Tuesday, January 23, 2018


I read obituaries and it is interesting to read them. Some are minimalistic just stating the necessary. Others are biographies of the person's many accomplishments.

More and more I am seeing that cremation is the preferred method of "disposing" of the remains and that there is no Christian burial. In fact, there seems to be a lot of simple "disposing" across the religious and non religious spectrum. In the south, the Bible Belt, this is a tsunami of a wave to say the least washing away the belt line altogether.

Funerals now are all about the deceased. This was always true in Protestantism that is non-sacramental. Since there is no Requiem Mass, the funeral was always simply a eulogy of the greatness of the person and prayers for comfort. Although I once attended a Protestant funeral as a priest sitting in the congregation and the preacher asked us to close our eyes and reflect if we were saved and if we died tonight would we go to heaven. Then he said, keep your eyes closed and raise your hand if you are saved. I didn't raise my hand!!!!

But now for my rant. In the good old days prior to the revision of the funeral rites of the Catholic Church, most obituaries stated that a "Requiem Mass would be celebrated for the happy repose of the soul of..."

But now I am seeing all kinds of descriptions for the so-called "Mass of Christian Burial" even when there is no burial, such as "Funeral Mass celebrating the life of so and so". Please note it dosen't say Funeral Mass celebrating the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ." 

I prefer in my obituary, "Requiem Mass for the happy repose of the soul of Father Allan J. McDonald, a sinner. "

This is what one owner of a cemetary teaches his customers. What is interesting is that some insurance companies won't cover some "celebration of life" celebrations, which I didn't know:

How Does a Celebration of Life Differ from a Funeral?

By: John W. Moles
For many people, the passing of a loved one is marked in just one way; a funeral service. But in recent years, there have been additions of alternatives to the traditional funeral that have helped people to better accept and memorialize those that made a difference in their lives. One of these newer forms of memorializing is called a “celebration of life.” But what is it? Is it any different than funeral?
The Traditional Funeral
The funeral itself has been with humanity for as long as civilization itself. Some archaeological evidence suggests that humans undertook some kind of funeral ritual as far back as 50,000 years ago. The specifics of funeral details have changed over the centuries according to technology and culture. Cremation, for example, is much more widespread in western cultures than it was 100 years ago. Environmental concerns have now also made concepts such as “green burials” a more popular alternative in recent years.
The basic funeral concept, however, remains the same. A funeral is a way for the bereaved to give a last farewell to a loved one, usually in the form of a ceremony at which a body is present and committed to a final state. In America, this usually means either a burial of the body, or a cremation where the ashes are then kept in an urn permanently, or scattered in some location meaningful to the deceased or bereaved. Funerals, in other words, are ways to mark the actual death and commitment of a body.
The Celebration of Life
As the name implies, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a somber event. A celebration of life is a way to for people to commemorate and enjoy all that was good about the life of the deceased. In most cases, a celebration of life will occur without the body present. And while a funeral will usually take place within a small timeframe after someone has passed on, a celebration of life can occur weeks, months or even years after a body has been buried or cremated.
The celebration of life is also far less structured and formal. Funeral services will usually occur in a religious building or funeral home. A celebration of life can occur anywhere, in a home, a favorite vacation spot, or a destination the deceased wanted to visit. It doesn’t have to include a formal eulogy, and there’s no requirement for people to dress in black.
The Choice Is Yours
Some people choose to hold a funeral and then conduct their own celebration of life at a later date. Others try to combine the two, especially if there’s a preference for a less traditional, conventional funeral. However, it’s important to keep in mind for insurance payment purposes that the less traditional nature of a celebration of life may exclude it from coverage by some insurance companies. Compared to the more well-established costs of a traditional funeral, a celebration of life has many extra cost factors.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you or the wishes specifically laid out in advanced by the one that has passed on. If you live in Bellingham, WA, and want to get some professional, experienced advice on funerals and celebrations of life, contact us at Moles Farewell Tributes and let us see how we can help you today.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

I have attended a number of Protestant funerals, including those of an Episcopalian priest and a Lutheran pastor.

