Bishop of Meath, Ireland: Knock it off with the eulogies!

This story has appeared on a few blogs already, so it might as well appear here too: “Bishop issues rules for funerals to stop ‘dumbing down’ of Mass.”

I suspect there are few priests who sit around thinking, “You know, the Mass really needs to be dumber” so I am going to guess that priests who don’t have a problem with eulogies would say that they actually make the funeral liturgy better. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a eulogy that I thought made things dumber (though I have heard plenty that made them longer), and many I have heard have been profoundly moving, because they expressed the love that the speaker felt for the departed. That does not, of course, mean that eulogies are appropriate for the funeral liturgy.

I think one liturgical issue lurking in the background is that the Order of Christian Funerals envisions a complex of rites, with vigils, interment, etc. in addition to the funeral Mass. If there is nothing but the funeral Mass, then we can tend to overload that liturgy with things like eulogies that would actually fit better at a wake or some sort of prayer vigil.

What do people think?

43 comments

  1. People underuse the OCF where it has not been implemented well. I found many, but not all family members to be very receptive when I suggested personal remembrances are a better fit for the Vigil. And that the rosary is a better fit for the opening minutes of the Vigil, when the family (usually Catholic) is prepared to pray in a formal way before most visitors arrive. And that a “Scripture service” is a better fit for the Vigil when non-Catholics and inactives might be present.

    The OCF as given, makes great sense for today’s culture.

    One factor that mitigates against a sensible OCF is the cultural aversion to death. One service seems better than three, so why not cram it all in at once, then eat?

    The same desire may be active for those who demand a quiet church before and after Sunday Mass. They want to do one-stop spiritual shopping, and get it all in with one visit.

    And finally, the bishop would be far better off talking to his clergy one on one. Unless he’s purposely playing bad cop on this one. If Irish mourners are going to hate anyone, I suppose better the bishop than the pastor.

  2.  “Death is to be deprived of its character as a place where the metaphysical breaks through. Death is rendered banal so as to quell the unsettling questions that arise from it.”- Cardinal Ratzinger, quoted in the cited article.
    I suppose those who deeply mourn the death of their beloved could be dismissed as “banal” from a purely metaphysical perspective, but maybe this is why Jesus told stories instead of delivering purely metaphysical lectures. I think ordinary people do a fine job of facing the unsettling questions that grief stirs up within them.
    Death is all tangled up with the incarnation and actual human experience. A funeral disembodied from the connection between the life of Jesus and the life of the deceased individual sounds like a safe and sterile transaction. Is that what liturgy is meant to be? If so, let’s rethink the eating and ‘banal’ digestion of the very tangible Eucharistic bread.

  3. The bishop also made reference to secular songs and secular readings being used. Maybe those usages are what he meant by “dumbing down.”

  4. Todd – would agree with your observations. But, my experience across the nation is that the OCF has never really been implemented – too often, local community customs prevail (e.g. most rural catholic communities never do anything but the rosary at the wake)

    Do think that there are multiple reasons to revise and broaden the OCF with options based upon local customs, local cultures, specific situations i.e. death of children, suicide, infant death, many deaths in one event in one community; death of a spouse in a mixed marriage. The whole question about vigils (wakes) needs to be looked at – especially when more than 50% of the mourners may be non-catholic; same with funerals. The whole question around cremation vs. burial in our US society today – is it as *simplistic* as some think (as some state – it triviliazes the mortal Christian body – sounds fairly arrogant); same with when, who, and how for eulogies (Deacon’s comment is my experience – some have been excellent, scriptural, tie in to the eucharist, the planned music, etc.)

    Not sure that such a black and white approach as this bishop’s is necessary; and wonder if catholic community legacy ritual experiences shouldn’t be considered rather than some clerical *fiat* that tells us the *correct* way.

    It does seem that a catholic community is counter-cultural at funeral times from US society mores. We need to celebrate and embody the incarnation; point to hope; celebrate both life lived and transition in death. Need to focus on the family and community – rural communities and some city parishes have ministries and customs such that the parish has a meal for the family/community; provide meals for the week; do follow up if the surviving spouse or family members need help, etc. The sacrament/liturgy is more than just a vigil/ceremony/burial and then it is over.
    Finally, IMO, some of the bishop’s points are too focused on negative things – not sure that we need to remind people that we are all sinners; that the funeral is a time for repentance (is it really?); to do a catechism education during the homily. Understand his use of *integrity* but the rite is not something that stands independent from the person, family, and parish community as if there is only one right way to do it. Yes, good reminders in terms of use of secular songs (but, even here…isn’t there a better pastoral way of handling this?); yes, readings from scripture (again, pastorally, you can handle this a number of ways).

    May be this diocese has tried different pastoral approaches and remain frustrated. But, it would appear that the bishop could work with his pastors rather than use a *one size fits all* legal approach.

