Australia’s Catholic church bans pop songs at funerals

From Reuters:

Australia’s Catholic church bans pop songs at funerals

– Fri Sep 10, 2:46 am ET

MELBOURNE (Reuters Life!) – Football club songs and pop or rock music have been banned from funerals in Catholic churches in Australia under new guidelines distributed this week to priests and funeral directors.

A funeral should not be a "celebration" of the deceased’s life, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart said in the rules, but a final sacred farewell. Celebrations of that life should be held at social occasions before or after the funeral, he said.

"The wishes of the deceased, family and friends should be taken into account … but in planning the liturgy, the celebrant should moderate any tendency to turn the funeral into a secular celebration of the life of the deceased," the guidelines state. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

"Secular items are never [never] to be sung or played at a Catholic funeral, such as romantic ballads, pop or rock music, political songs, football club songs."

Some funeral directors, however, said the directive was insensitive to relatives’ needs as many grieving families wanted to incorporate multimedia presentations, including photographs and video of the deceased person’s life as well as music. [Funeral directors don’t get to make these decisions.  And that sort of thing could be done at the funeral home.]

"Funerals have become a celebration of people’s lives and there aren’t many that don’t include a DVD presentation," John Fowler, the general manager of Le Pine Funerals, told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper.

"It really gives you a sense of the joy that this person has brought to the world."  [I hate to say this, but that is not the reason for a funeral.]

Pop songs have become more common at funerals as new technology allows churches and funeral parlors to install sound systems and more people opt for services conducted by celebrants [Yet another reason why we need to get rid of the word "celebrant".] instead of religious ministers.

Centennial Park, a leading provider of cemetery, crematorium and memorial services in Australia, in 2008 compiled a list of the 10 most popular songs at Australian funerals.

The top song was Frank Sinatra’s version of "My Way," [My God… think of the lyrics.] followed by "Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, "Time To Say Goodbye" by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, and "Unforgettable" by Nat "King" Cole.  [My God… nice song, but how shallow have Catholics become about the meaning of life and death if this is the stuff they chose.]

Rounding out the top 10 were "The Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler, "Amazing Grace," "We’ll Meet Again" by Vera Lynn, "Over the Rainbow" by Judy Garland, "Abide With Me" by Harry Secombe, and "Danny Boy."  [Stop.  Just. Stop.]

The list of top 10 most popular unusual funeral songs included listed as Queen’s "Another One Bites the Dust," AC/DC’s "Highway to Hell, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by Monty Python, and "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" from "The Wizard of Oz." [Shoot me now.]

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith)

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  1. Jbuntin says:

    A couple of years ago,I attended a funeral Mass of the Mother of a friend of mine. The father was not Catholic. Our Priest allowed a preacher from the protestant side of the family to speak and then sing a song. It was not a good idea.
    A year later the father died and of course I attended the funereal. The same preacher would not allow the Priest to have anything to do with it and also at the graveside he was rude and spoke anti-Catholic jibberish.

  2. Denis says:

    Isn’t it possible to hold a commemorative event, where one celebrates the life of the deceased with pop songs and humorous anecdotes, or whatever songs or anecdotes one fancies, without turning the Requiem Mass into such an event? Why the obsession with turning the Mass into an omnibus vehicle for everything secular?

  3. catholicmidwest says:

    Everyone takes advantage of catholics because we think we have to “dialogue.” Then when the tables are turned, they do as they see fit because they think they have won. When will we ever learn?

    If your answer to a situation like this is more than 3 words long, you’re “dialoguing” which is a fool’s errand. What the Catholic faith demands is just not that complicated.

    This kind of BS is going on with gay rights advocates, protestants, muslims, you name it. Especially muslims. Grrrrr.

  4. catholicmidwest says:


    A lot of people only have the viewing and then the funeral. The whole thing is usually planned in a huge hurry because, after all, you only have about 3-5 days start to finish.

    Besides, many people aren’t getting buried from churches these days anyway, at least in the US. Most people are having their funerals at funeral homes and these “celebrations of life” are very non-descript unless somebody brings pictures…. And people have lost a sense of perspective, history and meaning, but that’s been going on for years now.

    I want bagpipes, myself. ;)

  5. Amen, Father! I live in the bible belt, Oklahoma, where Catholics around here are about as strong as our beer–we make up 3.2% of the population. Pretty weak! Most funerals I go to are protestant. Most people we know are protestant (we drive 2 hours to assist at a TLM). The funerals are horrendous! The last funeral we went to was my husband’s cousin’s. The family had his 6 year old daughter get up and belt out a county song! They also sang some pop songs and had a slideshow. There was nothing sacred about it. I think it has to do with their theology–they think there is nothing to do for their dead–they certainly don’t believe in praying for the deceased, so if one looks at it that way, it makes sense to make it into a show. I haven’t been to a Catholic funeral in years, but I am afraid to. I am sure this stuff has probably crept in. There’s a good reason why we drive two hours to assist at Mass.

