QUAERITUR: Funeral problems with relatives

From a reader:

An unhappy and scandalous situation has just occurred in my family. My aunt passed away last week. I live in a different state, and am not sure at what level she was still engaged in her Catholic faith, but she certainly did practice when I was in closer proximity to her, and I know that a few years ago when her husband died she provided for him a normal funeral, with wake the night before and a funeral mass the next day. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that she will receive the same treatment.

Her surviving children, neither of whom practices their faith anymore, decided NOT to arrange for any funeral mass. They had my aunt cremated and are having a “remembrance” luncheon instead.

So, Father, my quandary: if a person’s own children do not arrange for a funeral mass such as in a situation as this, can another more distant family member arrange for a funeral mass at the deceased person’s parish, even though the remains are not present?

This is going to happen more and more frequently, I’m afraid.

So many of the generation following the Council, so many aging children of the now elderly devout, are either unchurched or, having seen so much of the unworthy in their churches during their youth, simply drifted off into the warm embrace of the world, the flesh and the devil.

We cannot impose our will on the deceased’s immediate family. We can, however, on our own initiative arrange for Masses to be said for the one who died.

It would be a fine spiritual work of mercy.

[From my iPhone… broadband not to be had right now]

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  1. Maltese says:

    *So many of the generation following the Council, so many aging children of the now elderly devout, are either unchurched or, having seen so much of the unworthy in their churches during their youth, simply drifted off into the warm embrace of the world, the flesh and the devil.*

    Dang-I couldn’t have said it better! I like that: “…drifted off into the warm embrace of the world…”! Well, the council did drift off into the warm embrace of the world at the exact, precise time when she needed to stay moored.

  2. Thomas G. says:

    What a disgrace this is. It serves as a warning however: put your wishes for a Funeral Mass into your will.

  3. Justin from Ohio says:

    Father has hit the nail on the head. This is indeed a growing phenomenon. I am saddened when I think of a similar situation involving one of my c-workers. He comes from a devout, Italian-Catholic family. Sadly, he grew up in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, was poorly catechized and left the Church for one of those Evangelical mega-churches. He became a staunch anti-Catholic.

    Now I hear through the grapevine that his poor mother, herself still a devout Catholic, is in a nursing home and he won’t allow her to receive the Eucharist or any of the sacraments. I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t get a Catholic funeral mass either upon her death. It’s a sad situation…

  4. Father Ignotus says:

    Whenever I deal with a family that acts this way, I automatically add a Mass intention for the deceased to our parish intention book, just in case the family never does. At least this way they’ll have one Mass said for them.

    Another thing that is becoming more common is to have goofy, made-up “celebration of life” ceremonies, with things like a release of doves (to signify for us that the soul has gone to heaven) and a reception featuring the deceased’s favorite finger foods or what have you. Goofy! Much of it is pure selfishness on the part of the surviving family members and a total failure to understand the reality of death and the need to pray.

    It is very important that we make our funeral wishes known so that we ourselves can avoid this same sort of thing happening when we are gone. If you want Masses said for you, stipulate it in your will and designate some money for that express purpose. Etc…

  5. Flambeaux says:

    One of my grandfathers died not too long ago and neither he nor his children wanted a funeral Mass. So I had one sung for his repose on my own initiative and, since some religious communities are reviving the practice of Perpetual Masses for the Dead, I’m enrolling my relatives in those as each shuffle off his mortal coil.

    I’m also taking the opportunity to instruct my own children, the great-grandchildren of my late grandfather, of their duty to pray for the dead.

  6. Flambeaux says:

    I should add that often the objection to obsequies is, as it was in my grandfather’s case, a concern that these things must be paid for…and are of no real value. In some diocese, the clergy think nothing of requesting large sums of money as “stipends”. While it may be technically allowable, and the worker is worth his wage, it can cross the line into creating the impression that the Sacraments are for sale.

    I try to be generous within my means with stole fees and stipends. But the “cost of a funeral Mass” will be one of the principle objections from many of these lapsed or semi-practicing Catholics.

  7. JosephMary says:

    I have made hospital visits of the sick. I cannot tell you how many times I came across old grandma or grandpa and the whole family has left the faith. Often they will even leave the room rather than pray with us. And just the condition of those who register as ‘Catholic’ but have not practiced their faith in years. Sometimes I would go to the chapel and cry over the hard hearts I had encountered. And then nominal Catholics have bought into the ‘everyone goes right to heaven’ thing and do not see any need for a funeral Mass or any of that sort of thing. And, Fathers, how many funerals do you conduct where only a handful of souls come forward to Holy Communion because the family has lost the faith?

    Anyway, one way-among many- to obtain the Gregorian set of Masses for the dead is through Aid to the Church in Need. The money goes to aid a poor priest in his ministry. I commissioned these Masses for my parents when they died although they did have a funeral Mass. I pray for the souls in purgatory daily especially those I have known and we need to keep in mind the many souls who have no one to pray for them.

  8. C. says:

    The will is only read after burial/cremation, so you need to make arrangements well in advance. Part of this involves pre-paying for the coffin, funeral, burial plot and Mass offerings. In a will, you can ensure that your relatives won’t be able to enjoy any post-mortem refunds they might demand for the services you arranged.

  9. llbacon527@msn.com says:

    Several years ago, a dear uncle passed away and his daughter who had converted to Judaism informed me that there would not be a Catholic funeral. I asked her if she minded if I had a Memorial Mass celebrated for her father and she agreed. A priest-friend agreed to do it and several of our friends came and prayed for his soul.

    As for our own funeral…My husband & I have pre-arranged and pre-paid our funerals so we know that our desires will be carried out and our children have copies of the arrangements.