  5. When my dad passed away a few years ago our parish priest sat down with us and told us that he would help us through this any way he could. He asked for stories or events that he could add to his homily. He said that we could choose any readings we wished and would help us choose if needed. We could choose the hymns and have no more than two eulogies. He only asked that it be respectful and no more than 10 minutes. He didn’t focus on any negatives ie you can’t do this or that. Rather he tried to understand what the deceased meant to the family, tailor to our needs and help in any way he could. It was the family that mattered, not rubrics.
    I know Pope Francis, who doesn’t follow all the rules would have approved.

  6. Apparently the Bishop forgot that B16 is no longer Pope especially considering that he quoted from a Ratzinger article.

    Someone might remind him what Pope Francis stated at Mass in May concerning some practices that drive the faithful away, this one concerning turning away single moms and their illegitimate babies from baptism; rules vs pastoral zeal:

    “What does she find? A closed door,” as do so many. “This is not good pastoral zeal, it distances people from the Lord and does not open doors. So when we take this path…we are not doing good to people, the People of God.” Jesus “instituted seven sacraments, and with this approach we institute the eighth, the sacrament of the pastoral customs office.

    According to Church World and their discussion about clericalism: ”From this point of view it follows that clerics are the active agents in the Church–the ones who make the decisions, give the orders, exercise command. The laity’s role is to listen and do as they’re told. http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/2326/the_anticlerical_pope.aspx#.UgxIIZKG1tA

    Since the bishop is in Ireland a comment by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin in a talk recently given in New York is appropriate. He said: “strong remnants of inherited clericalism” continue to plague the Church in Ireland. “The days of the dominant or at times domineering role of clergy within what people call the ‘institutional Church’ have changed, but part of the culture still remains,”

    Pope Francis’ “Pastoral Customs Office” can’t come soon enough.

  7. This bishop may be reacting to practices in his diocese he would like to rein in, but I think he’s out of line. My funeral homilies are not eulogies but they clearly acknowledge some personal attributes of the deceased. When the family chooses to celebrate a vigil service, it provides an opportunity for me to welcome family members and other mourners to say a few words about their loved one. When there’s no vigil, I let the family know that someone is welcome to speak of the deceased following communion. I’ve never had a problem. I know how to help people enter into the paschal mystery, but mourners need to be assured that the rites are about helping them deal with this loss. The good bishop needs to chill.

  8. A non Catholic friend made the observation to me years ago that funerals are “for the living”. What he meant by that was that the living – those who remain behind – benefit from them; they help people grieve and deal with the loss and to do so within a community atmosphere. As a child I avoided funerals, but as an adult, one of the best things about my mother’s funeral was seeing people I knew who took time out of their lives to be with me. So now, I go to every funeral that I reasonably can attend.

    We believe in the communion of saints and the resurrection of the dead and eternal life and therefore we have a ritual to affirm these ideas and to pray for the blessings of eternal life for the deceased. I get the Bishop’s point that this ought to be the focus, but I also understand that eulogies have a function as well, and I don’t see why you can’t do both. Indeed, in the South, there aren’t that many Catholic funerals where the attendees are mostly Catholic. My experience is exactly as Dale described in comment 5. It strikes me as very good approach, both respecting the liturgy and allowing for some personal expression.

    Maybe it’s an Irish problem: In his ruling that Joyce’s Ulysses was not pornography the Judge said “In respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of his characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring.” Maybe in Ireland they all come directly from the wake and still want to go on telling stories. 😉

  9. Catholicism and Orthodoxy differ from most Reformation traditions precisely because the first two traditions do not view the funeral as merely “for the living” as in Protestantism. Many Protestant traditions have no mystery of death (the “falling asleep”) beyond a belief in the particular judgment as dualistic and permanent with no purgation/theosis. Since Protestantism does not have an understanding of the holy souls, the notion that the Eucharist is offered for both the living and the dead as well as the corporate Church is inconceivable.

    The best way to combat the erroneous understanding of some Catholics that the funeral is only for the comfort of the bereaved is a return to the celebration of votive requiems on unimpeded ferial days. For reasons of cultural sensitivity, it is probably more fitting that the celebrant wear violet instead of black. I also do not think that a catafalque should be used, again for cultural sensibility. A return to a celebration of a votive requiem on at least one weekday of the month will reinforce orthodox Catholic teaching on purgatory and the efficacy of the Mass for those who have died in a state of grace but are in need of purification. This Mass should be paired with catechetical instruction from the pulpit.

    The more Catholics attend votive requiems in either form, the more they will grasp the multifaceted eschatology of the Eucharist. Through the votive requiem, the living at Mass are drawn into the sacrifice alongside the dead, thus negating the erroneous notion that life and death are not contiguous aspects of the Christian mystery. I suspect, however, that many priests might shy from celebrating votive requiems out of a fear of being perceived as preoccupied with the morbid.

