to sing at every funeral Mass. At the end of Mass he a song Far Far Away and sure enouth every eye in the Church of the griving family was crying why because we realize we are all mortal and in need furgiveness including the one in the middle isle. As for me I could never presume anybody is in heaven that I know not even my Mother
    who was truely Our Lords friend I still pray for her soul and all the souls of the Faithfully departed. So please never think to many people are in heaven but two Our Lord and Our Lady the rest we have to pray for.

  67. PostCatholic says:

    You said in another obnoxious post that “maybe there should be two churches, one you rigid right-wingers and one for we sensitive, caring, more wonderful Catholics.”

    I don’t know with whom you’re conflating me, Sean P. Daily, but yesterday was the first time I ever commented on this blog, so I assure you the other obnoxious post is not mine. I’m no longer Catholic–be it of right wing, left wing or sharp yellow beak variety–nor even believer in any sort of deity. That does not mean I have no appreciation for the work of Catholic liturgy or the importance of religion–I do have a good Catholic seminary education under my hair for which I am still grateful. Perhaps I should have cast a more careful eye over all the comments here.

    Fr Charles:
    I would submit to your reverence that if your parish’s families 1. have no desire for a Mass for the deceased, have plans for 2. the final service or 3. (c)remains that conflict with Catholic teachings and its ideas of sacred space, or 4. “make a mockery” of your liturgy, what you have is a family that in fact does not have a Catholic identity and probably should not be conducting final services with your parish. This is particularly so if you’re going to insist on formalism for which they have no catechesis or appreciation. Far better to send them in a direction that can meet their need for comfort and healing. The first few days after the painful loss of loved one are no time to begin cultivating liturgical appreciation in a heavy-handed way.

    You write that “Priests complain about all this stuff at gatherings and vicariate meetings, etc., but then when you ask them if they have preached on purgatory, the Resurrection of the body, or even the Last Things in general any time recently, it gets quiet.” Indeed. Why do you say there is a reluctance to talk about these things?

  68. ocsousn says:

    I just finished a three and a half year tour at the U. S. Naval Academy, where, along with the formation of our future Naval Officers chaplains have an endless stream of weddings and funerals. All the chaplains (Protestant, Catholic and Jewish) had the same complaint: people have lost their moorings when it comes to these events in the life of faith. (In an attempt to console them I pointed out that we could all rejoice in the thought that their are neither weddings nor funeral in heaven.) But, to the question at hand: The problem is not with the Rite of Christian Burial (AKA: Novus Ordo) which is very clear on the necessity of prayers for the dead. The problems arise when the traditional chants are replaced by hymns of dubious relevance and when the celebrant and eulogists overwhelm the austere but eloquent texts of the liturgy with endless commentary and assurances of salvation for all. The new translations, if we ever live to see them, will certainly improve matters buy even the deracinated ICEL texts are clear in their emphasis on the need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Neither the Extraordinary nor the Ordinary Form explicitly mentions Purgatory but, by the same token, the prayers of BOTH are meaningless without faith in that doctrine.

    Some practical measure to correct this that I have found useful:
    1. Have a standard musical repertoire for funerals that encompasses the traditional texts. This includes Latin Gregorian chant as well as classical and contemporary settings. If the family wants favorite hymns they can be sung (if appropriate) as a prelude to the actual liturgy. In this the priest and musicians must be on the same page from the start.
    2. Though the sermon may certainly mention the deceased it is never about them but on the mystery of Christian death.
    3. The Prayer of the Faithful is always one of those given in the Rite of Christian Burial and not something concocted by the family.
    4. Make clear to the family from the start that the remarks by a family member are NOT an integral part of a Catholic Funeral. They are both incidental and optional. Sometimes that will be the end of it as no one really wants to get up and speak in public. When someone does want to speak the rule is: one person, one page, five minutes. All other remarks are relegated to the wake.

    As I see it, the problem with the Ordinary Form for funerals with its many options and room for interpolations is that it presumes the exercise of both common sense and sound pastoral judgment informed by the Catholic faith with regard to death.