    Putting your wishes in your will is not a good idea because the will is often read only after the deceased is burried. Too late!


  10. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Sad, but not surprising.

    While (relatively) young, I put a provision in my will providing for a Funeral Mass to be said, as well as a Month’s Mind.

    One goal of mine is to provide enough money that a proper Requiem Mass will be said on a subsequent All Souls Day. It would be EF accompanied by Mozart’s Requiem.

    It’s a long term goal, but everyone needs something to dream about.

  11. Sieber says:

    When I offer my daily prayer for the departed, I do so for all who have died since the last time I offered this prayer and for all those who will die before I again offer this prayer…. realizing, of course, that one day that will include me.

  12. TJerome says:

    I guess “Sister” Chittester and her spirit of Vatican II crowd didn’t do a very good job of instilling the Faith in the younger generation. Banners,
    balloons, and Kumbaya can only go so far. Tom

  13. AJP says:

    Don’t mean to derail the discussion on a tangent, but I wanted to ask a question related to this: can a Mass be publically said for a deceased non-Catholic? And by this I mean not a funeral or requiem Mass, but a regular Mass at your parish – the ones where you typically sign up for a date well in advance, and during consecration the priest says “we pray especially for John Doe for whom this Mass is being offered.” I ask because a relative of mine recently died – the relative was baptized and a lifelong Protestant.

  14. FrCharles says:

    This sort of thing comes up a lot in my day-to-day ministry. Often the trouble is that folks want a priest to come ‘say a prayer,’ but are unwilling to have a proper funeral Mass or treat cremated remains with the same dignity as a body, e.g. not burying/entombing, dividing them up, etc. My pastor–God love him–is good and strict on this. If you want a priest, you have to bury the dead. If it’s a question of cost, we maintain a charitable fund for this purpose. We too use the solution of the memorial Mass, which we run just like a funeral, with everything but the deceased (and the commendation, of course.)

  15. irishgirl says:

    Right on, Father Z, as well as the other priests who have posted!

    Father Ignotius-I know how you feel about ‘celebrations of life’. I’m with you-they’re pretty goofy.

    I’d rather have a Requiem Mass offered for my soul than have a ‘celebration of life’!

  16. Titus says:

    Putting your wishes in your will is not a good idea because the will is often read only after the deceased is burried. Too late!

    Simply expressing wishes in your will is indeed not a good idea, for this reason. You can, however, use a will to compel compliance with your funeral wishes (1) if you have it done correctly and (2) if you tell your relatives about the situation. To wit:

    Gifts in wills do not have to be made unconditionally. A testator can write “I give china cabinet to Maude, but only if he puts 10 roses on my grave at my funeral.” The conditions can be more meaningful, more onerous, etc. The conditions are generally valid and enforceable by your executor (there are rare exceptions, usually only applicable if you try to use a condition to keep someone from getting married).

    Thus, if large or valuable parts of your estate is going to your next of kin (the people who will have custody of your body at your death), you can use conditional bequests to compel compliance with your burial plan: “I leave my china cabinet to my son Steve, but only if he complies in all respects with the burial plan established in Part III of this will.” An attorney will tell you that this isn’t a good idea, but the attorney will say that only because he was taught (incorrectly) in law school that conditional gifts are “bad.” Actually doing the drafting isn’t hard, your attorney will be able to do it if you insist on it.

    The important part, however, is to tell your executor and the relevant family members ahead of time: let them know that if they have you cremated, all your stuff is going to Cousin George and St. Hedwig’s.

    Re: pre-payment — this is a good idea, but you can face some of the same difficulties if the funeral home doesn’t know you’re dead (unlikely if there’s an obit) or your family is overly recalcitrant.

  17. Random Friar says:

    AJP: I’d answer that yes, provided that the occasion did not provoke scandal or was just for show. E.g., I’ve offered Mass publicly for the President on his Inauguration, mentioning that it is our duty to pray for our civil leaders. I’ve also offered for many fallen-away or non-practicing folks whose family wanted a Mass offered. I do not as a general rule say “that Adam may return to the faith” or anything like that for private individuals in the intentions, simply invoking God’s blessings on them, or for the eternal rest of their souls. For civic leaders I pray that they may govern wisely, and may work for the common good (although I will add especially the most weak and vulnerable, including the unborn, regardless of who they are). I will not offer a prayer that someone may pray for us in Heaven, unless they are at least a Blessed. ;)

  18. DisturbedMary says:

    Our Lord dictated the following prayer to St. Gertrude the Great to release 1,000 Souls from Purgatory each time it is said.

    “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”

  19. albizzi says:

    My dear mother passed away on last Jan 28th.
    Although she feared not having at least one priest for her funerals, they were
    4 priests, the eldest one was 102 y.o.(!)and the church was overcrowded mainly because she taught the catechism for more than 45 years and everybody knew her.
    I found a good mean to have masses said for her soul’s rest without seeming to buy these, through a pious organization AED (“Help to the Church in great need”)
    AED has priests everywhere in the world, mainly in the poorest countries. These priests gather money (the amounts are at the discretion of the donators)for themselves and their
    flock’s material needs and in return they say masses for whichever intention one wants

  20. Dove says:

    In the EF there is a provision for a funeral mass when the body is not present. I don’t know about the OF. This is not a votive mass but a funeral mass. I think the answer to this person’s question is yes. By the way, we can’t do votive masses in Lent, so it would have to be a funeral mass if it’s after Wednesday.