  10. The difficulty we are having with funerals is that the Protestant culture of the south has shifted to the “celebration of life” format for funerals. In some obituaries of our members, the Funeral, whether it be a Mass or apart from Mass is described as a “celebration of life” although we have indicated to the funeral directors not to use that term, but the family is the one who normally writes the obit and often these family members aren’t Catholic. I have no problem with Irish style wakes and in days gone by in my father’s Canadian culture there were three days/nights of mourning. So certainly apart from the actual liturgical aspects of the Order of Christian Burial, there can be secular celebrations and funny remembrances as well as more serious eulogizing. I’ve encouraged people to do this after the Vigil for the Deceased, which we always pray, but normally most families also want the Rosary, which we do in full in the place of the Intercessions of the Vigil. We do allow one person, if so desired, to give a reflection on the deceased during Mass after the Prayer after Holy Communion. That person must be a practicing Catholic and the reflection must be no more than two minutes and the priest must see the content prior. I’ve had disasters with these reflections in the past and multiple people coming forward to do so in the most banal and inappropriate ways for a Mass. A Protestant minister, unbeknownst to me, was chosen by one family who contradicted everything I said in the homily about salvation.
    But the greatest problem we have with funerals today is the growing proliferation of cremation and the “disposal” of these after the funeral. Many families no longer give the “cremains” a Christian internment but sometimes divide it among family members, or dump there somewhere, or put them in the attic, garage or basement.

  11. I have been to Catholic funerals where eulogies used vulgar words in remembering Grandma, as well as eulogies encouraging others to model the deceased’s faith in God and love of family and friends. The priest Dale described in #6 knew how to do it best. This area of eulogies is a gray one, and a hard and fast rule does not always meet adequately the complex situations involved in some deaths (accidents, tragedies, suicides, sudden deaths). Approaches such as Fr. Allan’s seem to be overly strict, although there is need to be sure the reflection at the funeral Mass does not become a canonization or an overly-sentimental remembrance.

    I have to agree with Fr. Allan about the cremains situation, some of the disposals of the cremains amount to vulgarity and outright dishonor of the deceased. One funeral home in a city where I Iived sells Christmas tree ornaments in which ashes of the deceased can be placed and brought out each year to be hung on the household Christmas tree.

  12. The concern about “eulogies” is pure clericalism.

    It denies the dignity and joy of Christian life, the presence of Christ in his members, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the mercy of God.

    It refuses to admit that there are many saints among the laity. Probably more than among popes, bishops, and clergy.

    As long as Rome continues the recent practice (speaking in centuries) to regulaly elevate its Bishops to sanctity, there is no reason why we Catholics cannot continue the far older practice of regarding people as saints long before the clergy canonize them.

    The best place to celebrate the sanctity of loved ones is at a Vigil Service in the Funeral home. If the pastor is a dour clerical type, don’t include him. I see this Service as the family’s burial service. The family is a Christian community, although increasing not a completely Catholic community. Family and friends need to take care of each other in the ways they know best.

    Let the priest, music minister, etc. do whatever they think best in terms of the pastoral practice for the Mass. In my experience more people attend the evening service than the morning Mass. Parishes should encourage people to participate in funeral Masses even if they do not know the deceased. I see the morning Mass as pretty much the parish’s service for the person. In many cases of large parishes, the parish is unlikely to know much about the person. The parish will do best by presenting its best rather than by attempting to cater to the needs of the family. If the Mass is well done, I think families will appreciate it even if it is more generic than cutom made.

    Much of the conflict about funerals I see is a conflict between the parish community and the family community levels of celebration.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #13:

      Hello Jack,

      The concern about “eulogies” is pure clericalism.

      It denies the dignity and joy of Christian life, the presence of Christ in his members, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the mercy of God.

      Well, in the first place, the concern is about enforcing the law of the Church – and the Bishop of Meath is not the master of the law:

      The Rite of Christian Funerals 141 says: “A brief homily based on the readings is always given after the gospel reading at the funeral liturgy and may also be given after the readings at the vigil service; but there is never to be a eulogy.” The 2000 GIRM 338 says: “At the funeral Mass there should as a rule be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind. The homily is also recommended at other Masses for the dead celebrated with a congregation.”

      It’s true that the law could be changed. It’s also true that the current law is a longstanding law, and one with some wisdom to it. And that wisdom becomes clear when we see what happens when, despite the law, a eulogy is allowed at the Mass: It ends up, too often, becoming a celebration of the deceased’s life, and an instant canonization – all at the moment when we’re supposed to praying for their soul. (And let us be frank: sometimes the instant canonization is made by the priest homilist, not just the eulogy giver.) Not everyone goes to heaven (Matt. 7:12-13, et al). It is a gross uncharity to assume that the deceased are not in need of our prayers.

      I can’t speak to all motives. Clericalism is a real phenomenon (alas), and takes many forms. But there are already opportunities for the laity to be involved in the Mass, and plenty of opportunity for eulogies at the wake, or funeral home visitation, or the gravesite. At my own funeral Mass, when it comes, I hope that it will be giving glory to God and praying for my own soul, not celebrating my life. I expect, if I am very fortunate, a very long stay in Purgatory.

      1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #14:
        Well, in the first place, the concern is about enforcing the law of the Church – and the Bishop of Meath is not the master of the law

        See, I think that is part of the problem and where “trads” for lack of a better term are, well, wrong. To say that the enforcement of the law is the priority is misguided. The law has value because it unifies a global church to some degree, and provides guidelines where there might be no clear direction. But, let’s be honest, a lot of it is arbitrary; it is “X”, but it could also reasonably and theologically be “Y”.

