Friday, December 21, 2012


It was in the 70's on Wednesday and early Thursday, but a cold front has come through with rain and wind. At 5:16 AM it is a chilling 40 degrees outside. By Christmas Day it should be approaching the upper 60's or low 70's again.

I can't tell if anyone is moving outside. I presume the end of the world has not happened as my computer is working, the lights are on and my toilet flushed. I haven't turned on the TV to hear if the end is beginning slowly and moving this way.

But shouldn't we live our lives in joy expecting the end at any moment and ready to meet our Savior at our personal judgment or in the case of the end of the world at the Last Judgement?

All of us are fearful of the end of our lives, how it will happen and what lies beyond. Many of us fear that this life is it. Others believe this life is it and thus live it as though God does not exist. Still others do believe as the Church does that there lies after death, judgment, heaven and hell. Of course purgatory is a part of heaven.

Given the tragedy of a week ago today, when the world did come to an end for so many children completely innocent, my homily for Christmas will be based upon what the coming of Jesus Christ portends for those who respond to His will that all be saved. I will talk about heaven as the Church understands it and the great saints have described it as told to them through private revelations. My homily makes me want to go to heaven and I hope you do too.

Speaking of those innocent children, the Funeral Mass for Children shows us in the way we pray what we believe about innocence stolen by evil.

In fact, this is what I love about the Post Vatican II Roman Missal. It is much richer in orations, prefaces and other prayers compared to its 1962 predecessor.

If only we could have the 2012 Roman Missal with 1962 ritual, rubrics and GIRM. And of course you know I love the revised lectionary and always have since childhood. I guess that is because I grew up in the Bible Belt and experienced the love that Protestants have for the Bible. It is a point of pride for me when giving tours of the Church here at St. Joseph for me to tell Protestants that if you came to Mass everyday, that over the course of three years you would hear bout 95% of the Bible read to you. Yes, we are a Bible Church, a Bible based Church, a Bible believing Church.

But look at the orations for the Funeral Mass of a baptized Child. It is a sort of canonization of that child, not to be found in the orations for an adult:

Most compassionate God, who in the counsels of your wisdom have called this little child to yourself on the very threshold of life, listen kindly to our prayers and grant that one day we may inherit eternal life with him/her, whom, by the grace of Baptism, you have adopted as your own child and who we believe is dwelling even now in your Kingdom...


O God, who know that our hearts are weighted down by grief at the death of this young child, grant that, while we weep for him/her, who at your bidding has departed this life so soon, we may have faith that he/she has gained an eternal home in heaven...

I do not believe that the 1962 Roman Missal has a separate Requiem for children, but I am sure John Nolan knows.

The only problem that I have from a pastoral point of view with the second oration for children's funeral Masses that I have above is this one line: "who at your bidding has departed this life so soon..." In the case of the Newtown killings, it would make some believers think God is responsible for the manner of death in terms of "who at your bidding..." Or am I reading that into the prayer?

Just on a side note to indicate how small the world is and how connected we are to one another, my parochial vicar is a classmate of the parochial vicar of Saint Rose of Lima in Newtown. The mother of the killer as well as the killer were parishioners there and that parish has had ten funerals out of this horrible tragedy.

In addition to that the principal of the school who charged the killer and herself was murdered was the next door neighbor to my parish administrator who lived a town away from Newtown. He and his wife knew her well.


Gene said...

Re: "at your bidding." Theologically this refers to the perfect and permissive will of God allowing the sinful world to take its course. It does not mean that God caused the deaths or that he actively "willed" them. "At your bidding" or at your "calling" means simply that God has called the children to Him through the tragedies of human history.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Thanks Gene, that makes complete sense and I would hope preachers of children's funerals would make that abundantly clear.

Pater Ignotus said...

"Who at your bidding..." is an example of why a "slavishly literal" translation is not always the best choice.

The homily is not a time to be explaining the unfortunate nature of literal some translations.

(Pin/Gene will read this simple disagreement as "Modernist" but it is not meant that way at all.)

I find the first choice, "Most compassionate God..." most acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't help but notice the word "Rapture" in your headline. I guess I'm guilty of it too, but that's an exclusively Protestant term, the result of Fundamentalist beliefs and first appeared around the 19th century. It's a reference to a misinterpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17. There are a couple of good Catholic books on the subject, especially The Rapture Trap by Paul Thigpen, which debunk the fundamentalist view.

Sorry for being so un-ecumencial. I just thought someone should say something.

