Mourning in the Age of Facebook

In the New York Times on Friday, Bruce Feiler wrote about mourning the dead in small groups of friends, sharing food. These gatherings have been dubbed “secular shivas.”

Today, with religiosity in decline, families dispersed and the pace of life feeling quickened, these elaborate, carefully staged mourning rituals are less and less common. Old customs no longer apply, yet new ones have yet to materialize.

The ceremony described by Mr. Feiler resembles the practice of many parishes which host a funeral luncheon after a funeral Mass/service at church. I am always struck by how many parishioners make it a point to come to every funeral and every funeral luncheon to show their support for someone they may not know personally.

What changes over time have you noticed in funerals at your parish? Are there other ways we can help families mourn?

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42 comments

  1. Are there other ways we can help families mourn? What a thought provoking question; one that I must spend some time with.

    Upon reading the link, all I can think of, after having planned, help plan or assist with funeral ministry as so many others, is how we were gathered up in such love when my husband’s sister died somewhat unexpectedly last year. We did not think about a thing, we were supported and loved so wholeheartedly, that I will never stop thinking about it… Or being grateful for it.

  2. Both the EF and OF funeral rites contain within themselves comfort for the bereaved and prayer for the dead. I do hope that ministry for the bereaved would not extend to remaking the funeral Mass into an event crafted primarily for the comfort of the living. The funeral rite must confront the mystery of Christian death even if this is painful to contemplate.

    In a few cases, I have perceived a lack of priestly attention to the complex beauty of the funeral Mass. At a number of funerals where the priest had been negligent of the rubrics and chants, I have wished to spontaneously sing in paradisum on the deceased’s behalf (even though i am not even an acolyte/subdeacon and cannot sing at all). Should we not take comfort in the the resurrection of Lazarus, the foretaste of our Lord’s resurrection? We are all poor and unable to merit grace on our own behalf. Yet, there is hope that the dead will accompany the throngs of martyrs and angels in the Jerusalem of everlasting life. Is not this hope also comfort for the living?

    Post-funeral fellowship is quite important. Nevertheless, it is different sustenance than the Mass. Both are important, but occupy different spheres.

    1. There’s not just a lack of attention to the rubrics and chants, but also to the family’s wishes. Due to my training in liturgy, my sister and I spent a good deal of time going through the Rite and picking out the readings and prayers that we thought best fit my father for his funeral. And then the priest who presided ignored most of our instructions. I might have been the only one to notice/know that he’d not used the ones we’d selected but I was not happy about it. While many families might go along with whatever options the presider chooses, when its clear that the family has taken the time to go through the liturgy to pick what most speaks to/of the life of the deceased, those choices should be honored.

  3. “Support for families who have experienced death” was ranked #8 in importance out of 39 items in the Vibrant Parish Life Study of 129 participating parishes and 46,241 total survey responses.

    It was ranked #17 in being well done.

    Given the other top priorities found in that study, I suspect it fits in with the desire for community evidenced in #2, #4, #6 below (ranked 18th, 19th, and 24th in being well done).

    1.Masses that are prayerful, reverent and spiritually moving
    2.The parish as a supportive, caring community
    3.Promotion of respect for human life
    4.The parish exhibiting a spirit of warmth and hospitality
    5.Religious education for children
    6 New members of the parish are welcomed
    7. Parish leadership that listens to the concerns of parishioners

  4. In the Wichita, KS diocese funerals are almost entirely planned by the family of the deceased and a priest (sometimes) but more often by a “funeral director.” For the most part The Order of Christian Funerals is ignored either because the family isn’t aware of the wonderfully healing and comforting aspect of the funeral liturgy; because the pastor has been too lazy or too timid to introduce the funeral liturgy to the parish; because the parish family has never been told that the funeral of a deceased parishoner is a parish event and not a private family affair. Many funerals are now done at the “funeral home.” It won’t be long here until the funeral is entirely secularized with the exception of the Rosary (seldom or never prayed at home) which proves to others that we are “good” Catholics. Too bad the funeral liturgy didn’t get the same sales pitch that the new translation got.