        Christ instructs us to follow the law, but not because ‘it is the law’, and there are any number of times that He states in no uncertain terms that while the “law” is valuable it is clearly NOT the prime value. Tending sheep, loving neighbors and loving God above all – those are prime values. I see allowing for some reasonable commentary as furthering the prime values.

      2. @Charles Day – comment #27:
        Ironically, this particular law is not a “trad” one, but a post-Vatican II innovation. Eulogies were in fact permitted at Catholic funerals (and arguably still are in the EF), with the permission of the local bishop under the 1962 rites. There is no homily/sermon after the Gospel at an EF Requiem Mass, but as Fortescue writes:

        If a sermon or panegyric about the dead person is preached, it comes at the end of Mass, before the absolution. The preacher wears no surplice, but only a cassock and cloak. A bishop or prelate may wear the rochet and mozzetta or mantellettum.

      3. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #30:
        Perhaps I skewed my point with the use of the term “trads” when a better term might have been legalists. I don’t care when the current ‘law’ was created: regardless of time or intent the worship of the law as a primary value is wrong. It (the law) is a good tool, but only a tool, to promote actual prime values.

  13. There’s some irony to this whole eulogy discussion in that most priests’ funerals feature eulogies after the gospel – not homilies – delivered by classmates or bishops. (I say this after 20 years of diocesan experience.) And as a colleague once put it:

    When there’s one lying in the aisle, there’s one lying in the pulpit….

    1. @Michael Silhavy – comment #15:
      You are right about that and I would say that doing so (eulogizing a priest at a funeral) is much more about clericalism than trying to eliminate it for all. And in a sense the practice of eulogizing the laity either at the homily or after Holy Communion is an example of the clergy clericalizing the laity in this regard by inviting this sort of thing.
      I have specific instructions in the plan for my funeral that the bishop, if he is available or his representative, is not to eulogize but preach the Gospel and the paschal mystery and above all divine mercy for this miserable sinner! If by chance I am canonized a saint in Rome one day, they can eulogize my finer qualities until kingdom come! 🙂

    2. @Michael Silhavy – comment #15:
      Thanks – or think about what happens upon the death of a pope and the Meath bishop’ s counsel about not *divinizing* the one who has died.

      There are contradictions, hypocrisy, etc. in all of this and the episcopal ranks are a good example of *how not to do it*

      Mr. Malcolm – again, funerals are about the one who has died but also about the family, the parish community, etc. It is actually an excellent time to be pastoral and a time to listen to pain, grief, regrets, etc. and extend both mercy and invitation. Sorry, it is not a time to pull rank, quote the law (you do know that the essence of canon law is to be pastoral not to impose some outside legalities). Finally, if you want to folks to pray for your soul and not celebrate your life, fine, but don’t impose your opinions and biases on the rest of the church. Nothing like denying your own incarnation, creation, community life, etc. It is always a balancing act – not a one size fits all.
      And, in fact, following liturgical principles every pastor/presider can and should use pastoral good sense when dealing with a family at the time of a death. That is the law.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #17:

        Hello Bill,

        Mr. Malcolm – again, funerals are about the one who has died but also about the family, the parish community, etc.

        With respect, that is simply wrong, Bill – the funeral Mass is emphatically not about the survivors, though they do participate in the Mass (as they do every Mass they attend). It is about Christ, offered in unbloody sacrifice, and the deceased for whom it is offered. Both the traditional Requiem Mass and the new funeral rite recognize this; both petition Christ to deliver the deceased to eternal salvation; they don’t merely assume it. Grant that through this mystery your servant N., who has gone to his/her rest in Christ, may share in the joy of his resurrection. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son… (From Opening Prayer A)

        Now, let me be clear: I am all for attending to the pastoral needs of those survivors, the family and friends. They are part of the pastor’s flock as well. But there are occasions for this, and they are not the Mass. Eulogies could be given at a wake, or a vigil, or even shortly after the Mass.

        We have this law for a reason, Bill. Canon law serves the Gospel and not the other way around, and if a law does so poorly, it must be changed (I think we are agreed on that much). But here is great wisdom in this law.

        It comes down a candid question that I feel I must ask you, Bill: Do you believe that every Catholic goes to heaven?

        And as a corollary: Do you believe in the existence of Purgatory?

      2. @Richard Malcolm – comment #19:
        The usual – change the subject and continue to elevate the accidental as the essential.

        Sorry, the eucharistic theology of VII broadened our understanding so that a narrow, Tridentine view that the communal eucharist is about Christ only was explained as a both/and not one way only. In that theology, we recognize and celebrate Christ and Christ in the community; in each other, etc. That being said, agree that the funeral liturgy petitions Christ (I assumed that since we are talking about the OCF). But it is more than that.

        Yes, eulogies can be given at vigils, community meal after the funeral eucharist, etc. but there are often times when that just doesn’t work. Agree with canon law serves the gospel (but would suggest that you so elevate the law that you miss the gospel message – listen to grief, celebrate life and death or more the actual transition; invite family and personal storys (what do you think the gospels were?); and then take those celebrations and incorporate into the OCF. The best laws are directives; not anathemas. The wisdom is in how the law is applied (not preached).

