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A funeral should not resemble an episode of This is Your Life

We have forgotten what this ceremony is about

By on Friday, 12 April 2013

Baroness Thatcher's funeral will be held next week  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Baroness Thatcher's funeral will be held next week (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The coverage of the late Lady Thatcher’s passing is now wall to wall on all media, and it is rather too much, to my mind. So, I apologise for adding to it. But I really do not want to talk about the Lady herself, but rather to ask – what is a funeral for?

The usual answer given is that a funeral is a ceremony (and this can cover non-religious funerals too) for the dignified disposal of the body of the deceased. It goes further: a funeral is an occasion to mark the end of a life, allowing for reflection and thought. After all, death is a major event in all our lives, or ought to be. For a Christian, a funeral would be a moment for prayer, and for a Catholic, a moment of prayer for the repose of the deceased’s soul.

What bewilders me about modern funerals is the concept of “paying one’s respects”. I know what this means, but I simply do not understand it. Allied to this is the idea of making a funeral into “the celebration of the life of X”. Again, I am at a loss to understand this. When I die, as die I must, I do not want my life celebrated, and I want no eulogies; I just want prayer, and more prayer. Neither do I want people to pay their respects – at least not to me; I would like them to show respect for God, however, by behaving properly in church.

In fact a funeral should be, horrid phrase, God-centred, just like any other act of worship. A non-religious funeral can hardly be that, but if it is to be existentially meaningful it should, to my mind, involve a deep long look into the abyss of nothingness that is death: it should honestly face up to the reality of personal extinction, if that is what the non-religious believe. It should not resemble an episode of ‘This is Your Life”.

Lady Thatcher’s funeral seems to be going down the wrong route to me. I may well watch it on television, and be proved wrong, but it seems so far planned to be a celebration of her life. If that is what one wants to do, why not have a jamboree with balloons at the Albert Hall? Why have a religious in form only, military and ceremonial funeral in Saint Paul’s? How will this ceremony be religious? How will the military part be religious? Is there really cause for triumphalism of this sort when we mark the passing of a soul to God?

  • Eriugena

    “Held next wee”? Shome mishtake shurely…

  • AnthonyPatrick

    Thank you for sharing these reflections, Fr Alexander. I agree with what you say in every respect.

  • AlanP

    The whole thing is ludicrously over the top. No previous PM’s funeral (except possibly Churchill) has been anything like this. And the 7.5-hour debate was ridiculous.

  • whytheworldisending

    Strongly agree. Too many religious funerals are hijacked by friends or family who are atheists and insist that some pop song or another encapsulates the very essence of the person and must be included or else. When the priest gives a firm “No,” they often react in a hostile way. Many eulogies fall into the same category. They can become a celebration of attitudes and values which the writer supposes the deceased shared with them. This can lead to a sort of fragmentation of the deceased, with different speakers relating different perceptions based primarily on what they themselves liked (or – humorously of course – disliked) about the person. I have seen close family members visibly upset by such insensitive nonsense from so-called friends. One of the beautiful things about a religious funeral is that it impliedly acknowledges that at the end of the day only God truly knows each of us, and the absence of references to worldly matters affirms and celebrates the trust that worshippers place in His love for us, as they place their loved one into His hands. The comfort which accompanies trust in God is absent from non-religious funerals, and a list of achievements – however long and impressive by worldly standards – is cold comfort indeed by comparison.

  • LP

    Thank you for saying this. Even I, neither a Catholic nor a believer, agree that a funeral should be about more than the individual, and involve, as you eloquently put it, a “deep long look into the abyss of nothingness that is death”. If you wish a “”This is Your Life” moment, have an Irish-style wake somewhere afterwards, perhaps in the Albert Hall for some, a cinema in Brixton for others, and inevitably in the media for everyone.

