Bury The Eulogy. Please

I have heard some pretty bad and or inappropriate eulogies. Eulogies are always  inappropriate at a Catholic funeral Mass, but for pastoral reasons they are often allowed. If I die first, Deacon Larry will be giving the homily. He has been warned not to praise me or celebrate my life. I am no fan of sentimentality. Besides it is really, really important that he remind people that I, , as a poor soul in purgatory, will be in need of prayer.  At least I hope that I am on the road to at least the front porch of heaven and not on the road to perdition.  If  he gives a eulogy, or allows anyone else to, I will come back to haunt him. Well if God lets me.

A priest who is preparing his own funeral,  says it all for me in an article from U.S. Catholic. H/T Deacon Greg

Excerpt:

The commonplace “eulogy” is not part of our Catholic tradition, and it doesn’t belong in a Catholic funeral Mass. Eulogy is Greek for “word of praise,” and we come to bury Caesar and not to praise the wretch, as Shakespeare says, because the only one we praise in liturgy is Christ.

A local undertaker recently adopted a new obituary style, writing that “A Mass in honor of Bootsie will be celebrated at Holy Martyrs Church tomorrow.” No, Bootsie will just have to be patient with us, since we celebrate Mass in honor of Christ.

I don’t blame him for his mistake, because lately funerals have taken on the attributes of canonizations. Secular canonizations at that. Nary a word of faith, of a disciple’s life, is heard at during the “words of remembrance,” that brief time after communion set often set aside to remember the deceased Christian witness (rather than list off accomplishments, or more often, embarrassing moments). Indeed, you may be surprised that the Catholic Order of Christian Funerals makes only one mention of a “eulogy”-and there it outright forbids them, even warning that homilies are to be kept free from the eulogistic style.

There are two purposes for the Christian funeral, according to the OCF: “The church through its funeral rites 1) commends the dead to God’s merciful love and 2) pleads for the forgiveness of their sins” (OCF, #6). These values conflict with two cultural values in play: 1) to review the biography of the deceased and 2) to achieve “closure.”

The first need can be well addressed within the “vigil for the deceased,” frequently called “the wake.” The second need, for closure, is simply not a Catholic value. We believe that the bonds of affection that unite us in life do not unravel with death; it is merely hidden now in Christ but available to us in prayer and waiting for us in God’s future.

Nevertheless, the custom of having a “word of remembrance” at the funeral Mass has seized hold in the last 30 years or so, sometimes with the grudging approval of bishops in the particular law of the diocese. This adaptation normally happens after the communion prayer and before the final commendation. Where there are guidelines, they are often ignored.  Read it all here.

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry was ordained in 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren.. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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