        And now your *dangerous* dogmatic, trick candid questions – no, not every catholic goes to heaven, IMO, but then I don’t pretend to know the mercy of God and so leave it to him. Purgatory is not a geographical place – would use Rahner’s purgatory explanation as my own. It starts with a relationship to the Trinity and then allows the mercy of God room to work.

        Find it interesting that over the past week we have had 4 or 5 posts quoting Francis and how traditionalists seem to reinterpret his words to fit their ideology. So, let’s apply Francis’ words about depriving baptism to a single mom (geez, what does canon law say? is this Francis applying a pastoral touch? what would you think Francis would say about eulogies? Yep, the tone, style, and emphasis is changing and opinions such as yours and Allan’s appear to be making things up as you…

      3. @Bill deHaas – comment #22:

        The usual – change the subject and continue to elevate the accidental as the essential.

        I’m honestly at a loss for how you thought I changed the subject.

        Sorry, the eucharistic theology of VII broadened our understanding so that a narrow, Tridentine view that the communal eucharist is about Christ only was explained as a both/and not one way only.

        Did it really, though? Where in Sacrosanctum Concilium did it do so? We’re obviously not talking about dogmatic definitions, since the Council expressly prescinded from making any. So we’re left with “understandings.” So how was our two millennia old understanding of the Eucharist changed? SC 7 makes pretty clear that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is more important than other senses (present in the gathered assembly, present in the Word).

        And now your *dangerous* dogmatic, trick candid questions…

        Nothing “trick” about it, Bill. I just wanted to know. And I do appreciate you answering, directly.

        So, let’s apply Francis’ words about depriving baptism to a single mom (geez, what does canon law say? is this Francis applying a pastoral touch? what would you think Francis would say about eulogies?

        I was tempted to respond to Dale’s attempt to draw an analogy to Francis’s position on baptism, but I refrained, since I had hogged enough of the discussion, I thought. I think what’s important to say first is that Francis’s position (which I tend to agree with) on baptism serves the very same purpose as laws to restrain “instant canonizations” at a Funeral/Requiem Mass – the salvation of souls. This is what Francis desires, and rightly so!

        Does Pope Francis, in fact, have the same view on eulogies in the Funeral Mass? I don’t have any evidence on point, but I would be happy to read anything anyone has come across. If in fact he takes your position, I think he would be very wrong. If he changes the law, I think it would be imprudent.

      4. @Richard Malcolm – comment #25:
        Let’s see – we suddenly jumped to *heaven and who will be saved* and *purgatory*.

        Fr. Ruff has asked that this not be repeatedly posted but in reply to your question about SC and eucharistic theology and yes, no dogmatic changes but how we understand, express, and celebrate:

        http://www.tomrichstatter.org/eEucharist/e29vatic.htm

        Some high points:
        – SC speaks of eucharist as the completion of initiation (baptism) – Trent did not do this
        – SC evolved during VII discussions –
        There was an important evolution in the various drafts of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The chapter (Chapter 2) was first titled “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” In the approved text this becomes “The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist.” This is a significant change
        – SC, articles 47 & 48 – comment: Notice the mention of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. In 1962-63 when this text was written the predominant metaphor for the Eucharist was “Good Friday” i.e. the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Vatican Council restores a balance in the three metaphors “Holy Thursday” (Meal), “Good Friday” (Sacrifice), and “Easter Sunday” (Church). Compare with: “The Mass is the sacrifice of the New Law in which Christ through the minitry of the priest, offers Himself to God in an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine.” Question 357, Baltimore Catechism

        – Vatican II [1960-1975] These statements in the context of the Council are statements of the then current teaching in the Baltimore Catechism with an additional emphasis. e.g. the Baltimore Catechism taught the relation of the Eucharist to Divine Life. The Council felt that in 1963 it was also important to emphasize the relation of the Eucharist to the Unity of the Body of Christ. The Baltimore Catechism taught that sacraments were “outward signs…. to give grace.” The Council adds that they are also acts of worship (and they have a catechetical function).

        Thus, the council reformed and restored based upon these principles:

        Active Participation. Vernacular. Scripture. Two part structure: Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. Symbol. Standing for prayer. General Intercessions. Procession with gifts restored. Kiss of peace. All communicate. Communion from the Cup restored. Simpler ceremony. Liturgy shapes “Church”. “Lex orandi” axiom rediscovered.