  21. I offered a funeral Mass this moring for a little sweet heart that outlived her family. There were only 6 people present, with 3 receiving our Lord. What I didn’t like is that she was laid out in the church for one hour and then Mass began. No other wake, no rosary, and sadly not even a rosary in her clenched hands. This seems to be a growing trend in my area.
    I also have done two funerals – no Mass – in the funeral home and the deceased were laid out in a recliner. The family is very poor and their loved one was to be cremated. I didn’t ask about the ashes because I have learned that sometimes it is better not knowing. I just pray for the whole family, remember the deceased out loud by name at the following weekend Masses and ask our Lady to fix what needs to be fixed. This past weekend the daughter of the deceased realized that the ashes needed to be placed in sacred ground and is in the process of making arrangements. She was shown in some way that her mother was unable to rest or move on until this was done. I just smiled, agreed to bless and lay to rest both sets of cremains – while slently thanking our Lady.
    I often wonder what those in the future will think of our lack of respect towards our loved ones, and what it will be like meeting the souls of those we didn’t give the proper respect to in the next life.

  22. Joan M says:

    This post and the ensuing comments has been the necessary push for me to actively do something to ensure that my last wishes will be known.

    I do not have any real worry that I might not have a Catholic funeral, since both my husband and my second son are solidly Catholic. My eldest has drifted from the Church, but I believe he would also respect my wishes. However, too often here in Trinidad, funeral Masses are a “Celebration of Life” with all being sure the deceased is already in Heaven. Further, there is a cultural habit of having the coffin open in the narthex of the church for all to have a final look at the deceased prior to the funeral Mass. This I DO NOT want!!

    So, I have done some research and have found a simple form that I downloaded from the Internet that will assist me with documenting what I want and what I do not want.

    I will complete this and ensure that those who need to know will know that the document, signed by me, will be in our safe along with wills – mine and my husband’s.

    I also intend to talk to the most reputable funeral home here in Trinidad to do some advance planning, which their web-site states that they do.

  23. TNCath says:

    Funerals (and even weddings) are becoming life events where hostility to the Church rears its ugly head. Old wounds come back to haunt and, unfortunately, the poor catechesis of the past 40 years comes full circle.

    Sometimes there is absolutely nothing one can do, however, I agree with those who have posted above: GIVE YOUR EXECUTOR WRITTEN, SIGNED, AND NOTARIZED DIRECTIONS AHEAD OF TIME OF EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT DONE. Otherwise, there is no guarantee you will get what you request. You may also want to leave a copy with your parish priest as well. I can’t tell you how many funeral home/graveside funerals we have had in our parish the last 20 years. The faithful departed were pillars of the parish whose children had long abandoned the Faith and wanted an “express funeral” with Father present to “say some prayers” and be done with it. Heartbreaking.

  24. greg the beachcomber says:

    While making your plans known for your proper funeral arrangements and burial, be sure to include your wishes for Extreme Unction and the Apostolic Blessing, though these days it can be difficult finding priests willing to do them.

  25. Supertradmom says:

    Wills do not work, unless you have a pre-paid arrangement with a Catholic funeral home, the parish priest and the executor ahead of time.

    Sadly, I know several people who could not get a priest to come to the hospital for the Last Rites. One man died in the evening, and none of the twelve priests in the city where he lived were available. A woman could not get a priest to come to the hospital, as none were available. She was also buried without a priest, as her plot was in a city not in her diocese and the priests of that diocese said they only come for those registered in one of their parishes. Some of the priests in my parents’ diocese do not answer the phone after five o-‘clock and tell the parishioner that up front. If you need the Last Sacrament, you need to get it between nine and five in several parishes. I wish I was making this up.

    My fallen-away Catholic brother is the executor for my parents will, but he knows that they have everything planned and paid for through the Catholic funeral home and the parish. It is good to get the parish priest involved so that he knows what one wants as well.

  26. gambletrainman says:

    Question. Several of you are saying that stipulating in the will is not good enough, as the will is usually read after the funeral. In my case, I have the original will signed, notarized and witnessed. The funeral home and my executor both have unsigned copies of that will, so, according to my way of thinking, as soon as I die, someone in charge is going to know what my preferences are. Am I wrong?

  27. Father Ignotus says:

    Things like having the Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum in extremis can be stipulated in a living will/advance medical directive. There is such verbiage in the version that I have.

    That’s not to say that you shouldn’t also talk it over with family/friends and remind them that they need to call a priest if you get sick. Sometimes this is the last thing that people remember to do, so far are their minds from the Church and spiritual things. They need to be reminded before that day comes.

    It’s good to talk with an attorney about these things and also contact the chancery of your Diocese to find out if they have a standard Catholic version of a living will and/or advance directive that holds up under the state law where you are. There are several dioceses that provide such a resource.

  28. TKS says:

    I have had to arrange many funerals lately. After witnessing so many funeral Masses where my Catholic-raised by completely non-practicing relatives (which is everyone except my Mother and me) receive Holy Communion, I have taken to having The Rite of Christian Burial at the gravesite to prevent this (recommended by a Priest friend). Then I arrange a set of Gregorian Masses immediately.

    I have written my obit and have my wishes known and written down. I remember my Mother has always said that if we didn’t follow her wishes for a family-only Mass and burial, she’d make our lives miserable here on earth. It’s a family joke but we all remember which is what counts. One day about 20 years ago at a family gathering, I wrote down on a piece of paper all our names asked for funeral wishes. Because it was done in a light vein and not in a crisis, we all felt at ease. That paper sits on the top of the refrigerator to this day and I bring it out when needed. We all kid about it but it’s really used.

  29. jfk03 says:

    I have seen faithful catholics buried (or more commonly, cremated) without a funeral because the kids are baptized pagans. A suggestion: make all gifts contingent upon providing the testator with a Catholic funeral mass. That will get their attention!

