Friday, July 17, 2015


John Nolan speaks of the sublime quality of the Traditional Order of the Requiem Mass compared to the new or untraditional order.

I, too, wonder how in the world bishops allowed liturgists to take the new non traditional order of the Requiem Mass and turn it into something, banal and schmaltzy. The revised order, although not traditional, isn't bad if followed strictly but it didn't need the level of revision that occurred and it certainly didn't need all the options that are now so prevalent especially the substitution of the propers with banal and schmaltzy hymns that have no real place in the Traditional Order of the Mass but unfortunately have found their way into the new untraditional order of the Mass, Requiem or otherwise.

How is it that "Be Not Afraid", "On Eagle Wings" and "Old Danny Boy" have found their way into the Requiem Mass, now called in the untraditional Requiem, the Funeral Mass? And how is it that Protestant hymns have substituted for the propers like "Amazing Grace" and "How Great Thou Art" schmaltzy in a Protestant gooey way rather than in the saccharine Catholic folk way?

Maybe all that the post-Vatican II iconoclasts needed to do was simply allow a vernacular Traditional Order of the Requiem Mass and not expand options. Wouldn't that have saved us from all the silly and ugly customs now associated with so many Catholic Funeral Masses.

But here from the Latin Mass Society in the UK is every thing you ever wanted to know about Masses for the Dead but were afraid to ask. It also tells you how to makes sure your deathbed wishes are honored by your parish and priest.


 A Guide to ensuring you have the
  Traditional Mass at your Funeral


qwikness said...

And I Will Raise You Up...

Anonymous said...

A few days ago attended a funeral Mass for a family friend. Almost all of these "songs" were used. The priest and the piano player (in no way is she a liturgist) sang a duet of Amazing Grace at the end of the Mass. The homily included: My Father has many mansions, and of course every one will be gathering there at the end of time. The concluding act of incensing before the casket was taken back to the hearse was the most impressive part of the entire service due to the act's solemn nature. The rest of the service was schmaltzy and made for a thoroughly banal experience.

Saturday Night Live parody of the mystery of death.


Rood Screen said...

Lapsed Catholics are the worst when it comes to funeral planning. Having given nothing to the Church for years, they then demand that she grant their every profane wish at funerals. The only thing they don't want is to sacrificially offer the souls of their deceased loved ones through Calvary to the Father, and to seek indulgences for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Dialogue - I have been a priest for 30+ years and have never had a lapsed Catholic demand anything profane. Not once. Where do you get your information?

rcg said...

We fear death because we do not understand the powerful gift Christ gives us. We are afraid to think about it until we are forced to and like any last minute gift, it wears the lack of thought out loud.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Former PI I suspect your definition of profane isn't the classical one. I have had requests for Danny Boy and other secular music, sung or instrumental. I have had requests for secular readings or poems during the Liturgu of the word and I have had requests that the Mass be a Celebration of Life and upbeat and joyous focusing on the person who now is certainly in heaven!

The most consistent profane element are family or friends giving eulogies sometimes downright scandalous focusing on the deceased,s drinking and sex life. You have either had few funerals or are in denial about what is profane.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father - No lapsed Catholic has ever requested anything profane at a funeral. And no one, lapsed or practicing, has ever "demanded" anything.

No one has asked for secular readings or poems, no one has asked for Danny Boy, and no one has asked me to focus on the fact that the deceased is "certainly in heaven."

That eulogies among your parishioners tend to focus on the deceased's drinking and sex life may say something about them, not about those who are lapsed Catholics or the NO funeral rites.

Anonymous said...

FORTY PAGES for a funeral planning book?! And one wonders why the rites were in desperate need of reform....

Anonymous said...

Obviously Anonymoust at 9.24 am has a preference for the modern-day funeral that we have in the Church here. There are usually at least 5 eulogies and you know when one of the children begins their eulogy with "Dad came with his family to this country at the age of two" that you're in for a long one - often an hour goes by before we even get to communion. Then there are the slides projected on to the sanctuary wall during Mass showing family photos etc of the deceased from the beginning of their life to the the end; often you have the priest interrupting the Mass to explain what he is doing for the benefit of the non-Catholics among us - who are usually the children and grandchildren of the deceased - the few Catholics in the congregation then go up for Communion. Often the incense is skipped and I heard one priest remark, "Now we'll just turn her around" and two people came up and turned the coffin to face the door. The casket is then carried from the church to, if we're lucky, Amazing Grace or if we're unlucky Danny Boy I believe has been sung and I believe it can be worse ...


