There was a story the other day of a Catholic priest ruining a funeral because it was more important to him that Catholic tradition be preserved and a lesbian family member get denied communion than it was to have a service the family would have appreciated.
I didn’t realize Catholics have a habit of making funerals even worse than they already are.
Reader John‘s grandfather died earlier this week and he’s been working with his family to prepare the funeral. Because it’s being held at a Catholic church, there’s a protocol for how the funeral will be run — you get to choose which Bible verses are read and things like that. Otherwise, though, there’s not much leeway.
John took a picture of the last page of the church’s Funeral Rule Book. It’s hard to see, but the words are below (emphases mine):
“A brief homily based on the readings is always given after the gospel reading at the funeral liturgy and may also be given after the readings at a vigil service; but there is never to be a eulogy” (#27 General Introduction — Order of Christian Funerals — National Conference of Catholic Bishops – 14 November 1985, 15 August 1989). However, if your family wants to have a eulogy, it has become a practice in our archdiocese to have ONE eulogy near the conclusion of the Mass of Christian Burial.
Eulogy means ‘speak well’. Thus, if the family decides to have someone offer eulogy, it ought to be brief (no more than 5 minutes) and most respectful. Past faults of the deceased are not to be mentioned and anecdotal references to drinking, expressions of anger, eating habits, and the like as well as any vulgarity will NOT be tolerated. (Sadly, the aforementioned list contains aspects of actual eulogies offered at prior services.) The eulogist is part of a sacred service and does not serve as a stand-up comedian or toastmaster of any sort. No props, recorded music or other audio tapes can be included as part of the eulogy. In an effort to avoid embarrassing situations, an outline or copy of the eulogy is to be presented to the Parish Office with the choice of readings for the service. Failure to comply with this request will remove the eulogy from the service.
Indeed, the more fitting place for a eulogy would be to have the speaker(s) make the presentation(s) at the conclusion of the viewing hours at the funeral home. In this way, the focus of the Mass of Christian Burial can be maintained as well as due respect for the Eucharist. Thank you for your consideration and sensitivity in this matter.
In other words, wanna tell a funny story about the person who died? Can’t do it.
An off-color joke (if the person would have appreciated it)? Don’t even think about it.
What about reading a passage from a secular book? That’s out of bounds, too.
What about playing their favorite song? You’re out of luck.
I’m not sure why anyone would *want* to have a Catholic funeral (or, at least, why you would want your family to do that to you…), but John mentioned one of the positive consequences of all this:
… it started a conversation with a few family members about the merits of staying within the Church. Or, as my uncle put it: “The Catholic church really is a pain in the ass sometimes.”
(Metaphorically, of course. Just metaphorically…)
Not that I was raised Catholic to begin with, but this is why I hope my funeral is a celebration of my life, not a depressing reminder to my friends that other people believe in nonsense.