  30. Terentia says:

    I am a hospice nurse and sadly this is all too common. And not just with Catholics. I’m seeing more and more cremations without even a prayer service or memorial afterwards. The saddest I ever saw was when I did a death call and was told by the family that they knew their mother would die that day because she kept asking for a priest. When I asked if a priest had come, the daughter said, “Oh we didn’t call anybody. What difference would it make.” I cried all the way home, prayed for that poor woman, then called my daughter and told her in no uncertain terms that if I ask for a priest, she is to get me one.

  31. homeschoolofthree says:

    When two of my brothers died recently, over my intense objections, I was outvoted by my other siblings on funeral Masses. My dear priest however; provided requiem Masses with a catafalc(sp?) in place of their caskets. It was very moving for me and all in attendance to at least have all of the prayers for my brothers. My parents would be appalled to know that two of their children(of 6) were denied proper funerals by their sons. I fear that when my dies, she has alzheimers, that my remaining brothers may not attend her funeral, thankfully, I can override their votes legally by being her power of attorney!

  32. Marlon says:

    My mother passed away last December. It was a happy duty for me to be sure a priest anointed her, and I worked with the music director at the parish where the funeral Mass took place along with the priest who said the Mass. It was the OF Mass, but with a sung Requiem and In Paradisum. The priest said a beautiful Mass and gave a good, Catholic homily. It makes me sad to know that this will not happen for many older devout Catholics.

  33. JAZ says:

    In some states, the law allows you to designate in writing a representative who has the legal authority to make your funeral arrangements, and is bound to follow your written wishes to the extent possible, including your wishes for religious services. You can also designate alternate representatives in case your first choice is unable or unavailable to act. Here is an example of such a form: http://dhs.wisconsin.gov/forms/AdvDirectives/F00086.pdf. If your home state has such a form, you can use it to take the right to make funeral arrangements out of the hands of relatives whom you cannot trust to carry out your wishes. You would have to make sure that the proper parties have copies. While it makes sense to advise the executor named in your will of your wishes, do not rely on that alone because the executor has no legal authority until the probate court formally appoints him, which will virtually always be well after the funeral is over.

  34. Jordanes says:

    AJP asked: can a Mass be publically said for a deceased non-Catholic? And by this I mean not a funeral or requiem Mass, but a regular Mass at your parish – the ones where you typically sign up for a date well in advance, and during consecration the priest says “we pray especially for John Doe for whom this Mass is being offered.” I ask because a relative of mine recently died – the relative was baptized and a lifelong Protestant.

    Random Friar is right. There’s no objection to a public Mass for the sul of a non-Catholic. That’s what we did at my parish for my non-Catholic (indeed, somewhat anti-Catholic) mother about a month after she died. I trust she would be in the position now where she was grateful for it.

  35. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Titus’ advice above was excellent and, I believe, is the way to go if you have doubts about your funeral arrangements. As a priest, I cannot believe the horror stories I have witnessed of pagan children disposing of their parents with less ceremony than the beloved pet gets.

    How bad does it get? I have seen devout Catholic parents cremated and their ashes mailed to the cemetery until someone got around to sticking them in the niche without ceremony of any kind. Then, the same pagan children lose their beloved dog, and spare no expense to purchase a doggy funeral with loving committal service to a nice doggy plot covered with a beautiful granite grave marker.

    A devout Catholic should not hesitate to make legally binding documents which ensure a Catholic funeral and BURIAL of the remains in a grave that a deacon can bless if the priest won’t go. I know of parishioners who legally excluded their kids from all funeral decisions because they are all pagan and the Catholic friends are considered the true family now. In addition, it was necessary to legally arrange for disinheritance if any of the darlings dared to interfere with the funeral arrangements.

    As far as last rites, I cannot overemphasize the importance of asking for the sacrament ahead of an “extreme” state. With the priest shortage now, it is not at all uncommon for the elderly to make a confession and ask for the sacrament before they even go to the hospital for an operation. Yes, it is true that traditionally the sacrament was not to be administered unless one was gravely ill, but it is better to get the sacrament and then improve then to wait until the death rattle and then not get a priest there at all.

    If one is in a nursing home, is elderly, and gets sick, the priest should be called even if it is not yet the last agony. I have given the last sacraments to countless elderly patients who “just had a flu” only to find out the next morning that they had died. And I know of many priests who actually got up in the middle of the night only to still find a dead patient because the decision was made to call him only after the patient was literally breathing the very last breaths.

  36. Margaret says:

    I’m horrified at some of the anecdotes here. Good grief– not calling a priest when a dying person requests it?!??

    It’s ten years since my dad passed, and one incident that still stands out in my mind was one of my younger sibling’s friends (sibling is not practicing, friend was never a church-goer of any flavor) took the trouble to find out what the most appropriate thing for her to do. This gal had surely never darkened the door a Catholic church, yet she found her way over to the rectory and got a Mass said for my dad, along with a memorial card to bring to the wake. Obviously many of our better-catechized family and friends did the very same thing, but it touched me deeply that someone of my far-too-casual-and-cynical generation would go to such trouble.

  37. pablo says:

    God bless the Holy Nam

  38. pablo says:

    My Priest and Confessor knows me.

    When I die, he will collect my body and give me a proper Funeral Mass and burial. In the beautiful Church he built to the greater glory of God. He will place me in the Cemetary he established at that Church.

    He won’t do this because he likes me. He will do this because I am one of his sheep. I have seen him do this for many of his sheep. Even ones he never met until they called out for the Sacraments as death approached. I have seen him travel thousands of miles to annoint someone other Priests would not.

    We should all know our Priests well enough that our Sacraments and burials won’t be left to fools.

    If your Priest would not do this for you, you have not done enough for your Priest.

    God bless our Priests.