None that I have attended were "all about the deceased." The Episcopalian rite and the Lutheran liturgy were both imbued with Scripture, both included sermons about the hope of the Resurrection, both were, in my estimation, entirely in keeping with our Catholic beliefs about death and the hope for Eternal Life. The one big difference was that, in the Lutheran funeral, no prayers were offered for the deceased. I joked about this with another Lutheran pastor who was attending. She replied that she hoped I would pray for her when she died and I promised that I would.

I have also been subjected to an "Altar Call" during a couple of more "low church" funerals. Like you, I saw it coming and I did not raise my hand, either. The preacher noticed and, true to his theology, asked me afterwards, respectfully, if I had not accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.

I responded, "I think it is far more important that Jesus has accepted me, sinner that I am."

He pondered...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Oh, and I have been tempted to start my obituary thus: "Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh, priest of the Diocese of Savannah, died on (date.) He did not "go home to be with Jesus." He did not "pass." He did not "enter into the arms of his heavenly Lord and Savior." He did not "join the angels." He was not "called home to be with the Lord." He did not "escape this mortal realm." he died.

Etc etc etc...

Anonymous said...

It does seem that there is more cremation nowadays. It must be because it is a lot cheaper than a regular burial. How much is a funeral with casket, grave, marker, vault? $6 - 12,000 ? Not everybody has life insurance to pay funeral costs. A lot of people rather not go into debt for paying for a funeral.

Anonymous said...

Honey Creek Woodlands, at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Rockdale County (Conyers, GA, about 25 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta) offers "natural burial"---you are placed in a box and into the ground, no vault. I think when a monk dies there, he is wrapped in a shroud and placed in a box. This can be alternative to the traditional funeral home costs and cremation---of course burial can be an issue in densely populated areas---I mean, like New York City, Tokyo, Rome, London and Paris and so on---land is scarce in those areas. I'm not sure how people would feel about 40 story high rises with the dead in them!!!!

The Orthodox Church forbids cremation, finding it inconsistent to say in the funeral service "deliver the soul from eternal fire" and then sending the deceased after the service to the crematorium. Of course, that does not mean God cannot raise you from the dead if you die say in a plane crash (where everyone burns to death) or in warfare (like you are in a tank that gets blown up).

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Cremation is far more common these days. I asked one of the biggest funeral directors in Savannah what percentage of his funerals involved cremation. He said in this area is it about 65%.

Cremation is less expensive than traditional burial, but it is not nearly as cheap as it was 10 or 15 years ago.

Direct cremation - the body is picked up at the place of death and cremated with cremains being returned to the family in a simple container (plastic bag inside a cardboard box) - in Savannah runs from $2700 to $5000, depending on the mortuary. Anything beyond that - burial place, niche in a columbarium, urn, opening/closing the grave, memorial stones, mortuary staff services - adds to the cost fast.

ByzRC said...

I agree with Fr. MJK. The deceased died, we don't know that any of those other descriptors occurred. They are nothing more than assumptions on the part of those left behind. During the formal acknowledgement of the event, to me, there is nothing to celebrate. We mourn and pray for the soul of the deceased according to the rites made available by the Church. Afterward, at the repast, happy memories can be exchanged but, during the rites themselves, the focus itself is entirely different. I suppose in this increasingly secular and cost conscious age, the blending of the dynamics of the service and repast is inevitable however, for those who remain faithful to tradition, it isn't a talking point. Also, I don't think that 'Life Celebration', which, in places is trademarked, provides the correct emphasis in terms of mourning, praying for the departed soul and the funeral liturgy. It glosses over death perhaps softening the event for many who have been shielded from the realities of life. Personally, I would not likely patronize an establishment that encourages this approach strongly (despite any counseling to the contrary) as, during that traumatic time, I do not want my preferences competing with an approach that is the cornerstone for how they operate.

TJM said...

Have the "celebration of life" at the funeral luncheon.

rcg said...

TJM, exactly.

Anonymous said...

According to the Cremation Association of North America, in 2010 41% of all funerals were cremations, up from 34% in 2006. They anticipate that by 2525 the number will be 56%.