  69. Mrs doyle says:

    Readers may like to know what traditionally happened in Ireland (and to some extent, still does) when someone passed away.

    The family of the deceased would place a black ribbon on the door, draw the front blinds, and usually place a white card in the door, stating that the death had occurred, as well as the funeral Mass details.

    No eulogy would be given at the Mass, this would wait for the traditional wake – at the pub, or at the house. It wasn’t uncommon to have the priest there as a guest as well!

    When a funeral cortege passes through the town and past a pub, the pub will shut the front doors, and switch off the light outside until the coffin passes the door.
    Those stranded outside remove their hats, make the sign of the cross and bow their heads, waiting patiently (or not!) for the coffin to pass to the church.

    This still happens and I saw it last month in the west of Ireland.

    Now isn’t that nice?

    I think the best is to have a balance – to absolutely pray for the soul of the deceased (and never stop) and to seek comfort and hope in the Resurrection for the deceased, and ourselves.

    A win-win situation.

  70. rwprof says:

    We pray for those fallen asleep in the Lord at every Divine Liturgy, but we also have the Panikhidi. And every Divine Liturgy commemorates the Resurrection.

  71. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Golly, I can never get used to the quality of the comments on Fr’s blog. This thread is no exception. Especially enjoyed the posts of Traductora, Denis Crnkovic, Sid.

    If Church authority was properly expressed and enforced without ambiguity, priests wouldn’t be put in this dilemma of facing down the bereaved who have personalized requests for a funeral. As a choir member I know that priests bend over backwards being sensitive to the heartbreak of loss and typically end up allowing less-than-desirable music because these priests just can’t bear to refuse the [uneducated] bereaved at such a time.

    Rules that do exist are ignored. Hard to argue with the bereaved if they have attended other services/Masses that flaunted all the rules. Until our Church authorities forbid these practices, the priests who want to follow the Church teaching get no back-up from their ‘bosses’.

    If priests had worthy rules to cite, or at least were directed to adhere to what we have, just like it used to be before the 60s, they wouldn’t carry the burden of believing that they are responsible for these kinds of decisions.

  72. PostCatholic says:

    If Church authority was properly expressed and enforced without ambiguity, priests wouldn’t be put in this dilemma of facing down the bereaved who have personalized requests for a funeral. As a choir member I know that priests bend over backwards being sensitive to the heartbreak of loss and typically end up allowing less-than-desirable music because these priests just can’t bear to refuse the [uneducated] bereaved at such a time.

    I believe that most priests do. I’m also pretty sure that if your conception of “Church authority was properly expressed and enforced without ambiguity” that the result would be a very satisfied and loyal but small flock of adherents.

    By the way, what is the objection to “On Eagle’s Wings”, which is as nearly as I can tell a poetically reworked version of “Qui habitat” with a bit of New Testament theology added to it? Can I presume it’s the musical style? Surely it’s not the words of Psalm 91 (which itself draws the “bearing on eagle’s wings” from Ex 19:4).

  73. dcs says:

    By the way, what is the objection to “On Eagle’s Wings”, which is as nearly as I can tell a poetically reworked version of “Qui habitat” with a bit of New Testament theology added to it?

    The objection is probably the implication that the deceased has gone to heaven.

  74. thereseb says:

    The problem is that only a singer with near perfect pitch can get the first note right. Even if they do, it is a deliberate dissonance (the Devil’s tritone). The chorus also requires a vocal range of at least an octave and a half – which is tough for the organist to pitch for SATB congregational singing as you will probably have fairly unhappy Altos/Basses if you go low enough for the Tenors/Sopranos to hit the low notes reliably. Also there are a lot of accidentals within the bars – which are not easy for an amateur sight-reader to pitch well. It is a suitable song for a well trained boy treble.

  75. Jane says:

    I have already commented in this section on the need for prayers for the dead. There is something else that I wish to mention. It is not about Catholics, but it is an interesting contradiction.