    O Lord Jesus Christ, Bless, I beseech Thee, Thy servant who has now ministered to me in Thy name. Help me to remember his good counsel and advice, and to perform duly what he has rightly laid upon me. And grant him the abundance of Thy grace and favour, that his own soul may be refreshed and strengthened for Thy perfect service, and that he may come at last to the joy of Thy heavenly kingdom. Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


  39. frjim4321 says:

    The opposite also occurs. This week we will have the funeral of a woman who was at this parish from the founding until 1998. Though she has been gone out of state for 12 years, she told her children she would like a funeral here. Even though none of the children are practicing Catholics, they are beautifully fulfilling her mother’s wishes, and working hard to see that it is the kind of funeral she would have wanted, even though they themselves don’t know what it is. It is very beautiful working with this family, they are very respectful and cooperative, even though the faith is foriegn to them. Fr. Jim.

  40. Ana says:

    This is a difficult topic for me and the lack of respect shown for the dead distresses me. As the only Catholic in my family, I have taken steps to ensure I have a Catholic funeral and that my non-Catholic family members. On the other hand, as two faced as this may seem to others, I have point blank informed my mother I will not cremate her and then hold onto her ashes as she once mentioned. I would prefer to bury her body, but if she pushes cremation she will be cremated and then buried during a private family burial service at her graveside. Since her religious beliefs directly contradict Christian teachings, she has also been informed I will not be responsible for arranging a funeral according to those beliefs. If she desires this, she needs to designate a member of her religion as her executor. As long as she is capable of making her own decisions she can make them without any interference on my part and even if she in incapacitated I will not disrespect her beliefs, but I will not violate my own conscience. This is a difficult situation for many families so in a way I understand how the evangelical protestant child may feel towards Catholicism. In situations where there is any question regarding differences and if one’s beliefs will be respected, steps must be taken to protect yourself.

    One should have the appropriate documents on file with your doctor and hospital so that your body is released to the funeral home of your choice and the arrangements you have with the funeral home cannot be changed by anyone especially if you have a prepaid fund. Let everyone know what you want and that plans have been made. Do not stop with family and friends. Let your parish priest, doctor, hospital, and executor of your will know what needs to be done.

  41. michelelyl says:

    A couple of things- fortunately in our town, you have to list a ‘religion’ when you go in to our local hospital. They call my parish and ask for a priest if the person is in danger of death or not able to ask immediately for a priest as long as they are identified as a Catholic in some way shape or form.
    Also- our Pastor and Parochial Vicar offer Mass on a regular basis for those who were not buried with the blessing of the Church. It happens frequently here- many children or grandchildren are not practicing so it’s a matter of fact that Mass is offered on a regular basis for those who cannot ask for themselves.

  42. Peggy R says:

    O, this is heartbreaking to read. I shall pray for these deceased.

    I am the only one of 6 children who is serious Catholic. Two are nominal, not understanding or living the faith. Others are anti-Catholic evangelicals and the last sadly doesn’t think God’s grace extends to her. I am fortunate to be married to a Catholic husband and am teaching the faith to my kids. I’d hate to depend upon my siblings for my funeral arrangements.

  43. Fr Martin Fox says:


    Mass may be offered for anyone, living or dead.

    About receiving the last sacraments…

    Frequently, I come to pray Last Rites, but I cannot give the person Viaticum because the patient is too far gone, or has a tube in his or her mouth. Too bad, because Viaticum is the most important part of the Last Rites. So don’t wait till the last moment as Fr. Sotelo said.

    Also, a priest can bring the Precious Blood for someone who cannot swallow even a part of the Host–however, this has to be planned ahead of time, since the Precious Blood isn’t reserved of course. If you or someone you love is getting in a bad way, for heaven’s sake, don’t wait! The Last Rites can be repeated as may be desired.

    Finally, if you call a priest to the bedside of someone near death, don’t assume he knows that. Many times, I come into the hospital room, and I don’t know a thing about the person’s condition, and it’s a little awkward to ask if you, or your loved one, is dying. Tell the priest what’s going on and ask him for all the Last Rites, “the full boat.”

  44. Supertradmom says:

    Please, all, pray for one man I know, who was a Mason. His son became a Catholic. Finally, the week he was dying, he repented and asked for a priest in order to come into the Church. His Protestant family (wife and siblings) had to have a meeting to agree to this request. Then, the Catholic son began phoning priests in his town to come and bring his father into the Church. The son and his wife phoned all the priests in three cities in the area. They could not get one priest to come. The man died outside the Church. The total number of parishes phone was nine, with about thirteen priests covering those.

    Please pray for his soul.

  45. Random Friar says:

    I am very sorry to hear that, Supertradmom, and will pray for that man tonight.

  46. AJP says:

    I too am appalled and horrified at some of these stories. Such disrespect for the dead and dying, especially one’s own parents, is stunning. Quite frankly, I wonder if in some of these more extreme cases the childrens’ callousness was motivated by something more than indifference or hostility towards Catholicism. I hate to say it, but perhaps in some of these cases the parents abused their children years ago? It might explain (though not excuse) why some adult children seem to want their parents’ deaths handled as quickly and with as little ceremony as possible.

    Sad to say, even seemingly devout elderly folks can have dark pasts with regards to their children and families. Among various branches of my extended family I can think of more than a couple members of the “greatest generation” who by all appearances were devout Catholics but who physically abused their children and tormented their families with alcohol abuse back in the 50s and 60s. In some cases those wounds never heal and there’s no resolution to the situation before the parent dies. This creates some very awkward and difficult situations regarding funerals, final burial plans, and the like.

