Friday, September 25, 2020



In the morning, I read a variety of papers on line. I usually look at the obituaries too, now called by many newspapers, “tributes.” This morning in a paper I will not name and a town I will not name is this little ditty:

“A funeral Mass will be held to celebrate the life of .....”

Of course the Church or the parish where this funeral “celebration of life” will take place has no control over obituaries, although I think funeral homes should be alerted to the proper terminology for obituaries and assist families who write them about proper names for the funeral rites of the Catholic Church. 

Can we do that???????


Anonymous said...

Father, should "eulogies" or family tributes to the deceased be allowed at a Catholic funeral? I recently attended a cousin's funeral where 5 minutes before the Mass, the priest declared he would be the only speaker. I have never encountered this before.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

More and more dioceses and parishes have clearer rules concerning these "tributes" at a funeral Mass. For the most part, they are out of control and miss the whole point of why anyone would give a tribute at Mass, to speak of the person's faith not their foibles.

Maybe in the parish of your cousin, there was a tradition, and it would be horrible to say the least, of as many who would like to say something about the deceased. Maybe that is why the priest made his statement before Mass, I can't imagine any other reason. I have never had the need to do that because I have not allowed ever anyone to come up, although I have allowed pre-arranged eulogies after the Prayer after Holy Communion.

These have be so misused and abused, I no longer allow them in my parish and ask the family members to do it at the funeral home at the wake.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

For the most part, the "Remarks" I have heard by friends or family members have been respectful and appropriate.

They often include touching stories about families and family interactions, the connections people have made with others, and some funny anecdotes. A few years ago I learned from a daughter of a man who passed away: "Daddy had a rule when we were travelling on vacation. There could be one and only one bathroom stop per state. The toughest when going north was, of course, Georgia. It's six and a half hours from Savannah to the Tennessee line!"

A pastor may allow them if he thinks it is wise. I usually do, but I tell the person that they must have a writen text of no more than two pages, double-spaced.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father. I agree. A reverent and dignified statement that is brief and to the point is fine. But too many families view the Mass as show time.

Pierre said...

My brother, a news anchor for over 35 years, delivered the "eulogy" for our father at the end of Mass. Consummate professional that he is, it was probably all of 3 minutes.

Gene said...

I hate that celebration of life nonsense. The only life being celebrated is the life of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection. Must all theology become anthropology, as humanism continues to befoul dogmatics?

Anonymous said...

I have a tenedency to lean towards how Gene feels about it, but I have a cunundrum for Father McDonald. Our Parish is very much into the whole "celebration of life" thing. It has always annoyed me for many reasons, but there was one time it bothered me more than the rest. I had a friend that I have known since grammar school, whom I loved very much die suddenly back in 2015. I found out from the funeral director in confidence that she had killed herself, which upset me greatly. It remained "unspoken" all throughout the wake and the funeral, where her brother gave an upbeat eulogy that celebrated her life and what a wonderful person she was. And she WAS a truly beautiful person. However, as I sat there, I was completely uncomforatble knowing that she died the way she did and really needed to hear some words of solace for the circumstances. I kind of felt by ignoring the reality you ignored the state of her immortal soul, which is what we should have been praying and caring for at that funeral. It bothers me to this day.
How would you have handled it Father MCDonald?

Anonymous said...

"The only life being celebrated is the life of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection."


"Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him
through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised
from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in
newness of life." Romans 6

Our life with Christ, our adoption by the Father, the gifts of the Spirit, our sharing in the promise of the Resurrection, is also being celebrated. We celebrate that a person who has died in Christ may now rest from his or her labours (requiem) and we pray that that person will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.

Anonymous said...

We often chat here about church attendance and church membership and why certain denominations are holding their members and why others are not. Put yourself in the place of a bereaved family, having the worst days of their lives, and a censorious Jansenite tells then to sit down and shut up, it's not about you or the dearly departed. Lots of Catholics feel like the Church is chilly, remote, impersonal and doesn't much care if they stay or go. That surely won't convince them otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:24 - You have a point, indeed. The presumption of many traditionalists is that people today are desirous of the "Pray, Pay, Obey" model of the "Good" Old Days of the Church. There may be a very small segment of the population that feels this way, but most are not inclined to be so.

The majority know that the Church belongs to all who are baptized, not just to the few who are ordained. That majority won't be told what to do and when to do it. Pastors who work in this outdated model will find that their flocks will, rightly, leave for places where their dignity will be respected.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I suspect that the ones saying that the baptized have rights, which they do, within the context of liturgical norms, not otherwise, they are not above the law, simply because they want something, would support a pastor or priest who refused to offer an EF Mass, especially a Requiem, for a deceased member who asked for it or their family did. Hypocrisy is evident here.

In terms of a suicide, if the family wants it to be a secret, the priest must do so. If we are commending the deceased person’s soul to God during the Requiem, we shouldn’t be speaking about the deceased except fo the fact that all sinners are in need of God’s mercy and salvation offered to us through the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Why get into the details of a persons life, good, bad or indifferent?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"If we are commending the deceased person’s soul to God during the Requiem, we shouldn’t be speaking about the deceased except fo the fact that all sinners are in need of God’s mercy and salvation offered to us through the passion, death and resurrection of Christ."

This is a rule you made up. It's nowhere to be found in the Church's teaching or Canon law. (This is another familiar failing of traditionalists - making up rules and laws for themseves and trying to foist them on others.)

"Why get into the details of a persons life, good, bad or indifferent?"

For the same reasons we might get into the details of the life of St. Jerome on this coming Wednesday or the life of St. Therese of the Child Jesus this coming Thursday while preaching at mass. We need the example of good and holy people to encourage us to be good and holy. If you are burying Mrs. Maguillicuddy, who was a kind, generous, and giving member of your parish, I think it would be beneficial to all present to hear about that virtue.

Any minimally proficient preacher can do this without "canonizing" the deceased, without raking up the potentially scandalous details of the deceased's sins, or without minimizing in ANY way the centrality of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

JR said...

The purpose of the Funeral Mass (sometimes improperly referred to as a "Mass of the Resurrection" which is actually the Easter Mass) is not to celebrate the life of the deceased nor is it meant to canonize them but to offer worship to God for Christ’s victory over death, to comfort the mourners with prayers, and to pray for the soul of the deceased. The whole canonization thing and parade of 15 minute each eulogists needs to be addressed when the funeral rites are revised. Maybe simply not allowing anyone to "speak words of remembrance" would be a good thing. Let them do that, or "celebrate the life of..." at the reception after the funeral.