  • paulpriest

    You don’t seem to understand much about human beings, Father.
    “paying one’s respects” is a timeless tradition drawing on our very being…
    when GKC asked why do we put flowers on a grave?
    It’s just something we feel compelled to do..
    To dismiss this as inconducive to the right disposition for funerals is well?
    Like reprimanding the little old lady in the back of the church for saying the rosary during mass…

    Give them a break!!
    Using dismissive words like triumphalism and jamboree and appealing to a ‘this is your life scenario’ is unjust…nothing can obfuscate or equivocate away that someone has died and is being buried..yes – even at Lady T’s – and yes all too many Catholic funerals have that awkwardly inappropriate family eulogy; the sobbing grandchild trying to read a poem they don’t understand and robbie williams’s ‘angels’ playing as the coffin leaves the church…but it’s a funeral and every..and I mean every…excuse and mitigation should be made for those trying to go through their loss…and amidst the shadows of doubt and uncertainty – we should be there at every instant attempting to bring one thing forth…hope!

    Yes God is the purpose and end of all liturgy

    …and yes it’s the moral duty of a Priest to remind or inform those present that the Lord gave and sustained that life, redeemed it and opened the gates of Heaven for that life to never end…..but it is done with the real strength of gentleness…when they feel most lost and lonely it is a time to tell them they are never alone [and never were], that they are not a stranger and there is a way home.
    Celebrating the life of X can just as easily be translated as giving thanks to God for the life of X…it’s all a matter of perspective…and as every funeral draws in those who rarely cross a Church threshold it’s an evangelical opportunity and a potential occasion of grace

    For those confronting loss and trying to bring consolation with fond memories while having to suppress recent not-so-fond ones.
    For those who don’t believe – this is when they face that ‘abyss’ – irrespective of whether it’s accentuated or rammed down their throat – no one at a funeral doesn’t contemplate their own death – and it’s an opportunity for the light to reach into the void and give that glimmer of hope in the possibility it’s not the end…

    …and though this may seem somewhat mercenary but ‘a good sending off’ is one of the best consolations for the grieving bereaved….
    nothing makes the pain, sorrow and loss more acute than a bad funeral…
    for both believers and non-believers alike – nothing alienates them more than an indifferent

    insensitive Priest who couldn’t even bother to remember the person’s name, looking at their watch and wishing they weren’t there, stultedly droning on some words from a book devoid of any dignity and making it blatantly obvious that he doesn’t care….

    Sure have a go at how this social culture of death can’t actually psychologically or existentially deal with death…

    But having a go at the bereaved is just..well..gauche!

  • Cestius

    I agree. I went to a funeral mass yesterday of a lovely person, a long term Catholic and the priest and those who organized it got it just right. The priest said a few kindly words about her in his homily, but it was that mass and the hope of the resurrection that were important. I’ve been to too many “celebration of life” type funerals where relatives (often in tears) get up try to tell the story of his/her life, often interspersed with jaunty pop songs and there is nothing more depressing.

  • andHarry

    ‘”Held next wee”? Shome mishtake shurely…’

    You’re posting from an Irish wake. Right? :) Actually the Irish wake has changed a lot during my lifetime; much more staid and respectable now.

  • firstparepidemos

    Father, Thank you for these words. It fills me with sadness that the government is apparently planning something of a triumphalist funeral; and the £10 million cost is obscene, especially since Mrs Thatcher remains such a divisive figure. I am also aghast that the military are going to be involved since traditionally this happens only for funerals of members of the Royal Family.
    Mrs Thatcher has gone to meet our Creator; we pray for the repose of her soul (although, being Methodist, she would surely abhor such an act) which is only appropriate, but let us not pretend that the nation will mourn in unison.

  • andHarry

    ‘The whole thing is ludicrously over the top. No previous PM’s funeral
    (except possibly Churchill) has been anything like this. And the
    7.5-hour debate was ridiculous.’

    We are living in ‘..a brave new world That has such people in it’. It is a consequence of global trade and communication, etc. – as predicted in Revelation as the end time when everyone can see or hear whatever is going on everywhere else; and we are looking for a saviour.

  • Jonathan West

    I must say that in this article you do give the impression (undeserved I’m sure) of being rather a snob. You also appear to be making the mistake of assuming that what you want for your funeral is also what others both will and should want for their funeral.

    If a life was well-lived, why should that fact not be celebrated at the funeral? Death is inevitable, but we go get to choose how we conduct ourselves beforehand, and good choices should be celebrated and held up as an example. Why should the outline of the deceased’s life not be told? It is likely that most attending did not know all aspects of the person’s life and may learn something worthwhile from it.