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying that this is the reason behind every (or any) funeral horror story recounted here. I’m just speculating (based on personal experience) that it may be a factor when the adult children’s actions are so extreme and so disrespectful that it seems hatred of the deceased parent is the real driving force and bad catechesis/leaving Catholicism are secondary issues.

  47. moon1234 says:

    You must also explicitly ask for for the apstolic blessing as well. It is no longer given as a part of last rites in the newer form.

    Why something like this would be changed or removed is frightening. What a better way to leave this earth than with a final blessing that removes all temporal punishment for sin. ALL TEMPORAL PUNISHMENT FOR SIN! (Provided you don’t sin again before you die, you get to skip purgatory).

    I have told everyone of my family members that I want the older form of last rites with Extreme Unction, Viaticum and the Apostolic Blessing. I try to not to worry about this, but I still do. My grandmother did not get the Apostolic Blessing, I pray for her daily and hope she is able to be with the Lord or is already there.

  48. bookworm says:

    My brother and I are both practicing Catholics. We had a full funeral Mass for our father, and will do the same for our mother, although she claims she doesn’t need a night-before wake service because there aren’t all that many people in her community who still know her (or so she says).

    However I have a dilemma that may come up in the future. My husband is Catholic but stopped practicing the faith a few years after we married (long story). He says that when he dies, he does want a funeral Mass, and wants to be cremated (no problem so far) BUT he wants his ashes scattered over a body of water, preferably the Atlantic Ocean or Meditteranean if feasible (he is a Navy veteran of the first Gulf War); if that’s not feasible for me, he will settle for Lake Michigan (he entered the Navy at Great Lakes in Chicago).

    He thinks scattering is “more respectful” to the body than being placed in a grave or a mausoleum that could fall into ruin or neglect or be vandalized — there have been, unfortunately, many instances of this happening in our area in recent years. He once volunteered to help clean up a cemetery that had been shamefully neglected by the owner. I have tried to tell him otherwise and explain that the Church does not allow scattering, but, he won’t change his mind.

    As for myself, as long as I get a funeral Mass, and my remains get properly buried, I don’t care whether I get cremated or buried intact — ashes to ashes in the end anyway. We only have one child and she is mentally handicapped (autistic), so, how much she will be able to handle when the time comes, we don’t know.

    I understand that the U.S. Navy does provide burial at sea for either casketed or cremated remains free of charge for any Navy veteran. The ashes are deposited in the sea in an intact container. One of the websites promoting this says this practice is approved by the Catholic Church. Is that true? If so it might make an acceptable compromise.

    Anyway, my dilemma is this: am I bound to carry out my husband’s wishes even if they are contrary to Church law? If the answer is “no,” then in all fairness, what is there to prevent him disregarding MY wishes if I die first, because he doesn’t agree with them?

    We’re only in our mid-40s so I don’t expect this dilemma to occur any time soon, but you never know.

  49. Cath says:

    At my cousin’s funeral a few years ago, the priest talked about how the family was going to scatter the ashes as if it was perfectly okay. My mom and I got in a discussion about how that was not allowed and she told me that if one of her children requested it, she would do what they asked her. I was shocked and she asked what I would do if one of my children asked that of me. I told her no way. My children, the ones old enough to understand (range in ages from six to 20), would never ask that of me because they know I would never do it.

  50. Fr. Z, I really hated to use this thread to announce a death, but thought it may be seen by those who knew this wonderful priest. I’d mentioned the priest before and someone on here responded that they knew him. I thought they might like to know that this priest passed away.

    Fr. Cyril Levy, who was missionary priest at St. Anthony’s in McNary, Az for almost 30 years, passed away yesterday morning, Feb. 15th at 7am. His funeral Mass will be held at St. Mary of the Angels in Pinetop, AZ at 11:00 am Saturday, Feb. 20th.

    May he rest in peace

  51. cheekypinkgirl says:

    Sadly, when my father (a lax, almost non-practicing Catholic) died 7 years ago, I had been out of the Church for quite some time. Even so, it seemed that I was the one who “took over” when it happened and called the Catholic church I grew up at to get him Last Rites (they sent over a Deacon, so now what am I supposed to think?), picked the funeral home, and arranged for a funeral mass. It was all Catholic to a point (i.e. Catholic but worldly), but I believe that the worldly aspect is what my Dad wanted – even though I think it’s strange that none of this was arranged for, since my father knew for a year that he was dying.

    But what I REALLY FEEL BAD ABOUT NOW is what’s happened to my father’s cremated body. He wanted to be cremated, and I don’t object to that from the point of view that I am a daughter honoring her Father’s wishes. But what happened with the cremains I feel horrible about, since I now know better, but then willingly participated in it all. First, my Dad requested that “some, but not all” of his ashes be scattered in Mexico, which is where he wanted to retire. So my Mom and I later took a trip to Puerta Vallarta and dutifully scattered a baggie-ful of my Dad’s ashed over the ocean. A year or two later, when my Mom and I took a trip to Paris, my mother was suddenly doing the same thing on the top of the Eiffel Tower! By this time, I WAS back in the Church, and while I still didn’t know Church teaching on the subject, I was kind of miffed. But that wasn’t it – nope. About 5 years ago, my mother decided to bury ANOTHER baggie-ful of my Dad’s ashes in the cemetary where a memorial headstone was placed. My husband and I went along and prayed some prayers. And all I could do was be interiorly grateful that at last PART of my Father has been buried.

    But most sad is the fact that mother is now remarried and my father’s ashes sit in a box up in her attic. The original plan was that BOTH my Dad’s AND my Mom’s ashes would either be scattered or buried TOGETHER. So the agreement all along was that the surviving spouse would hold onto the ashes of the other. Well, now what? Now that my mother is remarried, where are my Dad’s ashes supposed to go? And is it right that they are just sitting in the attic? I am way, way too scared to bring this subject up to her, since I know that if I mention Church teaching, she will get mad, seeing as she still considers herself Catholic, but lives according to the “if it has meaning to me, it’s OK” gospel.