John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh seems to live in a bubble where all post-1964 innovations are Traditional (note the capital T), where liturgical deformations exist only in the imagination of traddies, and despite the fact that allowing families to 'plan' the funeral (rather than use the age-old rites of the Church) he has never been asked to include anything profane, e.g. 'this was his favourite pop song' or 'he loved Guinness so can we pour a can of it on his coffin'. I don't believe it.

There are a lot of options in the 1974 Graduale regarding what chants may be used; many of them from the Office, which assumes that Vespers (Placebo) and Matins (Dirige) are unlikely to be said/sung in a parish context (although they were de rigueur in the later Middle Ages - the word 'dirge' is part of the English language).

This is a sterling effort on the part of Solesmes, but is of mainly academic and monastic interest. In the older rite between the Epistle and Gospel the Gradual, Tract and Sequence are sung. Everyone is seated and if they are not singing they can follow and meditate on the words, all clearly intelligible and sung to some of the most beautiful and memorable chant in existence. Although I was singing yesterday, the familiarity of the music gave an inkling of what it must be like to sing/pray in a monastic setting. Normally on a Sunday one is concentrating on sight-reading and singing accurately something one only sings once a year.

The Requiem Mass by its familiarity, its objectivity, its constant theme of hope while not glossing over the reality of the four last things, is immensely consoling not least to those of us who know we are more than middle-aged and that before long the same will be sung for us.

The small north Oxford parish at which I sang yesterday is served by an (ex-Anglican) priest who is as comfortable with the Novus Ordo as he is with the classic Roman Rite. On the way out I picked up the prayer card for the deceased - Elizabeth May Lilian Dilloway, died 9 July 2015 aged 88. I didn't know her, but have prayed for her in the best way possible - the liturgy. On the reverse of the card was this from St Thomas More from the last letter to his daughter Meg: 'Pray for me, and I shall pray for you and all your friends that we may merrily meet in heaven.'

Amen to that.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John Nolan - No, John, I do not believe that "all post-1964 innovations are Traditional..." That is a misrepresentation of what I believe, and you know it.

There are elements of the mass that are Traditional (note the capitol T). These cannot be changed. There are elements of the mass that are traditional (note the lower case t). These can be changed. These have been changed, hundreds, if not thousands of times, in the history of the Church.

When some people argue that the changeable elements of the mass are unchangeable, primarily because they have been used for a very long time, they are wrong. This argument belies ignorance of the changes that have happened.

What you believe or don't believe doesn't alter the fact that I have, in 30+ years of being a priest, never been asked for the inclusion of anything profane in the rites.

Rood Screen said...

Father Kavanaugh,

I truly intend you no disrespect when I say it is simply too difficult to believe that you have not experienced the sorts of things John Nolan, Father McDonald and I describe. Even if you're in favor of such things, it just cannot be that you never experience them.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Dialogue - You and others have an overwhelming need to caricature that which you dislike. For your part, because you hold lapsed Catholics in disdain, you suggest that they are "the worst when it comes to funeral planning" and that they make "demands" concerning funeral liturgies. (Yes, you hold them in disdain as your assertions make plainly evident.)

This is nothing more than a caricature. It is the same tactic used by those who refer to Catholics with whom they disagree as "Modernists," by those who refer to Catholics who don't celebrate mass in Latin as "philistines," and by those who refer to priests who do not have a separate liturgy for First Communions as "stupid."

I suspect there are many things that are true and factual that you find difficult to believe. And as long as you operate in the realm of caricaturing those with whom you disagree your difficulties will continue. You just cannot believe that those you hold in disdain are not as horrible as you want them to be.

And your difficulty doesn't change what I have experienced.

John Nolan said...


Fr Kavanaugh knows where I stand and I know where he stands. He has convinced himself that the post-1964 practice is traditional with a capital T and in his own terms he has a point. Not a good one, but a point nevertheless.

I would probably find Mass in his church unbearable on account of the subjectivity and the bad music, but if his parishioners like it, who am I to judge?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John Nolan - If you know where I stand you ought not make false statements about me. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Anonymous 2 said...

As I said on the next thread, the TLM should never have been eliminated; it should have been complemented to honor tradition as well as diversity and liturgical pluralism. So, I am no opponent of ancient tradition but, as indicated elsewhere, all tradition needs to evolve to remain alive while preserving those elements that should remain immutable – matters that are the subject of continuing argument and conversation in a living tradition.

When my parents died in England and I had to plan their funeral Masses in 2001 and 2006, I was guided by the very kind priests in my parish in England. I do not recall all the details about the music, although I have them in my records. I do recall a stunning Ave Maria at my mother’s funeral. I also recall that I (and I alone) gave eulogies for both of them. It was a way for me to honor my parents and to demonstrate their witness to the Faith (as I also explained elsewhere, when my father became a Catholic in the late 70s my parents’ marriage could finally be blessed and my mother could return to the Church).