    It is possible to have profound disagreements with that Mrs Thatcher did in her life and yet accept that her family and friends (which since she was a public figure includes a large number of people who never actually met her) will wish for a funeral that celebrates her achievements in life. On what basis should they be denied this?

  • Samuel

    “Let four captains
    Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
    For he was likely, had he been put on,
    To have proved most royally: and, for his passage,
    The soldiers’ music and the rites of war
    Speak loudly for him.
    Take up the bodies: such a sight as this
    Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
    Go, bid the soldiers shoot.”
    Or the “Iron Duke”‘s funeral in St Paul’s. Military doesn’t have to be triumphal, nor does it exclude religion.

  • ChantryPriest

    Nooooooooooo. Father is absoutely right. The PURPOSE of a funeral is to commend a soul to God and to ask for His mercy ‘for there is none that doeth good upon the earth and sinneth not.’

    Catholic Liturgy and Theology reflect this. A funeral [and Requiem Mass] should be solemn and august [sacred pomp if you like] for everybody, pauper or prince. It is emphatically NOT the time or place for the vain, passing and empty trivia of the secular world. Look at the Liturgy, read the Fathers, read Newman’s Gerontius, listen to the music of the chant and the great settings of the Mass pro defunctoribus, get a sense of what they mean.
    The unspeakable ‘angels’ song [and its ilk] is a case in point. The implication is that the soul, tarnished and fallen as it is, has gone straight to heaven which unless it was a Saint is not the case. This is not Catholic or Christian Doctrine. The best we hope for is a shorter time in Purgatory to which prayers and Masses aid us.
    At a funeral we have the opportunity to proclaim the Faith as it is, not to be ‘nice.’
    If we do not do this, then it is ourselves that are ‘being snobs and making assumptions about what kind of funeral we would like.’
    Once again, the Liturgy of the Church is there for all. All should have it.

  • Kevin

    Well put.

    Your penultimate paragraph could form the basis of a Twilight Zone episode.

  • roslam

    From what I have heard of humanist funerals, they are rather like office leaving parties.

  • $20596475

    We need to separate the quite ridiculous arrangements being made for Thatcher from those for others. The idea that she should be accorded this status is offensive to so many people as to raise again divisions that have begun to heal. It makes no sense to me at all, and I don’t regard her with either complete disapproval, or approval. She did some necessary things, but in an unnecessary way.

    As a non believer I have a completely different attitude to funerals. For me they are to say goodbye and for the gathered family and friends to remember and celebrate. It is particularly important for the extended family, who may not see each other too often, to bond and plan their future.

  • Pope Zicola

    I’m just guessing, Father Lucie-Smith, but this whole guff with showbiz-style send offs hit new heights with the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

    Epic worship of the Big Self!

    Heck, even Elton John had a grand piano cranked into Westminster Abbey just so’s he could sing that reworking of his dirge about Marilyn Monroe and that sanctimonious claptrap from Diana’s brother which must have cut the Royals to the quick – which it was designed to do and, in some way, succeeded.
    (Around eleven years previously to Diana Princess of Wales send-off) Manchester witnessed a showbiz funeral featuring a New Orleans jazz band who accompanied the remains of former Coronation Street actress Pat Phoenix. That’s fine – outside the church. As it was so long ago, I wasn’t sure what happened apart from that and the Requiem Mass.
    The most recent funeral for a prominent person in Manchester was that of Tony Wilson who was responsible for the 24 Hour Party People/Madchester music phase.
    From the coverage on local television, it was as it should be. Yes, there were the great and the good from his wide and varied career but they mingled into the rest of the mourners. Good on Canon Clinch, says I.
    I once attended the funeral service of a near neighbour who was a Catholic, but did not practise. Their children and grandchildren were practically the tail that wagged the dog i.e. the priest, who must have wondered why he even bothered to turn up. On another occasion, a rapper’s song was boomed around the church after the Mass. I was disgusted and horrified – the priest just shrugged his shoulders. He could not disagree with it at the time.

    Thank God and His Holy Mother Pope Benedict XVI, during his pontificate, brought all this to a dead stop!