    1. I think I agree with many or most of your concerns, but I’d flag “protestantized” as an unfortunate way to put it – as if Protestant is bad or a threat, rather than being a possible enrichment and deepening of our rich tradition. I’m sure we can learn much from Protestants – without diluting or watering down our Catholic beliefs – about good music or good preaching preaching or use of the Bible or any any number of practices around death and dying. [UPDATE: the comment has been changed to say “secularized”]
      awr

      1. I changed the offensive word to secularized.
        I have also formed the opinion that many folks don’t want to be bothered. They just want to get it over with. I have noticed a tendency to have the body cremated which out here takes a few days and then have a funeral Mass sometimes a week or so after the person has died. By that time some of the grief has been resolved and we don’t have to be embarassed by exposing our grief to “other people.”
        In the old days Catholic school children typically sang the funeral Mass, sometimes several times a week, because of the popularity of the Requiem High Mass and the wooden “looks like a casket” covered with a black pall. The Catholic school near here neither sings the daily Mass or participates as a group in parish funerals. The school administration seems totally unaware of the Bishops’ statement in “Sing to the Lord” that Catholic School students should provide liturgical leadership for the parish by setting an example for the parish to follow. Even if the administrators knew that, they are completely unprepared to teach liturgy to school children because they don’t know much about liturgy themselves. And, it’s more important to have a winning football team because that keeps the dollars coming in.

  5. Changes I have noticed — 1) visitaitons are better attended than funeral Masses/services; 2) many younger generation bereaved feel uncomfortable coming to Church so they settle for a funeral home service; 3) the emphasis on celebrating the end of life in this world completely eclipses mention of or meditation on the new life awaiting in the kingdom (e.g., predominance of eulogies). In a death-denying culture and a more secularistic society, traditional funeral and burial practices are going by the wayside.

    1. I would add to 3) that the “celebration of life” theme also eclipses any notion that we might need to pray for the dead.

      I’ve told my wife that I’d like “For God’s sake, please pray for his wretched soul” carved on my tombstone. I’m only half kidding.

    2. In his book What American’s Really Believe (2008) which summarizes the results of the 2005 Baylor Study, Rodney Stark has a chapter called “Heaven: We are all going.”

      Most Americans (54%) think that more than half of Americans are going to heaven. Even more (72%) think more than half of Christians are going to heaven. Even 46% think more than half of Jews are going to heaven, and 29% think that more than half of nonreligious people are going to heaven.

      So the eulogistic nature of many funerals, as a celebration of that person’s life, has a foundation in the average person’s belief that that person has likely gone to heaven.

      Whatever one might say theologically about that belief, sociologically it appears to be a substantial change from the time when people often believed that people of other religions were going to hell. It is not complete relativism, people still strongly favor their own religion, but they are willing to find goodness in people of other religions.

      When it comes to beliefs about how certain the respondent is about going to heaven, about 46% are very or quite certain with another 20% somewhat certain. Conservative Protestants (67%) are more certain than Liberal Protestants (46%) and far more certain than Catholics (36%).

      About 73% of Americans believe in Hell. Stark did not ask them about who is going. “Maybe next time?”

  6. “Blessed are they who mourn…..”
    Our society has a tendency to avoid or deny the unpleasant, the painful. People use drugs, booze and all kinds of acting out to handle their pain.
    The Christian believer doesn’t run away when life get painful. He doesn’t deny the pain or try to drink it away. He confronts it straight-on. He deals with it. And, with the help of God’s grace and the assistance of His holy ones, the believer overcomes his pain, grows beyond it– and many times, because of it.
    We deny death. We don’t even like to talk about. We embalm and cosmetize a dead body, and place it in an elaborate container (usually with a spring mattress, for God’s sake) and set it in a homey environment. In other cultures, family members themselves wash and dress the body for burial. They remain at the cemetery until the casket is lowered into the ground and covered with earth. Many times, the family themselves throw the first fistfuls of dirt into the grave. They cry, they grieve, they mourn. And they heal far more quickly than people in our culture. They can proclaim with the fullest possible conviction: I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD. In the end, they are indeed comforted. We, however, do everything to deny the dead body will return to the dust of the earth— how can we profess to believe it will rise again?
    I believe our “Rite of Christian Funerals” gives plenty of opportunities to confront the ugly, painful reality of death in a spirit of hope and faith. It offers all kinds of opportunities and options to minister to the bereaved in a sensitive, compassionate,healthy and holy way. Maybe… just maybe… our rituals for the dead just MIGHT be the best we’ve got. If we knew what they offered, anhow to use them.

