Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Eulogies? Get rid of them.

February 24th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

Archbishop decrees an end to eulogies at Ottawa-area Catholic funerals

Kelly Egan, Tristin Hopper | February 20, 2014 | Last Updated: Feb 20 8:54 PM ET

What has been true in Ottawa has been, in my experience, true right here in the Rochester Diocese. Eulogies have been given at every funeral Mass I have attended (and that includes Masses I served, after I retired -a couple of month). I think pastors were pretty much pressured into them by the public. Lacking a firm diocesan stance, the clergy acceded to the wishes of families. Some, I suspect, were only too willing -in our diocese- to accommodate eulogies.

Aside and apart from the fact that the eulogies I witnessed as a server (and still witness from the pews) varied from poor to horrible, they canonized the deceased contrary to what I understand to be the theology of the funeral Mass.

Arguing that a Catholic funeral is no place to offer “high praise” to the deceased, the Archdiocese of Ottawa has decreed an end to the longstanding practice of allowing eulogies at Ottawa-area Catholic funerals.

“Contrary to popular belief,” reads a February church decree, “eulogies or words of remembrance are not an official part of Catholic funeral rites.

“In the Christian funeral, we gather not to praise the deceased, but to pray for them.”

Eulogies are indeed a non-Catholic invention, and while many dioceses stay faithful to the no-eulogy rule, Ottawa’s Catholics have apparently lapsed in recent years.

“Technically the books that guide us don’t allow them, but they had…

Read more HERE.




11 Responses to “Eulogies? Get rid of them.”

  1. Bernie says:

    Although, it looks like there’s a little compromise in the decree that will no doubt be abused.

  2. Diane Harris says:

    I am delighted to hear of a diocese taking a stance on this matter. Some of our churches hold funerals during Masses which otherwise would simply have been a regular daily Mass. So one arrives for Mass, probably being blocked in by a plethora of attendees, held captive to hearing lengthy euolgies which are, well, embarrassing. But, not knowing the deceased, one can only wonder at the content! The person who just died is in heaven already, an “angel” in the afterlife, a saint while on earth. The eulogy (honest) touts the grandmother’s pasta sauce, the grandfather’s golf game, a sister’s bridge game, a brother’s football fanaticism.

    Sometimes we do hear a testimony to faith, like they “went to Church ALMOST every Sunday, with the whole family,” yet the children of the elderly deceased don’t know when to sit or stand at Mass. And the eulogy from the ambo becomes a stage for incredibly short dresses and plunging necklines too, a veritable fashion show with jabs of sibling rivalry. One priest regulary invites “everybody” up to Communion. Often the music gets reduced to Pappy’s favorite songs medley. The word really is “embarrassing”, that someone would come to the end of life and be remembered for so little. I do wonder if the deceased is required to hear such eulogies on their behalf as part of their particular judgment and their purgatory.:-)

    On the other hand, a friend with whom I was in bible study for a number of years was a retired NYS Trooper. He didn’t want a eulogy, but picked his own readings, including the Maccabean text regarding praying for the dead, and he directed that his eulogy should be replaced by the celebrant’s giving a longer sermon — on purgatory. Before he died, he told me that his many Protestant friends had pooh-poohed the idea of purgatory to him over the years, and at least when they came to his funeral he was going to make sure that they heard all about it and had to sit through it (and were reminded to pray for him.) I quite liked that idea.

  3. christian says:

    I don’t think the priest (or deacon) should be giving the remembrance of the deceased – unless the deceased is a close family member or friend.

    Many years ago, I witnessed the most awkward, back-peddling eulogy of a fellow parishioner who was a long-time member and pillar of the parish as well as well as President of the Parish Council. The pastor was normally a nervous, unsure person who was known for giving unusual homilies. When he spoke about this woman at her funeral mass – after he would say something positive and good about her with enthusiasm and conviction within a minute he would follow it with a disclaimer like “As far as I know”- his most common response, and comments such as “I think that is true from what I had known of her, but I don’t know all of her private life. How can anyone know all of someone’s life?” The priest sounded like he was on trial and being questioned under oath.

    I turned to a friend sitting next to me in the pew and said, “Let No Man Write My Epitaph.”

    I think it is fine if a family member or a close friend wants to get up and read a poem or a give a fairly brief and thoughtful tribute. I think it is fine if family members bring up the gifts to the altar, read the old and new testament readings for the mass, or sing a song. But I don’t think the priest should be eulogizing the deceased, or making comments about their life unless the deceased has no family members or friends.

    The intent is not to lift up the deceased as a candidate for canonization, but to acknowledge the great forgiving mercy and salvation of God through Jesus Christ. It is the privilege of a deceased Catholic to have the Rite of Christian Burial Funeral or other such Catholic Funeral Mass or Ceremony if there is to be no burial. The deceased was a unique gift of God to their families and friends. No one will ever come along to take their place. So I think it is understandable and supportive of family and friends to have some special consideration such as Christian hymns the deceased liked, a special passage the deceased liked, participation in the readings and psalm, or a brief, thoughtful sharing.

  4. christian says:

    I just read Diane Harris’ comments and I like the part of picking your own passage, message, and hymn(s) for your funeral.