    When two close relatives died within years of each other, their Requiem Masses had the best of both – the prayerful dignity and sanctity of the Requiem Mass and the eulogies at the grave. Hymns were sung but my father loved a particular Irish song (not Danny Boy) which was saved for the graveside. My grandmother was subject to the same.
    When I go, I don’t want a ‘celebration’ of my life. Why in the heck would I want people I couldn’t give a Cadbury’s Mini Roll about telling the world things they couldn’t be bothered to say to my face whilst I was living and breathing – both nice and nasty!
    A priest, a Requiem Mass and dispose of me in consecrated ground. End of.

  • yourbrother

    During funeral services, the Church’s ministers are
    faced with two expectations. On the one hand – to transmit what is the faith
    response to what God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus
    Christ; and, on the other hand, to give voice to what is in the minds and
    hearts of the family, relatives, and friends.

    Although what
    is considered to be normative does, in fact, change over time or in certain
    circumstances… there would be a wake service, a funeral service, and a burial
    service of interment.

    In my opinion,
    as a minister, the “wake service”
    provides an opportunity for eulogizing the deceased person. There is a human
    need to express what is in one’s heart. It is also healthy to share this with others – according to one’s level of comfort (it cannot be
    forced). In this heartfelt expression and personal sharing we are confronted by
    the question of “meaning”. We can often receive a more
    complete perception of the deceased by hearing from others.

    In the famous
    Shakespearean eulogy for Julius Caesar (act 3, scene 2) Mark Anthony says: “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him; The evil that men do lives after
    them, The good is oft interred with their bones – so let it be with Caesar”! But in truth, the very skillful
    Mark Anthony’s eulogy corrected the false
    perception left by the previous eulogist, named Brutus. Brutus had participated
    in the assassination of Julius Caesar. In other words, Mark Anthony corrected
    the “political spin” that the murderers wanted to smear Caesar’s
    memory.

    In my opinion,
    the funeral service focuses on the larger issues
    of life, death, and meaning from the perspective of a particular system of
    belief, which for Christians confronts life after death.

    Finally,
    there is no doubt that the interment service (burial, disposal of ashes)
    confronts believer and un-believer alike with the reality of physical
    death.

    Each life
    is important, as is each death. The truth is the ultimate reality. Truth
    exists! In the end, we are humbled by it.

  • NewFranciman

    I think you are confusing the funeral of Mrs Thatcher, which has not yet taken place, with the reaction of the media and politicians as well as opponents and in some cases the children or grandchildren of opponents. Father was writing about funerals in general as well as the proposed funeral of Mrs Thatcher not the recollection of her strengths and weaknesses. There is nothing wrong with a debate over her achievements (I think she is the finest politician I have experienced but I know that others blamed her for almost everything including probably the appalling spring) but these have nothing to do with her funeral.

  • John_Seven

    I agree with you completely. Well said. Thank you!

  • Andrew Young

    I sat through an excrutiatingly painful and innappropriate sermon during a funeral a few years ago. The deceased was lauded as a good poilitician and an excellent husband and father. The preacher could not see, nor was he aware of the squirming in the seats in the family bench and among those who were in the know. The deceased was an adulterer par excellence. Known to the widow and some of us, his latest mistress sat just two pews behind the family. Fifteen minutes of adulation and sycophantic meanderings on the wonderful familial and work accomplishments rang hollow. Oh, and God was not mentioned once!

  • brasil_nut_4u

    So as a non believer you are going over board as well… why would you want to say “good-bye” to a dead person, to a useless corpus, a non breathing, non conscious thing to now be tossed away in the ground and forgotten by the universe? After all they (that dead thing that use to be human flesh) is not saying good-bye back at you or the family nor will he/she/it … that soon to be waisted memory to most isn’t going to enjoy the “CELEBRATION” .. it’s dead, non existing, meat for burial! Just toss the body over board, go out to a pub and get plastered beyond reconition… that’s what it’s all about right?

  • brasil_nut_4u

    And therefore what is TRUTH? If one can be so willing to change norms with the times one live in then in the philosophy or mindset of the present age TRUTH can equally be changed and one can have my truth and you yours. Or is there something greater? TRUTH is that which stands ALONE regardless of what one thinks or wants it to be… you say IN MY OPINION several times… remember OPINIONS are useless unless they lead us to TRUTH and truth will be what it is regardless… as stated IT STANDS ALONE in its own reality and it is for us to accept it’s reality and not conjoin or make it ours!