        50. Restore structure and elements
        51. Restore Lectionary
        52. Restore homily
        53. Restore General Intercessions
        54. Restore the language of the people
        55. Restore the “Meal” dimension of the Eucharist by:
        a. Restore Communion from bread of this Mass (not from tabernacle) and
        b. Restore the cup to the laity (eat and drink)
        56. Restore Story-telling as and essential element
        57. Restore Concelebration (rather than many, simultaneous, quasi-private masses)

        Other points:
        “….when the images of Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday began to gain prominence in catechesis regarding the eucharist, there were many Catholics who worried that we were losing Good Friday. Some looked upon “Mass as a meal” as replacing “Mass as sacrifice.” However, this is not an “either / or” situation. The sacramental sign (the external, visible element) which we celebrate is a meal. The meal is the sign of the sacrifice”

        The Eucharist is more verb than noun

        Using the Emmaus Journey as a model – four part structure: Gathering, Story Telling, Meal Sharing, Commissioning

        Finally:

        “Christ’s real presence in the consecrated Bread was emphasized so strongly that it was considered to be the only real presence. It was only with some difficulty that we have been able to assimilate the teaching of the Second Vatican Council:

        “To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in his Church, especially in its liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of his minister, “the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,” but especially under the eucharistic elements. By his power he is present in the sacraments, so that when anybody baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for he promised: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). (Constitution on the Liturgy, #7)

        One of the effects of a contemporary course on the eucharist is to broaden the understanding of real presence to embrace the real presence in the assembly and the word

      5. @Bill deHaas – comment #27:
        SC speaks of eucharist as the completion of initiation (baptism) – Trent did not do this

        Trent doesn’t do this because it was not a point of controversy. Aquinas identifies the Eucharist as the sacrament by which the new life bestowed in baptism is sustained in us in ST 3.65.1.

        In 1962-63 when this text was written the predominant metaphor for the Eucharist was “Good Friday” i.e. the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Vatican Council restores a balance in the three metaphors “Holy Thursday” (Meal), “Good Friday” (Sacrifice), and “Easter Sunday” (Church).

        Though I think it is odd to juxtapose a Constitution of an ecumenical council with a popular catechism, even with regard to the Baltimore Catechism you’re doing a bit of cherry-picking. BC#375 is hardly all that is says about the Mass (in fact, it’s from the section on the Mass as a sacrifice, so of course it talks about it in sacrificial terms). For instance in BC#361 we read: “The purposes for which the Mass is offered are: first, to adore God as our Creator and Lord; second, to thank God for His many favors; third, to ask God to bestow His blessings on all men; fourth, to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him.” Propitiation is not only not the only purpose of the Mass given in the BC, it comes last on the list. This would also seem to weaken the claim that the BC does not teach that the sacraments are acts of worship.

        the Baltimore Catechism taught the relation of the Eucharist to Divine Life. The Council felt that in 1963 it was also important to emphasize the relation of the Eucharist to the Unity of the Body of Christ.

        True, the BC doesn’t speak of this, but the Roman Catechism, produced in the wake of Trent, quotes John Damascene: “this sacrament unites us to Christ, renders us partakers of his flesh and divinity, reconciles and unites us to one another in the same Christ, and forms us, as it were, into one body.”

        The point is not that SC does not highlight certain things that were less prominent in earlier documents, but that the constant trashing of what came before Vatican II, the repeated emphasis on what a departure it was from the past, is maybe a sign that we need to better understand the past.

      6. @Richard Malcolm – comment #25:
        “…I think what’s important to say first is that Francis’s position (which I tend to agree with) on baptism serves the very same purpose as laws to restrain “instant canonizations” at a Funeral/Requiem Mass – the salvation of souls.”

        Tortuous clap trap.

        How is giving a eulogy “instant canonization”?
        How is giving a eulogy preventing the salvation of souls?

        You tend to paint with a very broad brush, making accusations that simply don’t exist.

        I tell you what, you and Jordan can stick with that man made rubric “a return to the celebration of votive requiems on unimpeded ferial days” whatever the h*ll that means,
        and Francis and I will stick with what Jesus said, the Sabbath was made for man, not man made for the Sabbath.

        And we’ll see who gets out of purgatory first…….

      7. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #33:

        I tell you what, you and Jordan can stick with that man made rubric “a return to the celebration of votive requiems on unimpeded ferial days” whatever the h*ll that means,

        Dale, the idea that a priest occasionally offer the funeral/requiem as a votive Mass is a suggestion. I don’t expect many priests to do this, and that’s okay by me. Every single Mass celebrated is for the living (the gathered assembly, the entire Church) as well as for the dead in purgatory. The only difference is that the daily requiem is a Mass where the specific intention is the dead. This is little different from the idea that every Mass includes a reference to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but it is also possible to say a specific Mass for her veneration.

        I agree with those who say that a priest should not use a funeral Mass in the presence of a deceased person as a bully pulpit. However, doctrinal realities also exist. It’s a balancing act which thankfully, as a layman, I don’t have to encounter.

      8. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #33:

        Tortuous clap trap.

        Come on, Dale. You’re better than this.

        How is giving a eulogy “instant canonization”?

        “We all know that Uncle Bob is staring down at us from heaven, smiling, after finishing his 18 holes of celestial golf with St. Peter.”

        I know I’ve been to enough funerals where I’ve heard that, or worse, in a homily – that is, when the eulogist doesn’t embarrass themselves and everyone by breaking down in tears. Or, worse, making the eulogy all about themselves, not poor Uncle Bob.