  6. catholicmidwest says:

    Not excusing what happens, but people don’t think of church funerals as something particularly desirable anymore. I don’t see many of them where I am. But then, many people don’t take their religion very seriously anymore either.

  7. Gail F says:

    Perhaps “I Did It My Way” really captures the Australian spirit.

    Last year I went to a family funeral that I thought was very well done. There was some non-liturgical music played on the piano before the funeral started, and then there was a long and really interesting tribute to the deceased by one of his sons. And THEN the mass started. This stuff is not that hard to do right.

  8. TJerome says:

    I applaud the Archbishop. The things the family wants to do to “celebrate” the deceased’s life can be done either at the funeral home pre-funeral or post funeral after the Requiem Mass.

  9. catholicmidwest says:

    People bury their family members like someone would bury a favorite hunting dog.

  10. FrCharles says:

    The ‘celebration of life’ has eclipsed the purpose of the funeral liturgy because folks have ceased to believe–and have ceased to hear preaching about–the Last Things and the destiny of the person beyond this life. I thought a lot about this as a parish priest after I began to notice a certain dissonance: everyone at a wake or funeral spoke as if the deceased were assuredly ‘in heaven,’ and yet there was still a huge demand for Masses to be offered for the recently deceased. Why the demand for Masses, if we were assured that the departed had reached the end of their journey? I realized that the whole business, in the imagination of many, had become about memorializing on the human level, rather than about prayer to God.

  11. boko fittleworth says:

    But I’ve composed a version of Candle in the Wind/Goodbye English Rose to be sung at my funeral. Guess I can tell my sisters to stop rehearsing “Well Done, Pittsburgh Sunflower!”. Sigh.

  12. xgenerationcatholic says:

    I thought “my heart will go on” would be on the list.

    “I did it My Way?” It sounds like it could be called: “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”

    Could more archbishops say things like this?

    I’m so lucky that the last three funerals I went to were good Catholic ones.

    “Everyone takes advantage of catholics because we think we have to “dialogue.” Then when the tables are turned, they do as they see fit because they think they have won. When will we ever learn?” – I certainly agree.

  13. TNCath says:

    Yes, this “celebration of the life of” business has gone on long enough. Unfortunately, this is just another example of how people view the Mass or any ceremony that happens in church as entertainment.

    Among the creepiest Catholic funerals I have attended included a cassette tape recording of the deceased himself singing “Try to Remember,” a recording of Barbra Streisand singing “Evergreen” during Communion at the funeral of an infant, a lady with a ukelele singing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” (a la Tiny Tim), opera star Marguerite Piazza singing “Danny Boy” at the funeral of entertainer Danny Thomas at the cathedral in Memphis in the presence of and the blessing of the bishop at the time.

  14. wmeyer says:

    Fr. Z, while I can appreciate your wish to get rid of the word “celebrant”, I am far more eager to ban the word “presider”, which too many in my parish seem to understand means the priest is no one special.

  15. TMA says:

    God bless this good bishop. A priest once instructed me that it was o.k. to “rape” the liturgy in order to care for the bereaved. I shudder to remember what used to be acceptable. This is why I want the TLM requiem when my time comes.

  16. irishgirl says:

    Kudos to the Archbishop of Melbourne!

    I can’t stand the words ‘Celebration of Life’ whenever I read the obituaries.

    When I pass from this life, I want an honest-to-goodness REQUIEM MASS!

  17. Liz F says:

    And what of the Poor Souls? (as Fr. Charles says) That’s what kills me. Few people are praying for their souls while “celebrating” their lives. I think a good ole wake is a good idea, but also the rosary and funeral mass for his or her soul. I want people praying hard for my soul once I die (and please God, the grace of a happy death.) I knew this growing up because of my parents, but it wasn’t until I attended a couple of funerals in the EF that it became extremely clear to me what it was all about. That left no doubt in my mind. I agree with TMA…”God bless this good bishop.”

  18. But I’ve composed a version of Candle in the Wind/Goodbye English Rose to be sung at my funeral. Guess I can tell my sisters to stop rehearsing “Well Done, Pittsburgh Sunflower!”. Sigh. Comment by boko fittleworth


    The last Catholic funeral I went to included chanted Latin Mass parts and the Dies Irae. But it was held in the most schizophrenically wreckovated church I have ever seen. It was so distorted that it was not physically possible to place the casket before the altar. And the deacon gave a homily in which he repeatedly stated that the deceased was certainly in heaven. Then why give her a funeral Mass?

    There is this theme that echoes over and over again: funerals are not for the dead, but for the living. Also, we have to candy-coat death. Why shouldn’t we: everybody gets hoisted up to heaven, no matter what kind of a life they lead.

  19. Incidentally, it’s funny how the anti-Latin crowd declares (a) we can’t have the Dies Irae because it’s “too depressing,” and (b) we can’t have Latin because nobody understands it. Well, if nobody understands Latin, then how do they know the Dies Irae is depressing?