    1. John Swencki on January 16, 2012 – 7:31 pm

      We, however, do everything to deny the dead body will return to the dust of the earth— how can we profess to believe it will rise again?

      Persons today cannot readily understand the orthodox eschatological and theological importance of death. Orthodox theology struggles to reveal itself to persons transformed by the longevity and prosperity of developed nations.

      The Tridentine requiem. and especially the sequence dies irae, perhaps carried more import for those who lived in times when half of a family’s children would not survive birth or young childhood. Even if mourners did not understand the words of the sequence, the connection between cooperation with grace in this world and participation in the economy of souls after life traced through their lives. The Holy Souls are not mere holy card tchotchkes. The Holy Souls actively participate in the life of the Church through the Mass and prayer. Rarely do preachers connect the permeable boundary between life and death, the angels and purifying souls, woven through the Mass.

      Traditional Catholics sometimes lambast the indult for white vestments. A number criticize the modern funeral rite as a canonization of the deceased. Perhaps it is better to say that Catholic funerals today should not be catechetical seminars on the Last Things. The new funeral rite is certainly orthodox. What has changed is the clerical and lay turn from the eschaton to the immanent because eschatological language is no longer in our daily experience. This is not a question of liturgy entirely, but also an existential confusion over death’s meaning.

      1. re: Jordan Zarembo on January 17, 2012 – 11:33 am

        But one more thought, with apology.

        One unfortunate development of liturgical reform was the sharp decline in the public celebration of votive Masses for the dead. Unfortunately, in times past on weekdays without commemoration priests would often say the “daily requiem” simply for its brevity. As is often the case, abuse led to abandonment. Abuse does not take away use.

        The deceased who have died in Christ are present and prayed for at every Mass. Yet, the daily purposefully requiem inverts the priority of normal commemoration and Sunday celebration. The emphasis on the presence and prayer for the dead in votive celebration reminds us that the Mass does not cease with cessation of human life. In fact, the Mass cannot be completed without the perpetual participation of the eschaton..

        I doubt that votive requiems will ever be celebrated again outside of religious houses. Even the thought of a funeral celebrated in the absence of a deceased person might seem macabre to many. Yet, without exposure to the propitiation of the dead in daily life, a funeral of a deceased person might be hard to comprehend.

      2. I doubt that votive requiems will ever be celebrated again outside of religious houses.

        Leaving aside that the funeral is, I think, itself a votive Requiem, we fairly regularly have non-funeral Requiems here in New York at the Church of the Holy Innocents, where the 1962 Rite is celebrated. We have one tonight in fact, a Solemn Mass for a month’s mind.

        But the practice is not confined to the “Latin Mass” communities. There was, for instance, the memorial Mass for Bill Buckley held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral some time after his funeral. And many places Requiem Masses were offered following the death of Bl. John Paul II.

      3. Samuel J. Howard on January 18, 2012 – 10:21 am

        Thank you for bringing this up Sam. More and more, EF communities are celebrating occasional public votive requiems. I also know priests who celebrate the EF requiem privately on occasion. It’s important to know that the requiem is not only for deceased, famous or not. The requiem is also for the holy souls, and can be said for the intention of the holy souls alone.

        I do not see why the Month’s Mind or similar Mass could not be celebrated within an OF centered parish. The postconciliar rubrics have removed many of the more intimidating aspects of Tridentine requiems, such as the catafalque or black vestments. There’s no reason why once a month an optional commemoration could be replaced with a votive requiem in “requiem violet”. Here the priest could pray for the deceased as well as the holy souls. The Mass would also be an opportunity to preach on the ineffable and all-encompassing nature of the Sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass is not just for the congregation and ministers at a particular time, but also the choirs of angels, souls, and the entire Church in prayer.

      4. “Latin Mass communities” is a misnomer. The traditionalist Tridentine form of the Roman rite does not have a monopoly on the Latin Mass. Secondly, to use the expression, “Latin Mass” as an adjectival phrase attributively in relation to a community shows up the divisive potential of revivifying an abrogated rite.