John (and others): Indeed, who is anyone to judge until they have attended Mass at Holy Spirit? You would not like the music because modern instruments are used. I have heard better and I have heard worse. But I don’t think I have heard any such ensembles that have tried to be more spiritual. Moreover, unless I am mistaken, there is no organ in place (Father Kavanaugh, is that correct?). I have the impression that Holy Spirit is not a wealthy parish (certainly nowhere near as wealthy as St. Josephs) and this may be part of the reason there is no organ. Although the experience of Mass is very different from the experience at St. Josephs, then, Mass is celebrated well and with reverence. The parishioners I have come to know are lovely people. Similarly, although different, both Father McDonald and Father Kavanaugh are fine priests. Perhaps you will find these personal impressions helpful.

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Kavanaugh,

Please help me to understand you. If a non-practicing Catholic family is meeting with a priest to plan a funeral, and they become angry when the priest will not allow them to read their loved one's favorite Glen Beck speech during the Mass, is it the priest or the family that is in the wrong? If, over many years, dozens of non-practicing Catholics offer similar protests, but no practicing Catholics do so, how is it offensive to identify a problem with non-practicing Catholics who wish to plan Catholic funerals?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Dialogue - No, the refusal to allow the reading of a Glenn Beck, who describes himself quite accurately as a "rodeo clown," (NYTimes 29 March 2009) speech is not wrong. But that's not the point.

No one, in the 30+ years I have been a priest, has ever asked me for such. Nor have they "demanded" it. They haven't asked for a Willy Wonka power point presentation or the use of pall bearers dressed as privateers. How you can presume to know what has been asked of me when I am preparing the funeral liturgies for the people of my parish, practicing and no-practicing, is beyond me.

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Kavanaugh,

When you say you never experience the things that other priests commonly experience, your statement raises questions. But it is reassuring to know that the spirit of the liturgy is alive and well in the hearts and minds of the fallen-away Catholics you encounter.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Dialogue - How common are the things that "other priests commonly experience"?

And what, other than unsubstantiated anecdotes, do other priests offer as evidence for their experiences?

And, without evidence, what makes their stories more believable than mine? (The answer to that question is easy - you want to believe them.)

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John Nolan - What you choose to find unbearable is your concern, not mine. Mass here is not celebrated with you in mind, although you seem to think that it should be.

Liturgy has both universal and particular characteristics. It is always and everywhere the primary and the sublime act of worship given to God. That is true whether it is carried out with damask, heavily embroidered vestments, or simpler, but every bit as beautiful, vesture. The music here may not be to your liking, but it is to the liking of the people who come here week after week. An altar made of marble, inlaid with semi-precious stones is no more an altar than one made of wood and lovingly donated to the church in which it is used.

So if a liturgy that does not reflect your personal tastes and preferences would be for you unbearable, I hope you never have to be away from your comfortable setting in which everything you encounter in church is pleasing to you.

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

You're missing the point again. You assume that everyone's take on the liturgy is subjective (a not uncommon perception given what's happened in the last 50 years). My point was exactly the opposite. The liturgical aspect of the funeral I described required no planning whatsoever; it was laid down in the books and was essentially what every Catholic would have experienced for the past thousand years. Options didn't come into it; even the fact that it was sung was merely to confirm that the sung Mass was always the norm. It had nothing to do with personal taste or preference. That only comes into play when 'liturgies' have to be prepared and planned to accommodate people's wishes. This is a very recent innovation and in my opinion (and I am by no means alone) it runs counter to the essentially objective nature of the liturgy.

You can of course argue that preferring objectivity to subjectivity is in itself a subjective judgement, but you will tie yourself in knots doing so.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John Nolan - The comment to which I was responding was, "I would probably find Mass in his church unbearable on account of the subjectivity and the bad music, but if his parishioners like it, who am I to judge?" Your preferences are entirely subjective, yet you wish to impose them on others and hold in contempt (philistines) those who do not share your preferences.

Everyone's take on the liturgy is subjective. The grieving parents of a recently deceased child are going to have a different take on the Gospel of the raising of the dead son of the widow of Nain than the single 20 year old who has never married. The woman who struggles to make ends meet on a minimum wage job is going to hear the Gospel of the Widow's mite differently than the wealthy retiree.

And the wealthy CEO is most certainly going to hear the Gospel of the Rich Young Man (Mark 10) differently than the man who has been out of work for the last 13 months.