  • catholicblogger

    But in one diocese in England you cannot have that by choice. Even if prescribed in your will that you wish to have a priest at your funeral, you may just get a send-off from a member of the laity, rather than have a Mass.

  • catholicblogger

    Where in the Rite of the Requiem Mass is the place for the Eulogy?

  • paulpriest

    Obviously there isn’t – therefore its insertion is awkwardly discretionary either prior to the Liturgy of the word or Post the Liturgy of the Eucharist – although to be honest – the best place is outside the requiem mass completely – off the sanctuary and before the mass begins….

  • $20596475

    That is a complete misunderstanding of what I have said, and appears to me to be a little ridiculous. The deceased person HAD a life, but will no longer be around to participate in the lives of those who knew them, and hopefully meant something to them. The family goes on, and it can be a very rewarding experience for it to gather together and support one other when one member has died. It has nothing whatsoever about getting “plastered”, and even less about the physical state of a dead body. It is about memories and about the futures of those who still live.

  • paulpriest

    I’m not trolling [although perhaps you are? if you exist at all?] – I believe Fr ALS to be unfairly dismissive of people at their weakest time..like the cleric who harped on about secularist shrines of flowers and teddy bears at the site of a fatal motor crash..give these people who are bereft of a faith or hope – or have some ludicrously infantile willy wonka vision of Heaven – a break!!.

    …people are lost and alone and scared when it comes to death.
    ..they need help,instruction and guidance – not patronising, posturing dismissal.

    If Fr’s supposed to be an expert on Augustine – and I mean no offence – but perhaps he needs to remember that the opposite of pelagianism is not donatism…

    Have to stop writing now as Downton Abbey’s on and someone’s being sneered at for wearing their only suit to a ‘white-tie’ function.

  • http://twitter.com/JamesCallender3 James Callender

    Judging by previous comments about articles written by Fr. ALS, it seems you have a personal vendetta because he could declare that 1 + 1 = 2 and I think you still would take issue.
    “I believe Fr ALS to be unfairly dismissive of people at their weakest
    time..like the cleric who harped on about secularist shrines of flowers
    and teddy bears at the site of a fatal motor crash..give these people
    who are bereft of a faith or hope – or have some ludicrously infantile
    willy wonka vision of Heaven – a break!!.”
    How does this accord with Catholic teaching on the appropriate reverence given to a Requiem Mass? Last time I checked, the Church teaching does not include sentimentality.
    He was critiquing Catholic funerals with secular ones, and pointing out that while such secular fads are vacuous, it is one thing to have them in a secular funeral but there is absolutely no place in a Catholic funeral for them.

    “..they need help,instruction and guidance – not patronising, posturing dismissal.”
    Indeed but I find it very hard to interpret Father’s article in those terms. ie. “Patronising”
    Again, I think there is more of a vendetta than meets the eye.
    I am not a “Supporter” of Fr. ALS personally but I just don’t like people being criticised for the sake of being criticised.
    Your comments seem in the same vein as the letter from Rev. Dr. Hyde to Rev. Gage about the life of Fr. Damien…..

  • Adrian Johnson

    Well, the EU is setting the stage with the continuing set of crises we need a “saviour” for. One good thing about the debate over Thatcher’s funeral is that it is the opportunity by which the UK is exercising unsettling but necessary introspection to examine who we are, what our values were, and are; & why these have changed; how as a nation we’ve evolved, and where as a society we want to go.

    Thatcher’s large but mixed legacy is a national rorschach test. Though the controversy about her funeral is painful, it is an inventory of the current national character; as such it will concentrate voter’s minds and influence the tone of the next major election.

  • http://twitter.com/JamesCallender3 James Callender

    What is the point of commenting on here when your comments get deleted?

  • paulpriest

    honi soit qui mal y pense
    Hardly a vendetta: Merely an awkward blip of a few [heartfelt] disagreements spread quite thinly over the years given the plethora of blogposts.
    I think Father appreciates the sincerity of honestly-felt disagreement than complacent sycophancy or glib adulation.
    ..and if you think sentimentality has no place in Church teaching or praxis?
    retro satana!

  • Pope Zicola

    Yes, you are absolutely right, catholicblogger!

    The diocese in question is the Archdiocese of Liverpool.