  20. Hieronymus says:

    “A funeral should not be a “celebration” of the deceased’s life, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart said in the rules, but a final sacred farewell.”

    Close, but not quite. How about C) The funeral (or better: requiem) is a propitiatory sacrifice offered on behalf of the deceased so that he might attain Heaven.

    I applaud the archbishop’s order, but he is still falling into the same modern trap that the “celebration” people are falling into, just a much milder form. His account at least leaves open the possibility that the person did not go straight to Heaven (though that is not really explicit), but loses the idea that the Mass is being offered for the repose of the soul of the deceased, and the faithful in attendance are there to pray for the same, not to say goodbye, be it in a sacred manner or otherwise.

  21. catholicmidwest says:

    I agree, Hieronymous. Funerals have primarily a religious purpose, not merely a psychological one.

  22. The Egyptian says:

    recently was listening to a youtube of “Nights in White Satin” ( I like oldies) one comment read “First heard that song at my aunts funeral, so heavenly and spiritual, I want it at mine”. for a long string there was nothing but agreements, including ” I don’t care what the stupid priest says after all what does he know about my spirituality in the first place”. He was talking about his mothers funeral ! Sigh, the road to hell is paved with ……..? good feelings and babble?

  23. The Egyptian says:

    P.S. I want a Mass with black vestments and many prayers for the repose of my soul, I believe it is called a Requiem Mass? I am sure I will need it.

    Canonization can come later :>)

  24. ies0716 says:

    I always thought that “celebrant” was the preferred traditional term for a priest who is celebrating Mass (as opposed to the modern “presider”). Is this incorrect? What would the preferred term be?

  25. Central Valley says:

    How can one get to heaven if not “On Eagles Wings”? How I pray for this in the United States especially int he diocese of Fresno, CA where this nonsense is encouraged by numerous priests. Every funeral Mass poinosed by secular songs negaes judgement, everyone is a saint no matter how they lived. “My Way” is the theme song of Hell.

  26. Nerinab says:

    Fr. Charles – AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!

    Irishgirl – Me too!

  27. Gail F says:

    ‘How can one get to heaven if not “On Eagles Wings”?’


    It is pretty much accepted among funeral directors, I believe, that funerals are for the living and not for the dead. And if that’s what they are taught then that is what most people believe — their job, after all, is to provide what people want. And I guess what most people want is to remember the dead person and assure everyone of how great he/she was. Maybe that comes from Protestants, who don’t believe in praying for the dead — so the dead person BETTER have been on the way to Heaven! I don’t know.

  28. sejoga says:

    I agreed to sing the music for my great aunt’s funeral mass about 2 years ago, and it was only after I agreed to do it that my cousin told me she had talked to the priest and he agreed to allow “The Wind Beneath My Wings” to be sung before the mass… and I was forced to sing that horrendous, trite, and spiritually degrading pop song at my great aunt’s funeral. Uuuuuuuuuuuugh. Thank heaven more and more priests seem to be putting their foot down and stopping that nonsense.

  29. Fr_Sotelo says:

    It is helpful that the Archbishop has released this guideline. Then people cannot accuse the pastor of making up his own rule. However, with the Novus Ordo funerals being a free for all for all these years, people will understandably get very angry and say, “I went to so and so’s funeral in this same parish and they allowed it. Why was it all right then but not now?”

    In California, it seems like half our people are getting cremated and interred with no Mass. In more and more cases, the cremains are just scattered or inserted in paper weights and other decorative items. They are even put into jewelry so that family members can say, “oh look, part of dad is in these earrings. I feel so comforted.”

  30. Ef-lover says:

    I heard this story from a Rel. Ed teacher giving a class on worship for CCD teachers that a woman who had past away was called Dolly by family and friends and during the funeral mass which took place in White Plains NY –here it comes – they sang ” Hello Dolly”. I attended a funeral this past year at my parish where the eulogy was as long as the whole mass itself. I thank the Lord that when my mother past away last year I was able to have a sung EF requiem. When it came time for the arrangements with the parish office I got the 3rd degree on who requested this mass myself or my mother- I don’t know what difference it would have made but the pastor was against it anyway and would not allow a traditional requiem in his church, luckly a wonderful pastor at a parish 10 miles away gave his permission to have my mother’s funeral there. How beautiful it was.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    Traditionally, at least in immigrant families, the wake or the family dinner after the Mass were the places of personal remembrance. The Mass was formal, as it should be, and a beautiful giving up of the dead one to Christ, as well as the place for intercessory prayers.

  32. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Thanks, Fr. Z. Cincinnati is unfortunately not immune from the “celebration of life” culture. When I became pastor at a parish here, I instituted a policy that eulogies would have to be before or after the funeral Mass. I was frankly tired of hearing rambling, secular, and sometimes even off-color comments being made by “Uncle Billy” during the Holy Mass. I think the last straw was when I would preach on the need to pray for mercy on the deceased’s soul, and the eulogist would get up after Communion and contradict me, saying they were “certain that Aunt Sally was smiling down on us from heaven.” [Then why bother with the funeral, if they have already been ‘canonized’?]