Henry Edwards said...

Actually, the 1962 does have a service for The Burial of Infants, including

I. The Meeting of the Body
II. The Votive Mass of the Holy Angels, with the Gloria said (unlike at a Requiem Mass)
III. The Prayers and Burial

I believe John Nolan mentioned this a while back.

Henry Edwards said...

I might have mentioned that The Burial of Infants is for those children who have not reached the age of reason.

Gene said...

Ignotus, I have no problem with what you say. Having done, as a one time Presbyterian minister, far too many children's funerals, there is still the pastoral issue of God's perfect and permissive will and how to address this in a way that can be understood and that is comforting to the loved ones.
I do not find any problem with "who at your bidding," either.
We had a prayer that I used often and liked quite a bit:
"Bless, O lord, the departed soul of our brother/sister, whom we love and now no longer see. Grant him your peace, make your Holy Light shine upon him and, in your infinite love and mercy, work in him the purpose of your good and perfect will. Amen."

Marc said...

Henry, only the baptized, correct?

I wouldn't want to be the priest offering the requiem for an unbaptized infant. Difficult pastoral situation there.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The 2012 Roman Missal has different orations for unbaptized children.

Henry Edwards said...

Marc, the prayer at the 1962 burial of an infant:

Almighty and most merciful God, Who straightway grantest life everlasting to every little child who goeth forth from this world after being born again in the baptismal font, without any merit of his, even as we believe Thou hast done this day to the soul of this child: grant, we beseech The, O Lord, through the intercession of Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, and of all Thy Saints, that we may serve Thee with clean hearts and be joined in heaven with the blessed children for evermore. Through Christ our Lord, .....

Marc said...

So, then is the 1962 a standard Requiem for an unbaptized infant?

I believe it was formerly the case that the unbaptized were not to be mentioned at the altar (according to liturgical expert Dom. Gueranger).

Perhaps someone knows the answer (and how that answer has changed) over time.

Anonymous said...

"The homily is not a time to be explaining the unfortunate nature of literal some translations."

Hmm . . . What better time to explain the prayers of the Mass, perhaps especially if their translations leave room for richer explication? (And I'm not sure I've ever seen a collect that didn't.)

Henry Edwards said...

Marc, does not the 1962 text I've boldfaced above imply that the infant being buried has been baptized--has been "born again at the baptismal font"? Which was my purpose in emphasizing it.

Marc said...

Yes, Henry. And I appreciate your posting it.

My follow up question is what is the protocol for an unbaptized infant in the pre-Conciliar Missals?

Unknown said...


You're correct. There are several changes for an unbaptized infant. There were no changes in 1962's ceremony as opposed to 1958, save the normal liturgical reforms.

You are quite right to note what Dom Gueranger put forth.


You are correct as well, for an infant who was baptized.


There are a couple of differences which must be attested to, I won't list all of them, but there are several major ones, which I will comment on.

1. The vestment color is always white. Reason is that an infant has not reached the age of reason and therefore not culpable for any sins. Remember black is to remind us of our fallen nature.

2. The processional cross is without a staff. This is done, not for any theological reason, but because of the symbolism of a child being "closer to God."

3. There is no toll. If bells are rung they are of a joyful nature and psalms of joy are sung at the gravesite.

But all of those are typical of a baptized infant.

Carol H. said...

Happy Birthday, Father McDonald!

Henry Edwards said...

At any rate, the EF words

Who straightway grantest life everlasting to every little child . . . even as we believe Thou hast done this day to the soul of this child: grant . . . that we may serve Thee with clean hearts and be joined in heaven with the blessed children for evermore.

amount to the same "sort of canonization" of the baptized child that Father M originally pointed to (as a new richness) in the OF prayer.

Nothing much "new under the sun"?

John Nolan said...

Agreed with most of the above. But a Requiem Mass is not the same as a funeral Mass; it is specifically a Mass whose introit begins 'Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine'. And this is never used for infants.

Also, it is but one part of the funeral rites; in medieval England even poor people would make provision for Dirige (Matins), Placebo (Vespers) and Requiem (Mass). A dying person would want shrift (confession) and housel (viaticum).

A word to Pater Ignotus. 'Bidding' cannot be a slavishly literal translation since it is quintessentially English. The Prayer of the Faithful at Mass has been called the 'Bidding Prayer(s)' in England since its introduction in 1965, because in the Sarum Use 'bidding the rede' was traditionally done in English at this point.