      5. “Latin Mass communities” is a misnomer. The traditionalist Tridentine form of the Roman rite does not have a monopoly on the Latin Mass.

        Oh really? Here in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn there are no scheduled public Masses celebrated in Latin. There are Masses with some parts of the Mass in Latin, but if there is scheduled public Mass entirely in Latin, it’s in reality, the 1962 rite. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s the way it is. As such, there is basically no confusion.

        Secondly, to use the expression,

        My careful use of the phrase “Latin Mass” in quotation marks it as a use of language the way people talk… the way people describe themselves in their common speech. Every way of describing these groups gets called out by someone. Someone doesn’t like it. But they’re real communities and they deserve to be talked about as part of discussing the praxis of the Church.

        “Latin Mass” as an adjectival phrase attributively in relation to a community shows up the divisive potential of revivifying an abrogated rite.

        Frankly, your comment is offensive. If it was about Protestants or the Orthodox, it would be deleted or called out by the editor.

        These are real worshiping communities that exist, whether you like it or not. To portray them in solely negative terms, to deride their existence as “divisive” and to drop in a non sequitur about how their rite is abrogated (when the highest authority in the Church says it isn’t, by the way) poisons the well of discussion.

      6. Frankly, your comment is offensive. If it was about Protestants or the Orthodox, it would be deleted or called out by the editor.

        Hmmm. . . let’s see: The existence of Protestant and Orthodox churches is divisive. If I thought otherwise, I’d probably not be Catholic, since it is catholic unity that I found most compelling when I converted nearly 30 years ago.

        Anthony?

      7. Deacon Fritz, the difference is that your comment is now part of an ongoing discussion of division.

        But to drop polemical comments about Protestantism or Orthodoxy into a thread discussing their worship practices would be inappropriate, just as it is inappropriate to drop polemical comments about those who follow the 1962 rite was here.

      8. The traditionalist Tridentine form of the Roman rite does not have a monopoly on the Latin Mass.

        For example, I recently went to Mass at Chaumont sur Loire in France, where green-robed monks of the fraternity of St Thomas Becket presided over a Mass in the ordinary form, that was almost entirely in Latin.

        http://la-couronne.over-blog.org/

  7. This is such a thoughtful post. I have been considering this since yesterday after my first perusal of it.

    Recently I watched “The Undertaking” on Frontline; it was a rerun. I particularly loved this line from Thomas Lynch and think it is spot on. .. “I think we’re among the first couple generations for whom the presence of the dead at their funerals has become optional, and I see that as probably not good news for the culture at large.

    Our culture of self certainly points many towards the “celebration” of what was rather than what will be. I am grateful to work for one parish and worship at another, where funerals are done so beautifully. And appropriately.

    And what times of evangelization; I can think of two families lives, marginal church goers at best, who were transformed after funerals at each place.

    I hope this means we are comforting and doing what we can, but there is always more we can do.

  8. If I may make some comments from the pew – in no particular order –

    – Many are put off by a funeral Mass that makes no mention of the deceased. Even worse, is a funeral Mass in which it is clear that the presider has only a glancing acquaintance with the deceased. I know there are rules against offering a eulogy at Mass, but I suspect that most of the faithful disagree with those rules. I know that having one of the bereaved offer a eulogy can get messy, but so what? If we can’t grieve in church, where can we grieve?

    – Back to the presider not knowing the deceased. If the deceased has no connection to the parish in life, why would we expect a connection in death? My mother faithfully attended Mass at her humongous suburban parish for 45 years. I doubt she could name six other people there. When she weakened and could no longer attend Mass, no one noticed. The pastor was quite put out when her (Memorial?) Mass was held in her hometown among the people she’d grown up with. Funerals bring family problems to the surface. They also show us what’s wrong with our parishes!

    – A Mass which only prays for N. without celebrating N.’s life can leave the mourners cold.

    – Families are increasingly choosing cremation for many different reasons. Treating the cremains differently than a body may be technically correct, but it is an unnecessary hurt for the family. For them, the remains are the remains, whether the remains are in the form of a body pumped full of formaldehyde or an urn full of bone chips.