Allowing a grieving family to choose which scripture readings and or musical selections to use in a funeral liturgy is not accommodating people's wishes, as if doing so is an affront to the liturgies of the past thousand years. Inviting that participation is encouraged by the Church. "The priest is to make willing use of the options allowed in the rite, taking into consideration the many different situations and the wishes of the family and the community."

The Greek said...

Fr. Kavanaugh,

I don't know why you take John Nolan's comments so offensively. He seems to agree to disagree, to which you respond with an ad hominem.

I wonder if the change in funeral rites is a reflection of the modern view of death. The 19th and early 20th century saw a huge 'personalization' of death. Previously, death was an every day thing; today, we are extremely sensitive to something that happens all the time, but only seems to occur to other people, until it happens to someone we know.

Our funeral rite (I'm an Orthodox priest) is essentially split into a day and night portion. The night before the funeral liturgy proper is a Vigil. The Vigil is extremely dark, while the liturgy focuses on Resurrection. I sometimes wonder if the Vigil is excessively dark, especially if we're serving it for a 16 year old boy (this happened not long after I arrived at my current parish).

John Nolan said...

'The priest is to make willing use of the options allowed in the rite, taking into consideration the many different situations and the wishes of the family and the community'.

My contention is that when there were no options, the funeral rites were an objective 'rite of passage' which perfectly expressed Catholic belief. The plethora of options in the modern rite has effectively undermined this and the ethos tends to be more Protestant than Catholic, and modern Protestant at that.

Of course one has the option of opting out of the modern rite altogether in favour of the traditional one. It does require forethought, however; I imagine that anyone asking Fr K to use the 1962 rite would receive short shrift.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John Nolan - No rite, at any time, perfectly expresses Catholic belief. Perfection comes only in the life to come.

Overemphasizing the objective and neglecting the subjective is unhealthy. In that mindset, the rites are something done FOR or TO some subject. A better understanding of 1) the effects of Baptism and 2) the implications of the Incarnation have enabled us to step away from that kind of "The Church Will Tell You What To Think And What To Do" attitude which had the effect of making spiritual adolescence perpetual.

What is Protestant about options? On the other hand, what is Catholic about no options?

The Greek said...

John Nolan,

I was looking over the texts from the (1962) Office of the Dead, and, based on my knowledge of the Requiem Mass, it would appear that the Roman Rite inverts the Byzantine Rite. Where our Vigil focuses on judgement and the funeral liturgy focuses on the Resurrection, the Latin Requiem focuses on Judgement (Dies Irae, Libera Me), while the Office gives its focus to the Resurrection.

This is logical, given the Office and Divine Liturgy are the two parts of a whole (the whole, of course, is the entirety of the services of the Church). It makes sense for the two to complement each other, contrasting stern judgement with merciful resurrection.

This inversion (which is not a bad thing) also, I think, arises due to the Latin conception of Mass as a sacrifice, while the Office is a celebration of a more uh... celebratory sort (my English fails me here; I can't think of the word I'm looking for). The new Mass distorts this 'balance', in my opinion. Our funerals have no options, and although for the funeral liturgy this might be acceptable, I have reservations about the vigil. But as I wrote earlier, I think it's more a cultural aversion to death than anything objectively wrong with the liturgy (and thus it's my problem to deal with, not the Church's).

As you know more about this than I do, you may disagree with everything I've written.

[For the record, I think Victoria's Requiem setting is the most beautiful setting I've ever encountered. The introit and Libera Me bring tears to my eyes.]

The Greek said...

From an etymological standpoint, a single, standardized Requiem would be *very* Catholic, since the word means "universal."

I'm being silly :)

John Nolan said...

@The Greek

You are of course right is seeing the Ordo Exsequiarum, the Officium Defunctorum and the Missa pro Defunctis as a unified whole. Regarding the Requiem Mass it's worth remembering that the Dies Irae was not originally intended for it and is a late addition. Some Uses (e.g. Sarum) didn't include it. Also the Responsory Libera Me and the prayer Non intres which refers to the judicium ultionis belong not to the Mass but to the Absolutions which follow it.

Of course the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church before 1965 have a deficient understanding of the effects of Baptism and the Incarnation which leaves them in a state of perpetual spiritual adolescence. To be properly grown-up you need do-it-youself 'liturgies'. What 1970s Jesuit came up with that little gem?

I agree about the Requiem of Tomas Luis de Victoria. The fact that he has not been considered for canonization indicates to me that the Church does not take music very seriously. Paul VI in 1969 was even prepared to sacrifice Gregorian Chant (he later backtracked on this but we're still repairing the damage).