        If I haven’t said it clearly enough, I think there are pastoral ways of handing this, even if it is a delicate balancing act, as Jordan says up above (post #35). I don’t think there’s anything wrong, for example, with having some kind of remembrance service/event immediately after or right before the Mass, where friends and family can talk about their memories of Uncle Bob.

        How is giving a eulogy preventing the salvation of souls?

        How? Because if the eulogy is an instant canonization – and so many of them are, since as we all, know, everyone goes to heaven – except perhaps Ted Bundy and Adolph Hitler – no one is going to pray for any dead soul if it gets hammered into them that Uncle Bob is surely in heaven.

        Of course, as I said up above, the other problem is that plenty of priests fall into this trap as well, either because they are terrified of offending the family and friends, or because their theology really is that bad.

        Someone needs to pray for the dead. Because they surely pray for us. That’s what we believe as Catholics. That is what we have always believed as Catholics. And that is what a funeral Mass is all about.

      9. @Richard Malcolm – comment #40:
        I have never attended a funeral where someone was instantly cannonized.

        So saying someone in heaven makes it so???? Since when??? Hammered???
        So saying someone is in heaven prevents them from praying for them???? Since when???
        Are Catholics that stupid?

        Embarassing themselves and others by breaking down???

        You have a heart of stone Richard.

      10. @Bill deHaas – comment #17:
        “And, in fact, following liturgical principles every pastor/presider can and should use pastoral good sense when dealing with a family at the time of a death. That is the law.”

        Exactly.

        That is what we experienced and it was a beautiful funeral, we prayed for him AND remembered his good qualities that he used in building the Kingdom of God HERE on this earth.
        Bill, I can’t imagine how a family feels being ordered to not do this or that. I’m sure it happens, obviously in this particular bishop’s diocese.

        One can walk away singing the praises of the Church or hating it and never going back. As St. Paul said, paraphrasing him, I must be all things to all people for the sake of the Kingdom.

  14. Michael Silhavy : There’s some irony to this whole eulogy discussion in that most priests’ funerals feature eulogies after the gospel – not homilies – delivered by classmates or bishops. (I say this after 20 years of diocesan experience.) And as a colleague once put it: When there’s one lying in the aisle, there’s one lying in the pulpit….

    It seems to me that this is an abuse as well.

    For the Bishop of Meath’s sake, I hope his enforcement of the law extends to funeral Masses for his priests as well.

  15. The funeral has become our “one-stop shop” for death. In our modern world, people don’t have / won’t make time for the funeral, the viewing, the rosary, the wake, the graveside services, etc. So the funeral has become the variety show it was never intended to be.

    The lack of uniform standards between nations, dioceses, and parishes leads to dissimilar experiences. Maybe it’s a Mass, maybe it’s just a quick ashes-to-ashes service. We are asked to pray, but never reminded about Purgatory. It’s almost always On Eagles’ Wings, but In Paradisum becomes Danny Boy.

    But who can listen to Mozart’s Requiem without thinking there was just a smidgen of showboating even then?

  16. Bill is correct about most rural parishes ignoring OCF. Part of the problem seems to be with the presbyterate in our diocese who have failed to inform the folks about OCF or to provide the leadership necessary. Another part of the problem is that “funeral directors” don’t know about OCF and what it envisions . . . because no one ever told them. My experience has also been that many families require a rosary at “the visitation” because that establishes the deceased and family as “Catholic” even though they may have not been in a Catholic Church except for the big 3 – hatched, matched, and dispatched. Funerals were one of the things we used to do better than anyone else. Used to do.

  17. Sean Keeler : The funeral has become our “one-stop shop” for death. In our modern world, people don’t have / won’t make time for the funeral, the viewing, the rosary, the wake, the graveside services, etc. So the funeral has become the variety show it was never intended to be.

    I think that’s a very good point. And even though I think the law as it exists is a very wise one, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t pastoral concerns that must be attended to.

    If indeed the circumstances of the community or the parish are such that it seems that a large number of mourners will only make it to the Funeral Mass, and may miss personal remembrances at a vigil, wake, visitation, gravesite service, etc., one possibility may be to allow a non-liturgical remembrance of the family’s desire right before or right after the Mass, if this is feasible. One would think that nearly everyone able to make the Mass could extend their visit for the necessary time right before or after it. And, indeed, I have seen this done before in some parishes.

    We are asked to pray, but never reminded about Purgatory.

    Along with the Four Last Things, it seems to be out of fashion now.

  18. ““Well, in the first place, the concern is about enforcing the law of the Church – and the Bishop of Meath is not the master of the law.”

    Jesus did not put “the law” before people. If people are hungry on the Sabbath he fed them. If people where sick on the Sabbath he healed them even though this went against “the law” and earned him the wrath of the Pharisees. I suspect this bishop would get along quite well with the Pharisees.

    The message of Pope Francis’ pontificate is mercy. If having a eulogy helps family members and loved ones process their grief in a better way then by all means show them mercy in their grief and let them have a eulogy. People, made in God’s image, come before “the law.”