    It comes as no co-incidence to tell you that I first read about it in The Catholic Herald!

    Would I be correct in thinking that you read it there (here) first, too?

    Thinking back to the first time this was brought to light, it caused me considerable anxiety – to think that our fellow brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Liverpool are being subject to such defeatism … by their own Archbishop!
    I mean… really!

    When I mention ‘defeatism’, the excuse-disguised-as-reason being bandied about is the lack of priests, lack of vocation, lack of … yadda-yadda-yadda-yadda!!!

    With the greatest respect to the bishops of England and Wales (excepting two and they know who they are):

    Stop. For the love of God and His Holy Church: stop.

    It’s like the catch-all excuse for businesses going to the wall being ‘the credit crunch’ and ‘double dip recession’- (I’ll have mine with raspberry and nut sprinkles, thank you) – with people being expected to just nod their collective head and walk away without another question surfacing from the little grey cells or the tenacity to look deeper into the REAL REASONS!
    If people are wondering why churches are closing, parishes are haemorrhaging, vocations are practically non-existent and current, hard-working priests are on the verge of nervous breakdowns or burn-out … take a long, hard look at yourselves and then at those who shepherd your souls.

    If, like me, you watch the better end of reality programmes on the telly such as The Hotel Inspector, The Apprentice and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares it becomes as clear as the nose on one’s face the REAL REASONS why things aren’t happening, why money isn’t going their way, why the staff are piddled off and leaving for better opportunities elsewhere, why there is a gaping lack of communication between the management and staff, why what little money there is going in is haemorrhaging away …is that the person at THE TOP has succumbed to either losing the doggone plot or doesn’t know what in blazes is going on and has just given up …
    … but haven’t the you-know-whats to either admit either/both facts of the matter…

    …or, comes to think of it, is too arrogant and hates having to facing up to the truth, especially by their own superiors, and is la-la-la’ing when advice comes their way.
    If you think that the above example – albeit an extreme example – hasn’t already happened, it did. In Australia. A little over a year ago.
    I would love to be a fly on the wall outside the Pope’s office at the Vatican when the bishops-upwards are called to give Pope Francis the heads-up on how their diocese is doing, how are vocations, bums-on-pews etc. etc.
    You can put a safe bet at any bookies that the ones who are flexing their chest muscles in the lobby by puffing them up are the ones with the REAL problems!
    Pope Benedict XVI was no fool and, by all accounts so far, Pope Francis isn’t either.
    Look at the line-up in Pope Francis bid to ‘tidy-up’ the Curia. If it were a Premiership soccer team, the title and trophy are as good as bagged and the shelves dusted to make space.
    Have the grace from the Holy Spirit and the humility to admit there is a problem and, in time, more priests will come. If the upcoming generation of priests are anything to come by, there is plenty of hope and potential out there!
    Then unsuitable laypeople would not need to make a space available in their diaries to help bury the dear departed … without a Requiem Mass.

  • James Moriarty

    Wake up, Paul. Read the Father’s article again, and you’ll understand that he’s talking about religion.

  • paulpriest

    I’m not exactly sure you’re right – but reading it again won’t help – the more I read it the less I understand what’s being argued..but I know I don’t like it in either tone or its critical nature.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexander.luciesmith Alexander Lucie-Smith

    No, I do not appreciate any of your comments or any aspect of them at all. Do not delude yourself.

  • paulpriest

    So rather than discuss or argue with sincerely-felt objections, presuming the best intentions of those who disagree with you? Cool if that’s the way you want it, fire away; but it’s not my fault you’ve been wrong on some occasions and I said so with the best of wil…
    Believe what you want, but I can look in the mirror.

  • Caroline Farrow

    My 8 year old daughter read Romans 6:3-4, 8-9 at her great-grandmother’s Catholic funeral in December. She understood it perfectly and yes, her voice caught and she had a little cry at the start of the first line, but she pulled herself together and did magnificently. We were all so incredibly proud of her, as I’m sure her Nana would have been.

    Nothing inappropriate about that whatsoever. Always better to have children attend funerals and where possible be involved.

  • Ronk

    If you want to celebrate someone’s life, wouldn’t it be much better to do it whilst he is still alive? Or else after he has been buried? You don’t need to parade around a dead body to celebrate someone’s life.