    – Families are developing alternate customs such as placing flowers at the site of an accidental death or death by shooting. I also notice memorials being placed in car windows. We should study these customs and ask why they are meaningful and what comfort they bring to the bereaved.

    – There seems to be an assumption on one side that the dead are all sinners in Purgatory or Hell, and on the other that the dead are all in Heaven (or worse, angels in Heaven!) There needs to be a conversation here; both sides can learn from the other.

  9. One change I have seen in my 20+ years of ordained ministry is the increasing absence of children. “We don’t want them to be upset” is the adults’ explanation, but this (a) denies the children a place in the community’s grieving, and (b) stunts the children’s faith development. I think this shift is driven more by the adults’ discomfort in talking to children about death, rather than actual concern for the children themselves.

    A second change is one noted above — the time between a death and a funeral. As families are more spread out, it becomes more difficult and more expensive for everyone to gather “back home” on two days’ notice for a funeral. Cremation and a delay in the funeral allows for arrangements to be made by the out-of-town family (workplace arrangements, pet-sitters, plane tickets, etc.) so that they can even get to the funeral at all.

    A third change: the graveside rites. Anecdotally, it strikes me that fewer people are going from the funeral in the worship space to the graveside for the burial. Sometimes, this is encouraged by the family — the funeral is for the broader community, but we’d like a “family” graveside service. At other times, it is simply the people themselves making this choice. In either case, I am seeing fewer and fewer people at the burial itself than I did when I was first ordained.

    A fourth change, and one for the better: greater attention to the diversity of the community present at a funeral. At any given funeral, there are lots of people whose only real connection to one another is through the deceased. These people knew him from work, those knew him from his bowling league, these knew him from his college days, those knew him from his neighborhood — and in contrast to a generation ago, these are increasingly non-overlapping groups of people. They don’t know each other. Wise preachers/presiders know this, and thus speak without assuming that “everyone” knows the same things about the deceased.

    1. I agree that children should take part in all the funeral activities, but then I’m Irish!

      We had a non-traditional funeral for my mother – a Mass in her hometown six months after her death and cremation. We had a traditional funeral for my mother – the Mass was attended by extended family and old friends and followed by a buffet and open bar. My extended family had scattered from the original hometown of our immigrant grandparents. The one remark I heard over and over was “Oh, I guess we rally are Irish!”

      I guess what I observed is that the funeral was an affirmation of our deepest held beliefs. It was a time to remember not only my mother but many others who have gone on before us.

  10. I see and raise:

    http://www.theawl.com/2012/01/what-remains-conversations-with-americas-funeral-directors

    “The truth is, I’ve never been to a funeral. I’ve been fortunate in life that only grandparents of mine have passed away—neither parent, no friends, no teachers. Each time one of my grandparents has died, I’ve been too far away to be able to attend their funerals. I wish I’d known this then, but you can now videoconference in to a funeral, and witness the remembrances and recessionals, the condolences and appreciations, all of it floating through the digital ether as you sit and watch in a living room half-a-world away.”

  11. The most beautiful funerals I’ve ever witnessed were the funerals for monks who died at St. Meinrad. In the late 50’s not only were we singing the chants but we were also blessed by the presence of a choir, including boy sopranos, that sang Palestrina beautifully.

  12. The greatest challenge we’ve faced is with cremation and families deciding not to have the “Rite of Committal” for the “ashes” but keeping them for some later event, either scattering, sharing, placing on a mantel or putting away in a closet. Funeral homes are now providing mini-containers so that the “relics” of the deceased can be shared with numerous family members, even lockets are provided if you wish to wear the person’s remains around your neck. There is also a casualness in dress for funerals and visitations that would have been unheard of 15 years ago. And of course,there is always the temptation to canonize the person at a funeral especially with sometimes inane eulogies after Holy Communion by a variety of witnesses or by the priest himself during the homily. In the parish for well over a year though, at funeral Masses, the cantor chants the official introit as the casket is sprinkled as well as the official antiphons at the Offering of the Gifts and at Communion. These chants are far superior than many of the “song” that people choose for these parts of the Mass although we still allow “songs” in addition to the chants for the procession, offertory and communion. Since we strongly encourage it, the majority of our funerals have the three phases of Vigil, Requiem Mass and Rite of Committal and in that order. Some however, choose the Funeral outside of Mass at a funeral home or simply the Rite of Committal at the graveside with nothing else. We now encourage eulogies by family or friends to be spoken at the vigil rather than the Mass itself.