  52. Re: burial at sea

    ‘While cremated remains my be buried in a grave, entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium or even buried at sea, “the practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.” (OCF 416)

    The cremated remains of the body may be properly buried at sea in the urn, coffin or other container in which they have been carried to the place of committal.

    When a body, or the cremated remains of a body are buried at sea, the Committal prayer found at number 406 § 4 is used:

    Lord God, by the power of your Word you stilled the chaos of the primeval seas, you made the raging waters of the Flood subside, and calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee. As we commit the body (earthly remains) of our brother (sister) N. to the deep, grant him/her peace and tranquility, until that day when he/she and all who believe in you will be raised to the glory of new life promised in the waters of baptism. We ask this through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

    -excerpted from the Newsletter of the NCCB Committee on the Liturgy (July, 1999) [rkempist@archbalt.org]

  53. Supertradmom says:

    Dear AJP,

    I am distressed that you seem to lay blame on the Catholic parents whose wishes for Catholic burial, Masses, were not executed.

    Please do not do that. The reason I have seen why Baby Boomers and Gen Xers do not follow their parents Catholic wishes is simply that they do not want to be on the inside of a Church, or have anything to challenge their fallen away lifestyles. Many devoted parents, who for years were daily Communicants, did hours of Adoration and said the rosary have children who hate the Church because they want to do so. In my own family, out of five of us, my sister is dead, I am a Catholic, but my three brothers have all fallen away from the Church. One is a so-called Baptist, who hates the Pope, does not see the value of the Mass, etc. At least, he is pro-life to a point. The other two are totally secularized intellectuals, who have not been in a Church since the Vatican II changes and wouldn’t recognize a NO Mass. Thankfully, my parents have arranged and pre-paid for everything.

    Do not cast aspersions on those, who is their old age and infirmity cannot insist on their wishes. Also, some children say one thing to their parents and do another-like ignore their wishes for a Catholic funeral.

  54. Supertradmom says:

    Question for the priests: can one ask for the Old Form of the Last Rites, which includes the Apostolic Blessing? Or does one have to have the New Form, with the Apostolic Blessing added?

    Before the motu proprio, we had a Latin Mass wedding and my son had an Tridentine Baptismal Sacrament with permission, of course. Would this be the same for the Last Rites?

  55. gloriainexcelsis says:

    All my wishes for end of life care, Last Rites, Rosary, EF Requiem Mass, gathering afterward (not a Celebration of Life) are in writing and witnessed with two signatures. Copies are in the hands of my one daughter whom I know will honor my wishes, my doctor, and my Pastor. I have even written something I want read at the gathering for the benefit of my family’s spiritual good; and I have stipulated in that missive that if anyone gets up and says that they know Mom is in Heaven, that I instruct that one’s Guardian Angel to slap him/her upside the head. I ask for prayers for the repose of my soul. I recently saw what happened to a dear friend who wanted a Traditional Requiem, but did not have it in writing or in the hands of someone who could defend her. There was a great to-do; but in the end she did have the Requiem because her friends stood up for her. The family at least “tolerated” it.

  56. Supertradmom says:

    Wow, I did not know that Guardian Angels slapped heads. I know St. Nicholas did that to Arius. Cool…

  57. Supertradmom says:

    Dear Random Friar,

    Thanks so much. The young children and teens in the son’s family were very much affected by these events, as you can imagine.

  58. GregH says:

    It is my personal belief that if you pray for priests daily, no matter what happens, you will be guaranteed last rits.

  59. gambletrainman says:


    Check with some official (attorney, clerk of court, etc). In my state the Power of Attorney ceases upon the death of the person. If that is the case in your state, your authority ceases upon the death of your mom, (I guess it’s your mom, as the particular word was omitted) unless you also are the executor (executrix)

  60. AJP says:


    please re-read my post. I never blamed any specific parents for any specific funeral horror story. I simply said that an abusive past *might* be a factor in some of the more extreme cases where the operating motivation seems to be more hatred of the deceased rather than ignorance of or hatred of the faith.

    I am very sorry to hear of what’s happened to your family with regards to the Church. There are certainly many families where despite the parents doing everything humanly possible to pass on the faith and raise holy families, the children left the Church.

    But not every family is holy, and not every parent is a good parent. A family can appear devout to the outside world (attending Mass every Sunday, lots of children) but be riddled with alcoholism, abuse, and dysfunction on the inside. Like I said in my previous post, I have some personal experience with this through my extended family.

    It’s hardly a shock when none of the baby boomer aged children of these families are practicing Catholics. In such cases, a large part of the blame for that should be laid at the feet of the abusive parent(s). Actions have consequences. And when those abusive parents die and their embittered, barely Catholic adult children do all sorts of scandalous and disrespectful things regarding the funeral and burial (as has also happened in my extended family) this too is a sad consequence of the parents’ sinful choices 50 years ago. At a certain point in adulthood the children are, of course, responsible for their choices and their adherence to the faith. But there’s a reason why our Lord speaks so harshly about those who give scandal to children. The effects can last a lifetime, and sadly into eternity :(

  61. Supertradmom says:


    In our extended family, three people as young children were abused by priests over several years-in the confessional. None of them lost their faith-heroic virtue. Abuse does not equal leaving the Church. Suffering frequently brings people into the Church and closer to God.