  19. Thanks, Deacon…your points are well stated and, yes, the link I provided does *cherry pick* and does use comparison to the Baltimore Catechism (which you find odd). I provided the link – these are not my cherry pickings rather, those of Thomas Richstatter, who teaches at St. Meinrad’s and was the former executive secretary for the FDLC. In some ways, you have to read his complete sacramental theology posts and courses so that you see why he chose this methodology (e.g. comparing to BC – it’s to get your attention which can be necessary in seminary teaching).
    OTOH – what you rightly quote are not exactly theological or sacramental aspects that were focused on during the Tridentine Period or that were reflected in the BC (in fact, Richstatter has an interesting explanation of how the original french that the BC came from misquoted and mistranslated some theological/sacramental ideas).
    But, my emphasis was in reply to Mr. Malcolm asking for what SC said – and would, IMO, say that SC did reform or change (by highlighting some of the very things you quote from) and thus establishing a different foundation and context for understanding eucharist. (you might want to re-read Mr. Malcolm’s quote about unbloody sacrifice – true but not the whole understanding and, in fact, partial and can be misunderstood – that is what I was replying to)
    Let’s face it – VII and SC were built upon the method of ressourcement and would, IMO, say that most council fathers wanted to reform the type of limited experiences found in the BC. (or Mr. Malcolm’s quote as the total story of eucharist).

    Again, your Trent comment misses the point and question by Mr. Malcolm. SC ressourced Aquinas (whether it was an issue at Trent or not – what’s the point). The Tridentine never made the connection.

  20. Orbiter dictum: many thanks to the super SACERDOTE of eBay who came through for me. I now have in my hands a copy of the Ordo Exsequiarum due to Sacerdote. This after a ten year search.

    Sacerdote can find anything liturgical! Bravo!

  21. One can be most pastoral during the funeral homily without resorting to crass eulogizing, but indicating the faith of the person, their love of the sacraments, the ministry of Christ to them during their sacramental lives and the love they showed to family and friends by God’s grace. I would just caution, though, that what is said from the ambo about the deceased matches the reality of the experience of those who hear what is said about that person. That’s the danger of eulogies, that a terrible, secret sinner is canonized even though the hypocrisy of that person is only known but to a few and sometimes to the priest who knows more than what he can ever say due to the seal of confession.

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #37:

      I wonder: would it be be better in certain situations for a priest to simply preach on a verse from scripture, such as “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), rather than eulogize? The situation you describe above, Fr. Allan, might be an instance where this approach might work better. Are there homilaries specifically written for funerals which are aligned with the lectionary? Maybe the latter would help priests who don’t want to give or can’t give a homily-eulogy, but need inspiration for preaching.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #38:
        I’m not aware of any resources in this area as I don’t use them for weddings or homilies. I like “Celebration” not so much for the canned homilies but the very good exegesis of Scripture and some practical examples it gives for Sunday homilies.
        My own homilies here in the south for funerals relies on the sacramental experiences of the person who has died, or how that person might have been ministered to in the days before their death. Obviously one can start with the person’s baptism, that even before they knew God, God accepted them and equipped them with grace to “know, love and serve” Him in this life and to be happy forever in heaven. This is important in the Bible Belt that emphasizes the person “Accepting Jesus” as the prerequisite. Also, one could speak of the person who received in faith Holy Communion, especially Viaticum and how Jesus’ anointed and soothe them in the Anointing of the sick to prepare them by forgiveness and healing for heaven, if these occurred. Speaking of a person’s love and good works by way of example of responding the sacramental grace is not necessarily eulogizing. The focus must be on the Paschal Mystery for the sinner redeemed in Christ.

  22. Dale – plus +1

    Talk about disconnecting human signs, life, etc. from some type of mysterious, heavenly liturgy.

    Here is a link to an excellent personal story that actually talks about liturgy and the key values rather than this endless dribble about accidents and secondary liturgical items:

    http://ncronline.org/news/spirituality/questioning-together-young-adults-celebrate-teaching-liturgy-retreat

    It makes some of this discussion ridiculous.

    OTOH, and despite this Irish bishop’s attempt at legislation, some of the best *mission* and *going out to the periphery* can be found in some US dioceses and state conferences in putting together initiatives that address the funeral industry; address overpricing; taking advantage of economically disadvantage folks at a time of family grief; setting unrealistic marketing expectations. These initiatives don’t waste time on eulogies or secular songs, etc. but on realities – so, some dioceses have worked with funeral homes (most are national chains that set pricing strategies and can be almost monopolistic) so that frugal but respectful plans are promoted that are feasible for low income budgets and yet allow families to have decent funerals/burials. Since most dioceses own cemeteries, they can leverage this and promote plans, funeral vigils/liturgies that meet what this Irish bishop outlines but in a much more constructive and postive way. These diocesan initiatives (yes, Allan, they include cremation because that can be cost effective and is not outlawed by the church despite your opinions) educate pastors so that everyone is on the same page; produces parish education flyers on funeral liturgies, planning, costs and encourages parishes to set up committees that provide support before, during, and after a family death….these become active community organizations that support community involvement of a family at a time of crisis or pain.

    This is much more in the spirit of Francis than this Irish bishop’s declaration.

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