    I inherited this abuse of eulogies during the Mass, among others, from my predecessors, of course. A lot of the 70s priests who wanted to be “pastoral” [i.e. anything goes in the liturgy, especially at a funeral Mass] didn’t do us any favors.

    Believe it or not, I received tremendous opposition to this at first. Even had a few people leave the parish over the policy. But a pastor’s gotta do what a pastor’s gotta do.

    Readers: Please pray for the new orthodox priests who have to take the heat for restoring faithfulness and dignity to the Mass. It is much harder than one might think, once abuses become entrenched.

    Kudos to the Archbishop of Melbourne!

  33. basilorat says:

    I find it fascinating that there is never EVER this type of discussion when it comes to an Orthodox funeral or any Eastern Church!

  34. catholicmidwest says:

    And kudos to you, Cincinnati Priest. Thank you for insisting on doing it the Catholic way.

  35. Eoin Suibhne says:

    The ‘celebration of life’ has eclipsed the purpose of the funeral liturgy because folks have ceased to believe—and have ceased to hear preaching about—the Last Things and the destiny of the person beyond this life.

    …saying they were “certain that Aunt Sally was smiling down on us from heaven.

    Yes, Fathers. This is it exactly. I have a relative who, while acknowledging the Church’s teaching on Purgatory and Hell, seems in every particular to say, “But I just know that [insert relative, friend, etc.] is in Heaven.”

    How long, O Lord? How long?

  36. CarpeNoctem says:

    If I can could through the chatter here for a moment…


    Hey USCCB, could you give us pastors/priests a hand out here and come up with some very basic, minimal national standards or norms like these? It sure would help us out here in the trenches… those of us, at least, who are trying to do what is right.

    …stepping off of soap box…

    Thanks, Fr. Z.

  37. CarpeNoctem says:


    … and that goes DOUBLE for weddings!

    Thanks again.

  38. catholicmidwest says:

    And CarpeNoctem,

    They would do that why? They’re not fixing anything currently unless the Holy See puts them over a barrel and makes them. Think about it. The CCC came from Rome. Freedom to use the TLM came from Rome. The new translation is coming from Rome, via a reorganized ICEL PLUS Vox Clara, formulated in Rome.

    You want guidelines? If you don’t get them from Rome, and you don’t have a solid bishop, you’re going to have to write and enforce them parish by parish. Good luck.

  39. TheRani says:

    When my grandmother (a devout Catholic) was dying of cancer, she asked that they play some big band music at her wake. Not as a celebration of her life, but to remind people that she was entering into joy. Not at the actual funeral Mass though.

  40. lizfromFL says:

    What would be appropriate music for a funeral? Mostly at my parish they play Ave Maria, On Eagles Wings, You Are Near, and Be Not Afraid. That is the standard funeral “play list,” if you will. What is better? I want to know so that I can make better choices for my own relatives.

  41. catholicmidwest says:

    “The list of top 10 most popular unusual funeral songs included listed as Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python, and “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” from “The Wizard of Oz.””

    Wow! Either there are a lot of folks out there with really passive-aggressive relatives OR some people really do expect to take a dirtnap and no more. Yikes!

  42. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Slide shows & music are for the wake. Funerals are to commend the soul to God (& His mercy).

    The only recorded music heard at my funeral will be if they can’t get a chorus & string quartet together for Mozart’s Requiem.

  43. Supertradmum says:

    I want “Going Home” from Dvorak’s New World Symphony, written in part, exactly where my ancestors settled,(and played on a single violin). Also, for the sake of the Faith, I want Vaughan Williams “Lark Ascending”. Sigh. Probably will not happen…

  44. Wakes, before and/or after the funeral, are awesome. They allow people to work through a lot of their ricocheting feelings, they permit all the crazy secular stuff to be done, they allow people to make rambling speeches while everybody else can continue to eat, drink, and be darkly merry. (And they keep people from drinking alone, or driving long distances with nothing in their stomachs and a lot of anguished distractions on their mind.)

    There’s nothing wrong with saying, “We’re going to have a quiet viewing, a very solemn funeral, and then a big wake afterwards at X house or X restaurant — everybody’s invited — bring potluck if you want. I’d love to hear your daughter sing there.” You can have a wake in the backyard. You can have a wake at the beach. You can have a wake with people wearing skimpy bizarre clothing, if that’s what they’re longing to do. It’s a big safety valve.

    People who try to be totally solemn and decorous, yet happy, the whole time wind up doing crazy things, like giving their Valium pills to the grieving widow, who then can’t remember anything about the funeral. Stupid.