    At the Princess Diana funeral service (Church of England) of course, there was the implication that she is in heaven, and at the same time the clergy man there commended her soul to the Mercy of God. How’s that for a bet each way! If she is in heaven as they seemed to imply, why did she need the Mercy of God?

    Blessed Mother Theresa and her nuns prayed for the soul of Princess Diana, who was Mother Theresa’s friend. They were more with it!

    A good collection of people have come to my webpage for the Holy Souls from this website. Thank you and keep coming, not for me, but for collecting information on how to help the Holy Souls in Purgatory and to learn about the ways in which they help their benefactors. When you do learn this, don’t keep it to yourself, yell it from the rooftops to others.

    Here is the link:

  76. I was adressing shoofoolatte, not you, PostCatholic.

  77. Traductora says:

    Mrs. Doyle, that was very interesting. I remember that in New York in the old days men would remove their hats and people would bless themselves (because they were saying a prayer) when a funeral procession passed by. These practices are very good; in addition, it actually gives the family some kind of relief. This is the kind of “community” people need, not having the funeral liturgy turned into a sort of cocktail party without the cocktails.

    The odd thing is that now survivors are not supposed to mourn but are supposed to turn up all chipper at work the next day and just shrug it off. I guess that’s because of the modern Pelagian belief that we all just go to sleep like puppies and then we wake up chasing our tails in Heaven the next day. But one thing we never consider now is that depriving the funeral service of its seriousness also deprives death of its seriousness and deprives the survivors of their time to mourn and their time to pray.

  78. mfg says:

    I found the rebroadcast (I couldn’t bring myself to watcvh it live) of enormous practical use. I got on my computer and wrote a letter to my children to be added to my will. Note: my Pastor has already agreed to a traditional latin Requiem Mass. I requested my children’s cooperation in asking Father for Gregorian chant for a Requiem Mass and the Dies Irae, which I imagine will happen anyway. Black vestments are a must. I imagine I will have to somehow procure these while I am still walking around. That’s OK. And there are to be no pictures of me anywhere in the church, including the vestibule, recently redubbed the narthex. My children already know there is to be no eulogy but it goes without saying because Father would not allow it. If they do print any flyers they should say Requiem Mass for the Repose of the Soul of ____. Oh, wait, there is no need for flyers given it will not be that kind of ceremony. I look at it as an invaluable opportunity to catechise my friends and family, novus ordo all. Basically I want the same sendoff I attended for my grandparents. Please God someday all Catholics will have this privilege without having to do any spadework, but in the meantime we must work and pray. Thanks for the blog, Fr. Z. Sincerely from one who has heard On Angels Wings too often.

  79. Nerinab says:

    Before I became better informed about the Catholic faith, I didn’t really pray. Oh, I’d say things like, “I’ll pray for you” but then I’d never follow through. I didn’t know much about prayer, and I don’t think I really believed in the power of prayer. However, I started reading Scripture and saw that Jesus spent a large part of his life IN PRAYER. I read about the Saints and how much they prayed and slowly I began to see not only the importance of prayer in connecting us to God, but also the effectiveness of prayer. Couple this awareness with my growing understanding of the Mass as a prayer, and I began to look at the liturgy in a completely different light.

    As for the Mass of Christian Burial, I am so thankful to be Catholic and to have a way to offer the most powerful intercession for the deceased. I am so thankful to be part of a tradition that prays, as a community for the faithful departed. I am so thankful for a Church that doesn’t forget the dead and asks for prayers for the recently departed and remembers those that are long forgotten. The Mass of Christian Burial should be about praying for the dead AND praying for the consolation of those left behind to grieve. There is no reason we can’t do both.

  80. PostCatholic says:

    I was adressing shoofoolatte, not you, PostCatholic.
    Forgive my confusion, then. I assumed that by quoting my words you were addressing yourself to me.

  81. Melody says:

    Funerals are both a chance to pray for the dead and a chance for the living to say goodbye and experience catharsis. Modernist funeral masses do a disservice to both these aims. Not only are there not prayers for the benefit of the deceased, but when I was grieving, it felt like I was being asked to deny my feelings.