    1. These chants are far superior than many of the “song” that people choose for these parts of the Mass although we still allow “songs” in addition to the chants for the procession, offertory and communion.

      Whose funeral is it, anyways? My aunt chose the hymns for my mother’s funeral and was very comforted by them. The comfort she derived was worth a year’s worth of chants. This is not to disparage chants; someone here described how comforting they were at the abbey (my apologies for not being able to find that reference.)
      Among the many purposes of the funeral, using it to show people the “right” way to do things should be at the bottom of the list.

  13. Over my years of priestly ministry, I have had many people express the hope that I would celebrate their funeral Masses. I attended my first funeral at age 12. It was my mother who died a week after childbirth at the age of 32. I don’t remember much about it, save for the consolation I experienced both before, during, and after the Mass. When I was about 17, the boy next door died suddenly one night from a mysterious flu. He was also 17 and I was shaken to the core. I remember trying to console his parents and siblings. When I was 24 I remember noticing a car pull up across the street from which emerged two military officials. My childhood pal, Stevie, was serving in Vietnam and I just instinctively knew they were there to announce his death to his family. I waited a few minutes and went over to witness what can only be described as an emotional melt down. I said little, but shed many tears. My point in all of this is that I am not among those in denial about death and that comes through in the way I assist people in planning funerals, in my preaching, and in the celebration of Mass. I always speak honestly about the deceased as I knew them and/or as the family related him/her to me. My context is always the paschal mystery but I cannot imagine a funeral homily without personal info about the deceased. Some of it is just factual, some humorous. Laughter takes the edge off the drearier aspects of mourning. I always urge parishioners who are free to do so to come to the funeral Mass even if they didn’t know the person. I remind them we are all Blood relatives because of our relationship to Christ. Some come and always seem to be grateful they were nudged to do so. Taking part in the funeral dinner is not an option. I sit with the family and listen as they share stories about the deceased. As for their eternal destination, I leave that completely up to God. But I stir up their faith in God’s endless mercy.

  14. My contribution to this fascinating discussion…

    The only real experience I have of a Catholic Funeral Rite is one that I was actively involved in- the funeral of my own grandfather. I’m not sure how different the Church in England is to the US (not that much, I assume), but here’s some of my own perspectives, from what it’s worth.
    My grandfather passed away on Palm/Passion Sunday, meaning by the time the body was released for burial we were past Maunday Thursday and unable to actually hold the funeral until the Tuesday after Easter Sunday. I remember myself, my mother and grandmotehr all meeting he parish priest and being actively encouraged to chose our own Scripture readings and hymns, and our choices were followed and respected completely (including arranging for the church choir and organist to be present). This was probabaly helped by the preist being familiar with us from our attendance at Sunday Mass. In contrast to what some have said, I was allowed to read a full eulogy (which I wrote myslef) at the Mass in place of the homily (it may have been after a formal homily from the priest, but I certainly don’t recall the priest preaching one)
    In line with Fr MacDonalds comments above- the priest aranged for us to say the rosary over the coffin some days before the actual funeral (may have been Easter Saturday but not sure), the Mass itself, followed by a final surface at the crematorium. The ashes were interred in a grave (without ceremony) a few weeks later.
    One aspect regarding the cremmation vs bodily burial that is important and hasn’t been discussed here is cost- it was the reason we ultimately chose cremmation. Quite simply, to have a plot at the cemetery, and grave of appropriate size, was vastly more expensive than the much smaller plot and more modest gravestone required to bury the cremated remains.

  15. I have a book recommendation, pertaining to many of the point raised above: Thomas G. Long, “Accompany Them With Singing: The Christian Funeral” (WJKP, 2009). Long re-focusses attention on the core of Christian burial practices (as a journey toward God) over and against many contemporary cultural trends which tend to occlude that deepest truth.