  45. CarpeNoctem says:

    Thanks CatholicMW, I agree that you are probably right in your outlook… I think it is slowly changing, but list of priority needs must be very long for our bishops. I’d say, though, that if they have a liturgy subcomittee with ONE good staffer who knows the liturgy, a set of minimal standards (or even ‘suggestions for best practices’) could be written up, voted on, and published in no time. This is the best kind of PASTORAL function that such a body could exercise, that would go a long way in supporting priests who are trying to carry out of their sacred ministry in the midst of mercinary funeral directors, a generation of confused priests who had very poor formation on the liturgy and are actively engaged in its malpractice, and, finally, the presence and popular acceptance of a long series of “accretions” and “local adaptations” which have crept into local funeral customs which clearly depart from the mind and the heart of the Church.

    There’s a saying in the Army referring to the design of various pieces of equipment: “designed by a genius so it can be run by idiots”. It is obvious to me that the current, modern rites of the Church were not designed by geniuses– that is why they are so easily ‘broken’. The only way that one can correct for stupidity on part of the user is to appeal to the lowest, basest, most demeaning use of the law: “do it, or else”.

    There were airplanes once upon a time in history where the passenger door opened directly into the disc of a spinning propeller. For some reason (and with great fear I dare ask why) it became necessary for someone to print the words in big block letters on the door, “DO NOT OPEN IN FLIGHT”. Now a ‘genius’ would have designed the plane NOT to have a door there in the first place which would have prevented the need for further ‘stupid-proofing’. To extend my metaphor, what we need now is a genius after-the-fact… someone to weld the door shut so that it isn’t a problem any more… because we all know that end users don’t know how to read directions.

    I think there may very well be important parallels in the Sacred Liturgy.

    Until we figure it out, we need someone to weld some doors shut, we need people who try to open the door to be doing pushups and running laps and facing court martials until they figure out that’s a bad idea, and finally we need to fire (and then sue) the contractor who put the door there in the first place.

  46. catholicmidwest says:

    Yes, yes, but that doesn’t mean someone will do it. I don’t think there are any geniuses in the USCCB. :D

  47. JonM says:

    A Deacon at our parish recently called “My Way” the anthem of hell. I must admit, its particular attraction aside, the song could easily fit that bill.

    An unfortunate side effect of rapid technological progress has been a warping of basic parameters. In many respects, we live in an unreal world: I can in a matter of seconds transmit critical documents as I talk to anyone in in the world while watching footage of thousands of rockets fly carrying intensely deadly payloads.

    Coupled with this, the bizarre spectacle of the Church attempting to ‘gel wit’ it’ and embrace pop culture…Very easily, people will become nihilistic or at least worse than child like in their understanding of basic severity and importance. In my view, this is the critical failure of purely market economics, which assumes that people can correctly rank trade-offs, but that is another topic entirely.

    It is nonetheless a sad testament to the times that many Catholics (religious and Priests included) have become so shallow in their understanding of Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell that any would even consider these sonds as appropriate pieces to a solemn intercessory rite.

  48. THREEHEARTS says:

    “Abide with Me” has always by tradition a hymn for funerals and rembrance and is a great tradition of the British Royal Navy. Now saying this I would urge you to remember that Harry Secombe was a very devout man in his Baptist Faith. To see the Royal Navy off of the Solent steaming line ahead with every matelot stood at attention at the ships rails hats off singing Abide with Me in memoriam of all british sailors that had died in war was uplifting. Also when played at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day reminds so many of us of what we fought for and I might add we ill never fight for again.
    The Hymn AWM was written by a Catholic Priest near London as a poem and laid on his desk for many years until his friend, an organist at the local Anglican Church, set it to Music. Another hymn written by a Catholic in Bristol “I believe” was “Guide Me O Great Redeemer” set to music by welsh baptists. I do believe though that the congregation present at funerals should sing Abide with Me, but unfortunately it does not lend itself to the plinking of guitars often untuned by poor muscicians who are somewhat tone death.

  49. Supertradmum says:

    The original article here on the blog mentions Harry Secombe and as I love “The Goons”, may I add that Spike Milligan wanted “I told you I was ill” on his tombstone, and there is one similar in Florida. I think this came to mind as someone told me that he wanted “Live and Let Die” at his funeral.


  50. JosephMary says:

    Now just get them banned at Mass!

  51. Stephen Morgan says:

    Harry Secombe was an Anglican: a member of the Church in Wales. His brother, Fred, was an Anglican minister and, at one time, I think, a Prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

  52. GodsGadfly says:

    Haven’t read all the comments, but has anyone pointed out that the original Italian lyrics to “Time to Say Goodbye” are “Con te Partiro”–“I will Go with You”?

  53. Ef-lover says:

    When I leave this world I want Victoria”s Requiem sung at my funeral mass

  54. catholicmidwest says:

    When I leave this world, I want someone to pray for me. And I don’t care what music they play because I’m not sure I’ll be able to hear it anyway. If they embarrass themselves, they’re going to be on their own. ;)

  55. Thomas S says:

    I remember at Boston College that Prof. Kreeft loved to say that Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” was the music on the elevator to Hell.

    Always found that amusing. And now I read this article and I shake my head. Life imitating parody.