  82. irishgirl says:

    Good posts from everyone-wish I were that eloquent!

    I have been to both OF and EF funeral Masses. And if I had to choose, I’d go for the EF. It’s more subdued than the ‘celebrations of life’ that pass for services in the OF. [I can’t stand that term, ‘celebration of life’-grrrr-my life’s not worth much, and I will glad to leave this sad and ugly earth, this ‘vale of tears’!]

    I don’t want any eulogy when my time comes. If the priest wants to say some words at the Mass, that would be perfectly fine. But if anyone else wants to say anything, then do it at the wake or after the burial.

    I want people to pray for me, in case I’m ‘grilling in purgatory’ [St. Bernadette of Lourdes].

  83. Eric says:

    Would it be appropriate to have the priest read a statement by me before the homily at my Requiem mass?
    I’m still working on it, but something like.

    “If you assume I am in heaven, (or hell, which is more likely), and don’t pray for my soul, if I am still in purgatory when you get here, there will be hell to pay.”

  84. robtbrown says:


    The following comes from someone who has taught theology in seminary.

    Your comments indicate that you might have had a seminary education, but it certainly wasn’t good. The sprinkling of phrases like “angry God”, “formalism”, and avoiding the “spit roast treatment” are typical of 1970ish theology that is little else than a superficial opposition to the by-the-numbers Manualism of Counter Reformation theology, esp of the late period.

    Your seminary education seems to have given you little insight into grace or the doctrine of Purgatory. Instead, instead you rely a post modern version of the by-the-numbers approach (the three tools of pastoral care are . . . ). I acknowledge the importance of pastoral care of those grieving, with anecdotes, etc., but the comfort from the funeral mass is the Mercy and Wisdom of God. Remembrances of the deceased are fine for the wake prior to the mass or any reception following it.

    Further, having grown up in a Protestant milieu, I can testify that Purgatory is of great comfort to the grieving because praying for the dead is an antidote for the helplessness usually found among surviving spouses or parents.

    I have often told students, priests, and whoever would listen that a proper understanding of Purgatory is essential to insight into the nature of the Church. Why? Simply because Purgatory is the metting of God’s Justice and Mercy (BXVI touched on this in his encyclical Spe Salvi). And so it is directly tied to any explanation of the why suffering can be salvific.

    If God’s Justice usurps His Mercy (as often happened in the late Counter Reformation Church), then we miss the point of the Incarnation, when, as Leo Magnus said, the Creation is united to the Creator. On the other hand, if God’s Mercy usurps His Justice, then we are left (as is usually the case in the present situation) with Lardy Liberal Protestantism that confuses believing with pretending (cf Josef Pieper).

    Re “formalism”: I do not attend mass in order to witness the performance of celebrants who have devised their own idiosyncratic rubrics and gestures. In funerals these often exist to empathize with the grieving. God save us from such sentimentalism.

  85. deusvult says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf,
    Your question is exactly why I want to have my funeral done in the extraordinary form with the Dies Irae, etc. I don’t want the priest to canonize me, as seems to be the informal custom these days in the ordinary form. Rather, I want people to pray for my soul because my salvation is not assured and the fate of my soul (and theirs too) is known only to God. I want to people to pray for me and to contemplate through the Mass that the day of my death and theirs is a day to be prepared for with fear and trembling, as well as with trust in God’s mercy provided we have been trying to live a life according to His will. Mind you, I’m 40 years old and grew up with the ordinary form, but I’ve attended a few extraordinary form funerals and found them much more truthful about the meaning of Christian death and the four last things.

  86. deusvult says:

    By the way, all music coming from the Gather “hymnal” will be hereby banished from my funeral in the event that my wish for an extraordinary form funeral is overruled by the priest. I want traditional music and no “Eagles Wings.”

  87. Bruce says:

    Just thought I would let everyone know that Fr. Thomas Rosica (CEO of Salt & Light TV here in Canada) labels pro-lifers “agents of division, destruction, hatred, vitriol, judgment and violence”


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