  16. I’ve recently encountered the term “apatheism” – which is the growing tendency in our society not care about spiritual/religious things, the “big questions” of life, etc. It’s a step beyond atheism – as Kierkegaard pointed out, the true opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy.
    Even when ministering to those who may not be church attendees, or are among the self-professed “spiritual, but not religious” folks, we still have presumed some sort of interest in the bigger issues of life and death, meaning, and so on. If any interest in these is waning or has vanished, why would anyone want to hold a funeral service of a religious nature?

  17. I’ve never been to a funeral. When my mother died a few years ago, my sister and I had her cremated and her ashes scattered over the San Francisco bay.

    I worked in a hospital surgery and part of my job was to wrap patients who died in shrouds for the morgue, and yet I’m not sure what to think about death. I do understand grief and berevement, though.

    I do want to believe everyone goes to heaven – I just can’t imagine a God worth worshipping who would create such a place as hell.

  18. I have been honored and blessed to serve my parish as a musician for over 40 years. I have participated in literally hundreds of funerals. So many times in this blog I have read comments that are so concerned about what the author understands as liturgically correct that the needs of the people are totally lost. I do not believe that planning a funeral with people who are grieving the loss of a loved one is the time for a lesson in liturgy. I have found that most of the time readings and music people select is appropriate. Maybe it’s not what I would select, but it’s not about me – I am there to minister. I understand that occasionally someone wants something that is just not possible, but I try to work with them as much as I can in the hope that this liturgy will give them comfort and bring them closer to God.

    When my father died I was honored to do the eulogy. It gave me the opportunity to thank God for the faith that my dad lived and instilled in me. It was an important part of my grieving process. Why in the world would we want to tell people that they can’t do that?

  19. I think we could make better use of the “Vigil for the Deceased” and how it and the FUneral Mass can be complementary (in a certain sense).
    The Vigil is certainly a time for prayer. But it can also be a time to do what may not especially be apppropriate at the FUneral Mass (provided, of course, you have a flexible funeral director). After a Vigil service for an artist, people were invited into an ajoining room to view the deceased’s art work, to share reminiscenses, stories, even spontaneous prayer. THIS is the opportunity to celebrate the deceased’s life– what they did for others and for God.
    At the funeral Mass we then celebrate what God has done and is doing for the deceased through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, how the deceased entered into that by his/her baptism, lived it out in his/her particular vocation. It is, if you will, an outward physical expression of Jesus’ act of redemption for the deceased (as well as all the living and deceased).
    If, after the cemetery, there is a ‘mercy meal’ (as some of my ethnic group refer to the meal/reception) there is an even greater flexibility in what can be allowed… and expected. It is here where, again in my ethnic tradition, the distinction between funeral grief and wedding joy blurs a bit. Lots of hoopla, polkas. ham, kielbasa, and wine the likes of which had not been seen since Cana. But amid all the hoop-dee-doo there is still a definite consciousness of the day’s faith element– prompted by the prominent display of a crucifix. (At one such ‘mercy meal’, the crucifix was propped up on the liquor shelf– between Johnnie Walker and Seagram’s.) To the uninitiated it may appear to be a tad irreverent. To those ‘in the know’, however, it is a real welcoming of the Lord into that community’s life and emotion (as well as a reminder that the Lord welcomes the community into HIS life and emotion).
    At the time of Christian death, there is something, some time and some “how” for…

  20. Deb Pryce :

    I have been honored and blessed to serve my parish as a musician for over 40 years. I have participated in literally hundreds of funerals. So many times in this blog I have read comments that are so concerned about what the author understands as liturgically correct that the needs of the people are totally lost. I do not believe that planning a funeral with people who are grieving the loss of a loved one is the time for a lesson in liturgy. I have found that most of the time readings and music people select is appropriate. Maybe it’s not what I would select, but it’s not about me – I am there to minister. I understand that occasionally someone wants something that is just not possible, but I try to work with them as much as I can in the hope that this liturgy will give them comfort and bring them closer to God.
    When my father died I was honored to do the eulogy. It gave me the opportunity to thank God for the faith that my dad lived and instilled in me. It was an important part of my grieving process. Why in the world would we want to tell people that they can’t do that?

    That is so wonderfully put… thank you for expressing that. Only comments with a full name will be approved.

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