  56. ckdexterhaven says:

    To crib a phrase from Obama… Catholic funerals *could* be a teaching moment. When done correctly, think of how the liturgy could touch a wayward soul who is attending the funeral Mass. I regret to say, that I didn’t know I was supposed to pray for the dead until about 5 years ago. And I’m a cradle Catholic. I wish priests would remind people how important it is. Mother Angelica once said even a simple “Eternal rest grant them, O Lord” when passing by a cemetery would count as prayer.

    Well, I guess I’ll see you all in the City of God that we’re building. joking… I kid. :)

  57. With respect to “My Way”– Does Australia have a large Phillipino population?

  58. AnAmericanMother says:

    “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life?”

    Somebody was pulling somebody’s leg. They CAN’T have sung that in church . . . too many naughty words.

    Faure’s Requiem for me, thank you very much.

    Probably couldn’t get away with Britten’s “Agnus Dei” from the War Requiem, not at a funeral Mass since it adds a Wilfred Owen poem to the text. But our ECUSA choir sang it at my sister’s funeral and it was incredibly moving and effective in the right way. She died tragically and young.

  59. frjim4321 says:

    What bothers me so much is that most of these “eulogies” take place DURING the communion rite; the Prayer After Communion has not even been given! It is so jarring to sit through a 20 minute eulogy which is totally disconnected from the mass, and then the presider gets up and proclaims the P.A.C.!

    We discourage eulogies here, and when they come up we ask that they be prepared (i.e., written out) ahead of time. However, – true story – I once asked that of the son of the deceased (a drunkard who cared little for his mother) and he took a swing at me at the wake and had to be restrained by the funeral director.

    To be somewhat reparative, after a particulary bad eulogy, we have a nice long pause before the Rite of Farewell. Having a great hymn at the end doesn’t hurt, either, e.g., Scott Soper’s beautiful “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.”

  60. AnAmericanMother says:
  61. frjim4321 says:

    Yes, I would concur with the Bach as being appropriate. I don’t know if the words would be understood by the assembly, or if they would be able to participate. But it is indeed quite fine. The chorale preludes are quite elegant and so underused.

    They all beat “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which I once had to endure at the end of a funeral.

    Back on the “eulogy” theme: Did anyone ever hear that droll poem, “I am not here, I did not die . . . ” bla bla bla . . . oft’ repeated poem that if anyone listened to the word completed undermines the rest of the liturgy!

    Oh yeah, here it is. GAG ME! Have any of you ever had to sit or stand through THIS:::

    Do not stand at my grave and weep,
    I am not there, I do not sleep.
    I am in a thousand winds that blow,
    I am the softly falling snow.
    I am the gentle showers of rain,
    I am the fields of ripening grain.
    I am in the morning hush,
    I am in the graceful rush
    Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
    I am the starshine of the night.
    I am in the flowers that bloom,
    I am in a quiet room.
    I am in the birds that sing,
    I am in each lovely thing.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry,
    I am not there. I do not die.

  62. AnAmericanMother says:

    You could always put the English translation in the leaflet, although I do know of a very good English version that is sing-able (this is from memory, so forgive me if I get a bit of it wrong):

    O Lord, thy dearest angels send,
    At my last hour my soul attend,
    To Abraham’s arms bear it.
    This body in its narrow room,
    So softly rests from pain and gloom,
    And waits the day prepared it.
    But thou, O Lord, remember me,
    Unbind my eyes that I may see
    In Paradise thy holy face,
    My Saviour and my throne of grace!
    Lord Jesus Christ!
    Remember me, remember me,
    I will thee praise eternally.

  63. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’ve heard that awful poem at out-of-church memorial services (funeral homes, bar associations) but never thank heavens in church.

    Here’s another rotten one that I’ve also heard at funeral homes. W.E. Henley had terrible suffering to bear, but that’s no reason to recite the thing at a memorial service!

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeoning of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    Come to think of it, that’s sort of an Emo remake of “My Way”, isn’t it?

  64. I am, recently, “recovered” of my Catholic Tradition by being able to worship at a parish in my diocese served by the FSSP. I was, one morning, “reminded” of something I hadn’t seen for decades: a daily Mass for the Dead (once rather routine). I took advantage of the opportunity to “reacquaint” myself with the traditional Catholic funeral liturgy and was absolutely blown away by what has been largely forgotten and ignored: praying for the repose of the soul of the deceased. I cannot express how comforted I am to know that, when I die, I will be buried preceded by a funeral Mass that will quite consciously and intentionally pray for my soul rather than celebrate my life. I have made it clear to all my loved ones that, after I am gone, I want prayers said and Masses offered for the repose of my soul. Celebrate my earthly life if you will, but don’t forget my eternal life.

    I attended a Protestant funeral where the minister began with the stirring words “Well, the Grim Reaper has taken another from among us.” I thought of that when I saw “Another one bites the dust.”

    God help us.

  65. Mike says:

    I don’t know what all the fuss is about, as nobody really dies…no wait, that’s just in my la-la-land parish.

    Honestly, I remember a funeral Mass for the Dad of a friend, and “Shepherd me, oh God’ was sung, simply, and beautifully, at Communion.