    I still think you are too harsh on the generations of good parents who were grieved to lose their children to the world, the flesh and the devil, and then to have those same children deny them the sacraments after death or at the end of their lives because of the kids own recalcitrance. I think such an attitude of cause and effect is not only unjust but a dangerous precedent. Grace is stronger than abuse. Love is stronger than the past…

  62. canon1753 says:

    As a priest, it is distressing when someone who is one of your communion calls, a person who loved the Eucharist, doesn’t have a funeral Mass.

    Also, I, just about as a rule, will offer the Apostolic Pardon for those being anointed when it is appropriate.

    I’ve had funerals with full Churches, and with 15 people. There are few things more solemn than celebrating a funeral for the departed person. If you lose the argument about the funeral Mass, have a memorial Mass asap. Tell your Pastor. Get cloistered religious to pray for the person.

  63. Fr_Sotelo says:


    Perhaps some children are bitter toward their deceased parents for the suffering of their childhood. However, that simply is no excuse for vengeful, evil, mean-spirited disregard of their parents’ right to a proper funeral and burial. There are people around who had a horrible childhood but still treated their parents properly after death. We do not need to accept the abuse issue to rationalize sinful and reprehensible conduct in children.

    Let us be understanding, but not enablers. If people have depraved manners and lack all class, let’s call the ace an ace and a spade a spade. I have known many Catholics who were salt of the earth folks, but who had the unfortunate circumstance of having children with low class, trash manners. But even if it is your fault that your children are unhappy, that does not give them any right or permission to take it out on you when you are dead and unable to stand up for your rights.

    An adult who suffered at the hands of a parent should not think: “I could not get back at you while you were alive, so I will wait until you are dead, at which time I will treat you like the piece of dung which I think you are.” Such an attitude shows that the child has become what he hated in the parent, and is more a reflection of the character of the child, not the parent who is now deceased.

  64. cheekypinkgirl says:

    *I* understand what you’re saying about the abuse thing and agree. It *might* be a factor in some situations.

  65. competent says:

    I think there might be a serious disconnect here between what happens in some places and what happens in others. I can only cite the experience of my devoted Catholic parents when they entered a nursing home in Florida. As far as I can tell, no priest or deacon regularly called on the nursing home. When it became apparent that they were near death, we called the local parish and were told that no priest was available for last rites (anytime, ever?), but that a deacon would come and say some prayers. Of course, this was nice, but it wasn’t the last rites of the Church because, for some theological reason I can’t comprehend given the shortage of priests, a deacon cannot perform last rites. The net result of this situation was that both parents died without benefit of last rites. You could see the distress and confusion particularly on my mother’s face when she finally comprehended what was going on. Now, I can understand that priests are busy, very VERY busy in fact, but what, pray tell, can be MORE important for a truly faithful priest than to perform last rites for dying lifelong faithful Catholics? When push comes to shove, it seems that someone has determined that it is somehow better that the faithful die without benefit of last rites. Am I missing something important here? I grew up pre-Vatican II in Catholic schools, so maybe my thinking and orientation is a little different than the current accepted norm on these matters.

  66. AJP says:

    You’re definitely right, Fr. Sotelo – abusive treatment is no excuse for disrespect towards the dead and dying. I hope I did not give the impression that I believed that, because I don’t.

    People who have lived lives filled with drunken violence towards their children are *especially* in need of the last sacraments, and prayers after death. How sad that the bitterness and dysfunction such behavior sows in families sometimes leads to these souls being denied spiritual help when they need it the most.

  67. Kate says:

    Please forgive my ignorance, but could someone please kindly explain what, exactly are:

    1.) Apostolic Blessing?
    2.) Month’s Mind?

    Thank you.

  68. ssoldie says:

    I have contacted the priest in this city I live in and have requested that if I am taken to the hospital and is expected to die, that they (hospital) call Fr. and tell him I want and need the last Sacrament ‘Extreme Unction’. I have also left instruction’s that if my daughter is informed by the hospital, that she call the priest and have it made known that I want the priest called before any member of the family. My daughter also knows I want a Requim Mass, the Mass from the 1962 Missal. I wrote everything down and gave it to my daughter so that all of my children and family, be they progressive, fallen away or indifferent, it is my last wish. I have also instructed that they who are not in communion with the Church and also those who are, and not in the state of sanctifying grace, do not recieve our Lord at Holy Communion.

  69. smallone says:


    “month’s mind” – a Mass said for the repose of one’s soul a month after one’s death.

    Someone else can answer the question about the Apostolic Blessing as I can’t do that one off the top of my head. (off to Google)

  70. smallone says:

    This has been a sobering thread. I have been in tears reading some of these posts. How can some children be so callous about their parents’ dying wishes? And, more disturbingly, how can CATHOLIC PRIESTS refuse to make themselves available to the dying?

    I haven’t worried too much about this because I am relatively young, but you never know. Right now I am surrounded by people who would know what I wanted, but I will have to make plans in case I become geographically isolated or suffer from dementia.

  71. Fr_Sotelo says:


    You’re right. It is very sobering. And for the clergy, it is truly heartbreaking when you have become so close to devout parishioners who did not make careful preparations, only to see them deprived of the Catholic funeral they wanted. I wish I could say this was rare.

    But there are some very beautiful stories of grace also. I remember one elderly gentleman in a nearby town, a devout, lifelong Protestant, who raised all his kids to be good Protestants. Then, in his elderly years, he started to watch EWTN every day.

    Before he could take convert classes and be received into the Church, he fell gravely ill. Before he died, he told the kids, “I want a Catholic burial. For some time now, I have, in my heart, converted to the Catholic faith, and wish to be buried in the rites of my Church.” The man died suddenly, and the family went to see the local priest, and made the arrangements their father had asked for. It was amazing, that the family did not have one Catholic, and yet the man received Catholic burial. I only wished most Catholic children had the same consideration.

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