Sunday, April 19, 2015


What I love about the EF Requiem is that the priest and congregation must do this funeral rite as the Church gives it. There are no choices. The Propers must be chanted. The readings are the same, no choices and the Dies Irae is included as a Sequence.  Everyone from kings to peasants got the same Requiem Mass, Low, High, or Solemn High, depending on the capabilities of the parish.

There was/is no place for a banal eulogy given by anyone. (I suspect this could be done outside of the liturgical situation at the wake held at home or in a funeral home, though.)

Not so with the Ordinary Form of the Mass of Christian Burial as it is now called and of course is a misnomer as so many now choose cremation and there is no Rite of Committal or burial if the family so chooses to do something else with the remains like scatter, share or otherwise neglect.

There are choices galore for music, prayers, readings and the opportunity for a eulogy or two. I've heard that family members in giving these so-called eulogies at the end of Mass have touched on such important elements of the deceased person's life, such as drinking, sexual prowess and the like--truly uplifting in a Catholic Church! Often the eulogies by laity eclipse the homily in length by 40 minutes or more.

But I digress. In the United Kingdom, a newspaper called The Independent has an article on funeral rites. It doesn't mention the name of any churches in the article.

It tells us that Frank Sinatra's song, "I Did It my Way" which was the #1 funeral song in England (and what has been happily termed by some in the Church as the theme song of hell) has been knocked off its pedestal to become second to Monty Python's "Always look on the Bright Side of Life."  

But secular trends in funerals have an impact on religious rites too. So I suspect much of this is happening in the churches there, both Catholic and Anglican and otherwise.

I know that I get requests for secular songs at Catholic Funeral Masses. I say no! But I know many priests who think they must give into the demands of those who are buying Catholic funerals as though the Church is Walmart and they are customer service.

Monty Python's 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' named most popular funeral song

The tune knocked Frank Sinatra's 'I Did It My Way' off the top spot

People are choosing to make their final farewell an upbeat affair, as Monty Python’s "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" has been named the most popular song played at funerals.
A study by The Co-operative Funeralcare found that the tune has superseded Frank Sinatra’s "I Did It My Way" for the first time in a decade.

Meanwhile, traditional hymns, football anthems and classic pop songs continue to top the list of the “funeral music chart”, with "The Lord is My Shepherd", the Match of the Day theme tune and Robbie Williams’ "Angels" featuring in the top 10.

A study of songs played at 30,000 funerals showed that Elvis Presley is the most requested solo singer, while the most popular group is Queen with requested tracks including "Who Wants to Live Forever" and "Don’t Stop Me Now".

Additionally,an increasing number of songs written by the deceased are being played.

David Collingwood, operations director of The Co-operative Funeralcare, said: “We think we may be seeing a generational shift in attitudes towards funerals, and the choice of music being requested.

"Music plays such an important part in people's lives that it now acts as the theme tune to their passing. Modern funerals are very much about personal choice, which can be reflected in the choice of music, dress, coffin, flowers, hearses or memorials."

The top 10 funeral songs 

1. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - Eric Idle , from Monty Python's 1983 film Meaning of Life
2. The Lord is My Shepherd - Psalm
3. Abide with Me
4. Match of the Day theme
5. My Way - Frank Sinatra
6. All Things Bright and Beautiful
7. Angels - Robbie Williams
8. Enigma Variations - Nimrod Elgar
9. You'll Never Walk Alone  - Gerry and the Pacemakers (adopted by fans of Liverpool FC, and Celtic)
10. Cricket Theme / Soul Limbo  - Test Match TV Theme/Booker T. & the MG's


WSquared said...

""Music plays such an important part in people's lives that it now acts as the theme tune to their passing. Modern funerals are very much about personal choice, which can be reflected in the choice of music, dress, coffin, flowers, hearses or memorials.""

Sorry, but the Catholic Church... dances to a rather, um, different tune.

Stabat Mater said...

With all due respect, Father, that clip borders on blasphemy- at best. I find it disappointing that this video was posted here.

And I have quite a rich sense of humor and thoroughly enjoy a good laugh, so please note this comment is not coming from a prudish stick-in-the mud!

What a complete waste of time, energy, music, and film.

Anonymous said...

I didn't watch the video ... I left off with Monty Python long ago, especially their mockery of all things religious.
But I'm familiar with the song (Always Look On the Bright Side of Life) and it strikes me it would be quite a mockery of the dead to use that song at a funeral. Wouldn't the use of that song imply the death of your loved one is a joke, or your grief and loss are trifles? Like, eh, get over it. Cheer up, mate, it's only death.

I don't know. Are we really becoming that barbaric, unfeeling and lacking in compassion, not only for the dead but for those who mourn them? As my mother may have said, is nothing sacred? Welcome to the post-Christian world.

James said...

I love this song, and don't think it's blasphemous at all. It's poking fun at the inane optimism of one of the characters (the Eric Idle character 'Mr Cheeky'), and Brian himself takes his impending death much more seriously (part of the humour is generated by his dignity, I'd have thought).

An Episcopalian minister recently showed Life of Brian in his parish as part of a festival of Jesus films, and wrote this interesting piece explaining why he included it:

Two things surprised me about the list of funeral songs: one, that there's so much religious music there (so much for the UK being post-Christian) and two, that eight of the items are home-grown (and a lot less offensive than My Way).

James said...

More praise for Life of Brian ... from the winner of the 2013 Ratzinger Prize!

Jdj said...

I agree with Stabat Mater and Bee...appalling...'nuff said.

John Nolan said...

Quite the most appalling aspect of the post-V2 liturgical 'reform' has been the perversion of the Catholic funeral rites. Normally one can avoid the worst aspects of modern liturgical practice but attendance at a funeral is difficult to avoid and I have witnessed some which were positively stomach-churning in their superficiality, saccharine sentimentality and total ignorance of what the liturgy is supposed to be about - the prayer of the Church for the soul of the deceased and the souls of all the faithful departed.

But we can't upset the family, can we? Let's don white vestments, sing alleluias, and talk of her being 'an angel in heaven' (believe it or not, I've actually heard this twaddle).

Our medieval ancestors made sure that their passing was marked by Placebo, Dirige and Requiem - Vespers, Matins and Mass. Mine will be, too. I guess I need it more than most. A Novus Ordo funeral? As the saying goes, over my dead body!