    Sometimes a little taste does wonders.

  66. Tim Ferguson says:

    With apologies to Francis Albert Sinatra…

    And now your loved one’s dead,
    he’s reached room temp, in perfect stasis,
    There’s not thought in his head,
    his neurons have reached lithiasis,

    He cares not that you think
    he’s lived a life of consummate class.
    He just wants you to have
    A Requiem Mass!

    He might be blissfully
    Viewing the Beatific Vision,
    But then, there’s purg’tory
    for which we hope, without derision,

    Of course, if he’s in hell,
    your prayers won’t save his little charred a**
    but just in case, please offer him
    A Requiem Mass

    Yes there were times, I’m sure you knew,
    When he omitted things that he should do,
    Or did them all, but with complaint,
    He’s a nice guy, but not a saint,
    He just wants prayer,
    So if you care:
    A Requiem Mass

    The stipend’s not too large,
    I’m sure that you can well afford it,
    It’s less than some folks charge
    When asked to video record it,

    So quick, one hour or two,
    In wooden pew at Church you will pass,
    For his eternity:
    A Requiem Mass

    For what is a man, what has he got?
    If not his soul then he has naught.
    Please say a prayer, remove your cap,
    For him who is taking a dirt nap
    for best and least,
    Just ask the priest
    For a Requiem Mass.

  67. AJP says:


    That poem was also recited by Tim McVeigh as his “last words” before his execution. Definitely not appropriate for funerals!

  68. kat says:

    So nice not to even have to deal with this in trad parishes…Funeral? Sure. Do you want a high or low Mass? High Mass: The whole Requiem Kyriale, “Proper” Propers including Dies Irae; Subvenite after the psalsm upon entering; Libera Me with the blessing after; In Paradisum as the recessional; and if some choir members end up at the cemetery, you get the Antiphon “Ego Sum” sung with the psalm at the gravesite. No other hymns are permitted during Requiem Masses. If every once in a while there is a request for an Ave Maria or a Panis Angelicus or other such favorite Catholic hymn, it is sung before the Mass and procession of the body into the church. Nothing disrupts the beautiful solemnity of a Requiem Mass, where we pray that soul gets to heaven quickly if it is not there yet. What more could a soul desire than such prayers for its salvation? Catholic Liturgy is awesome. Say the black; do the red!

  69. ipadre says:

    Thank God! Secular music is just that, secular and has no place in the Sacred Liturgy.

    Just as bad however is the majority of contemporary “Liturgical” music that we hear at almost every funeral (and parish Mass) today. People think they are original in requesting “songs” like “Eagles Wings”, “Here I Am Lord”, etc… Those songs would never fall into the arena of Sacred music. I would dare to say they don’t even compare to secular music in art or beauty. “Liturgical” music since Vatican II brings to mind images like polyester leisure suit – cheap and ugly!

  70. Jack Hughes says:

    I have humourusly warned my clergy friends that I come back to haunt the sacristry of any of them that do not do the following:

    a) Sing or at least chant the Dies Ira
    B) Say the Requiem Mass itself or offer Masses for my soul in the Extraordinary Form ( I do not want the Novus Ordo feel good service)

    To this I add today (c) wear Black Vestments; you can wear white should some moran at the Diocesan level think about taking my cause to the CCS, people start praying to me, I get cannonized and they actually exume my body to be divied up into relics for Churches; until then I want Black Vestments.

    Also In case anyone wants to know the songs I want sung at the Wake- Ave Maria Stellis, Tantum Ergo and something refering to my Patron St Mary Magdalene.

  71. Bressani56 says:

    I found this on YouTube:
    I’ve attempted to add my comments to the bottom of the video without having luck…

  72. joanofarcfan says:

    I was, gratefully, able to have Requiem Masses said for both my mother’s and father’s funeral. We were allowed to pick a couple of English hymns for the procession and recession because it was considered outside the Mass proper. My mother wanted “Mother Dear O Pray For Me” and “O What Could My Jesus Do More.” Dad got the same treatment. It is really impossible to hold back tears with those hymns going on. There were certainly some lovely hymns written in the “olden days.”

    I did not know “Abide With Me” was written by a priest. That’s what my grandfather wanted at his funeral, but it was sung at the wake because I think it was considered a Protestant hymn back in 1973. But things were pretty mixed up back then anyway. I remember that being sung but don’t remember any other hymns for his funeral. I’ve liked it ever since.

    “Nearer My God To Thee” seems to have made a comeback at a few NO funeral Masses I’ve been to. I assume that’s a Protestant hymn?? There’s one to get you thinking. I like it.

  73. Norah says:

    The heading of the post is an error. It wasn’t the Australian Catholic Church which banned pop songs at funerals it was the Archbishop of Melbourne Dennis Hart – my archbishop.

    Some years ago Abp Hart also banned over the top eulogies, that instruction was received and ignored. I am not holding out any great hope that this instruction will receive a different fate.