  • paulpriest

    What has this to do with either Fr ALS’s position or my objections to his judgment-call?

    Please self-promote on your own arguments – not mine.

  • Caroline Farrow

    You mentioned inappropriate family eulogies at Catholic funerals, including sobbing grandchildren.

    My point being that grandchildren should be involved at funerals. I can see your point about inappropriate choices of reading or music at funerals, which is exactly what Fr Lucie Smith points out in his original piece, but I can’t see the problem with having grandchildren involved, indeed Amanda Thatcher did an admiral job at her grandmother’s funeral earlier.

    Why did you mention sobbing children, if they are irrelevant? What do they have to do with Fr’s position or your objections?

  • Dorotheus

    Some years ago at a parish meeting (a parish run by a religious order) I suggested that the order of service for a funeral should be headed, ‘Funeral Mass to pray for N. and commend him/her to God’s mercy.’ The monks on the team said quite vehemently that it should be ‘mass in thanksgiving for N.’s life’!
    Two other miscellaneous points: coming from the C. of E. I am always surprised that in every Catholic parish I have known incense is brought out at the end to cense the coffin, but not used anywhere else, at the Gospel or to cense the sacrament. I thought incense should be used to honour the living Christ, not just dead people. An Anglican funeral I went to recently got this right!
    Also, one of the finest fruits of liturgical reform after Vatican II is the superb Order of Christian Funerals. I very much hope it will not be ruined by having its language accommodated to the new so-called English version of the mass.

  • paulpriest

    Yet again a revisionist response to something I never said. I was – if you’d bothered to read – referring to all manner of inappropriate impositions and awkwardnesses in funerals – but was arguing that irrespective of these funerals are not the time to adopt the pharisaical nonchalant dismissal of those who are where they are – a significant amount of people attending funerals may be lapsed, non-believers or both and that may include family members – they need to be gently led, informed and evangelised with welcome and acceptance without ever being dismissive or negligent of the duties due to the deceased and God and Holy Mother Church.
    Facing the prospects of one’s own death is an inevitable consequence of attending a funeral.
    ‘Paying one’s respects’ might be an incomprehensible position to Father but for some it is where they are at present – and kindness and benevolence and heartfelt instruction [sometimes with words - in requiems the symbolism can be more than enough for some] to transcend that incomprehensible urge to ‘just do right by the departed and attend’ and gradually move closer in recognition of what’s truly happening.
    For some it is just a chance to say goodbye – they are incongruous and incredulous of the possibility of there being more to life than our being food for worms – we have an opportunity to provide hope…
    For others ‘celebrating the life’ can be ‘positively reframed’ into thanking God for the life of the dear departed..with all the gentle catechetical pedagogy of God being the Lord the giver of Life, the sustainer, consoler, paraclete and the God Man who gave His all through love for us to conquer death itself and give us new life if we but follow Him…
    For the brother giving a eulogy which is tantamount to an embarrassing best-man’s speech, for the little kids ‘doing their bit just to be a part’ in the funeral, for the family who thought Robbie Williams’s angels is something otherworldly…I’m arguing for them to be a given a break and never be judged too harshly…and for them to be gently advised and led out from where they are to newer horizons step by step..brick by brick…never compromising or jeopardising that journey by insensitivity or alienation or pontificating about what’s decorous…
    If you’d read what I’d actually written you’d have noticed that I was defending those who were trying their best to do their best and reach out for the beyond – and face awkward truths about their own lives and future deaths – and how we are supposed to be there for them..not veering towards the sneer of dismissal of their ‘sentimentalism’ or ‘ignorant proletarian vulgarities’.

    Now please feel free to agree or disagree or side with Fr that my opinions are neither welcomed nor wanted..but I sincerely would appreciate that if you wish to say something you don’t jump in with an ostensible attack implying I said something when I said the direct opposite!!!

  • whoever

    You got that wrong then. It was a very dignified christian funeral. Other denominations can also do christian funerals. Will you be so quick now to commend what was done?

  • Tridentinus

    “Also, one of the finest fruits of liturgical reform after Vatican II is
    the superb Order of Christian Funerals. I very much hope it will not be
    ruined by having its language accommodated to the new so-called English
    version of the mass.”

    You have obviously never experienced the Tridentine Requiem Mass,