    The wake before or after the funeral is a perfect place for the videos, the footy songs, the pop music etc The abysmal ignorance of most Catholics about their Faith is highlighted at funeral Masses and wedding Masses.

  74. ruadhri says:

    Yes, Nora, he’s my archbishop, too, but as just about everyone in Melbourne knows by now – thanks to the media – there are certain priests who think Archbishop Hart is “insensitive”. I can’t see them complying. Pity, though, that the archbishop qualified the ban on eulogies with a “However, for pastoral reasons. . .” one eulogy, even by several people, could be permitted. They’ll drive a team of horses and several carts through that one. Of course, with the football season here just approaching its climax, the media seized on the ban on football theme songs to beat the Church over the head with accusations of medievalism. Give us back the EF Mass and all this nonsense at funerals will vanish.

  75. Good for the Archbishop! Let’s hope that more Church leaders take a similar stand.

    For the record, I’m all for wakes — at the appropriate place and time. I sure hope that my family and friends throw one for me! But the Funeral Mass is neither the time nor the place.

    My addition to funeral horror stores: the previous pastor at my parish told me this one! He arrived in the sacristy to prepare for the Funeral Mass — only to find that the family had set up a buffet IN THE SACRISTY! Needless to say, he dealt with the situation in short order — but it’s sad that we’ve gotten to the point where the priest has to explain that the sacristy is not a lunchroom!

  76. RichardT says:

    Yes, wakes are the thing. Lots of eating, drinking, swapping stories about the deceased, eulogies if you wish (provided the bar stays open at the back). What happened to wakes, and why did we try to insert them into the Mass?

    Also alarming that the funeral directors are complaining about this? I wonder how much money they make by putting together DVDs of the life of the deceased.

    But perhaps the answer is to get the funeral directors on board. There must be lots of money to be made out of a wake.

  77. RichardT says:

    catholicmidwest – that’s a very depressing comment. I’d have hoped that people would treat their favorite hunting dog with more respect than is shown at the typical modern Catholic funeral.

  78. RichardT says:

    But I do want “Ding Dong, the witch is dead” for my mother-in-law’s funeral. She’s protestant, so I might get away with it.

  79. RichardT says:

    threehearts, I dont think you’re right about Abide With Me being composed by a Catholic priest. The words are credited to Henry Lyte, who Wikipedia (OK, not always a reliable source) says was an Anglican curate.

    Also he is said to have written it shortly before his own death, so your story about it lying around on his desk for years seems unlikely.

    The tune usually used for it is credited to William Monk, an Anglican organist (although one with more interest in traditional church music than most modern Catholic musicians).

  80. AnAmericanMother says:

    Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) was an Anglican minister. He was a Trinity College, Dublin man, and served C of I parishes in Ireland but for most of his life was rector of All Saints, Lower Brixham, Devon. He wrote nearly 100 hymns.

    He wrote “Abide With Me” while he was dying of tuberculosis, shortly after preaching his last sermon in his long-time parish. He set out for Italy in an attempt to recoup his health, but died in France on the way. He’s buried at the English Cemetery in Nice. His former parish’s bells still ring out “Abide With Me” daily.

    William Henry Monk (1823-1889) was the editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern, which is generally considered a “high church” hymnal. He was also a professor of music and the music director at St. Matthias, Stoke Newington, for 40 years. And yes, his stuff is good. He was the first to introduce Gregorian Chant into Anglican services.

    I think you’d find that both Monk and Lyte have more in common with good Catholic music than many modern-day Catholic “musicians”.

  81. AnAmericanMother says:


    That should put the quietus on the use of that poem at funerals.

    “Non serviam,” indeed!

  82. AnAmericanMother says:

    OK, Tim F, now I’m laughing my head off.

    Supertradmum, any fan of Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, and Peter Sellers is all right!

    Have you read Spike Milligan’s War Trilogy (in four volumes)? I have hardly ever laughed so hard in my life. May he rest in peace.

  83. Jayna says:

    “Secular items are never to be sung or played at a Catholic funeral, such as romantic ballads, pop or rock music, political songs, football club songs.”

    …or in any other Catholic liturgical celebration.

  84. Hans says:

    Hmmm. When I sing at funerals, which is only occasionally these days, I usually sing In paradisum unless something else has been specifically requested.

    There’s a bit of Venerable J.H. Card. Newman’s (is he ‘Blessed’ yet??) Dream of Gerontius at the very end that has been made into a hymn, I think based on Elgar’s setting of the entire poem, that I think makes a very powerful and appropriate funeral hymn. It’s been 5-6 years since I’ve sung it; I need to track it down.

  85. irishgirl says:

    Tim Ferguson, you’ve ‘done it again’! I had to wipe the tears out of my eyes and restrain myself from ‘busting out laughing’ here in the library!

    Regarding ‘Abide With Me’-that was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s favorite hymn. I remember that when I watched her funeral Mass on TV. “AWM” always gets me right in the heart-it’s a ‘staple’ at state funerals.

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