  5. Diane Harris says:

    I think it is amazing that we were both writing at the same time (without seeing what each other were commenting) and that there is a lot of agreement in what we’ve written. Your comment made me want to add to your message of respect for the deceased something I should have said earlier — that the survivors are often under intense pressure of bereavement as well as performance, and they deserve a lot of sympathy for just ‘getting through’ the funeral. A no eulogy policy would perhaps be a favor to them. What can also be done effectively is carefully chosen words and remembrances in the program, where the tribute can be read and re-read, while edited to avoid the embarrassing or regrettable mis-speaking. Thank you for your sensitive writing which evoked this thought.

  6. Richard Thomas says:

    I attended a funeral at St. Monica’s Church several years ago. Both the priest and nun were not only elugizing the deceased but also had family and friends doing the same at the closing of the mass.

    As Diane has stated, I also had several friends attending the funeral mass, who were non practicing Catholics. IT would have been nice had the priest talked about purgatory and hell instead of the touchy feely stuff.

  7. bob says:

    I used to help my pastor by planning funeral services. He disliked eulogies. I had to give the strict rules to the families when they came in to plan the liturgy. When it was time for a few short words I would start to sweat hoping the eulogist followed the rules. Rarely did that happen so I hope that rule come to our diocese and so does my former pastor. Eulogies are great for the family and friends get together after the cemetery service.

  8. Jim says:

    As far as eulogies go, I would have to disagree with a lot of the comments posted here. Let me explain. I am NOT for family members canonizing the deceased, or rambling on and on about the person’s life, after the funeral Mass. But, since many of the people attending the funeral are indeed sad, and miss the person and need comforting, I see nothing wrong with a short and sweet tribute to the deceased person. My folks thank God, are in their nineties. I would certainly like to have a chance to say something nice about my parent, and maybe give a cheerful antidote or few about their life. To purposely mention hell and purgatory in the sermon, just to scare some “non Catholics/agnostics”, or “non practicing Catholics”, is pretty tasteless. Wouldn’t it be better to assertively mention to the people in the pews, about THEIR own mortality, and THEIR current relationship with the Lord? Yes indeed, a teachable moment, to bring them closer to Christ or to introduce them to Christ for the first time…not to scare them farther away from where they are. I’ll probabaly get hammered for my comments, but having attended many funerals, I feel it’s a chance to say “good-bye” (we don’t know the person’s etenal destiny) and to pray for their souls, and to let the folks in the pews know that they too will have to face the Lord themselves someday.

  9. Richard Thomas says:

    The purpose of mentioning hell and purgatory is not to scare people but to remind them of their own mortality and the consequences of our life choices. Some people think that the mere mentioning of hell is something said to scare people but one of the problems of the current state of the church is that no one preaches about hell….or very few do. That dovetails whth you last statement Jim. Letting people know they will face the Lord one day.

    Now that is needed and the homily is the best place for that.

    If someone wanted to say things about the deceased, I would have no problem speaking at the end of mass about it.

  10. christian says:

    Diane Harris brought up an important point – to acknowledge the individual dispositions and needs of the bereaved. Everyone handles grief differently and has unique needs in regard to the funeral and the time afterwards. No one should be forced to get up and read an old or new testament reading, psalm, or prayers of the faithful, or share a poem or memory, if it is too difficult for them to do emotionally. For some people, it’s all they can do is get through the funeral. (It is especially true when the deceased died suddenly and expectantly, and at a fairly young age).
    But for some people, participating in picking out the readings and hymns might be a source of comfort in their grieving, as well doing a reading or psalm, reading a poem, or giving a fairly brief tribute.
    An important concept for family members and friends to remember is that there is no conceivable way that you are going to adequately depict the entire life of a person in a tribute. To attempt to do so would be ludicrous. Rather than trying to deliver a biography or an ongoing, lengthy account of that person’s life, a well-thought out, concise, fairly brief tribute of made up of notable attributes of that person backed up by a specific example, or one specific story that helps to depict that person more reasonable. Or delivering a personal message that person would want to give to those attending their funeral and/or or that person’s favorite Bible passage would be another option. (I also like Diane Harris’ suggestion of putting the tribute in a program).
    *The most important thing to remember is that person, the deceased, had already written their epitaph on the hearts of those present, as well as those not there. They wrote their epitaph by the personal actions and encounters they had with others and the choices they made everyday.
    They wrote their epitaph as we write ours everyday – by being present to our family and friends, especially when in need, by being a devoted father, mother, sister, brother, uncle, aunt,cousin, friend, by our kind words and deeds to others, for our words of encouragement to especially the down-trodden, by our charity and benevolence, by our humility, by our willingness to ask for forgiveness when we fall short, by our willingness to forgive others when they fall short, by our Christian witness, by striving the best we can be at what we do in life, by blooming where were planted, by being a good Christian and giving a good Christian witness.

  11. annonymouse says:

    I agree with Diane that eulogies run the entire gamut from poor to horrible, and it would result in a more reverent, prayerful liturgy if eulogies were dispatched.

    With respect to attitudes expressed about those who attend funeral liturgies, especially those obviously un-churched, may I remind you of what a marvelous evangelization opportunity these occasions present for it’s one of the few times that many will “darken the door of a church.” As.such, any faithful Catholic ought to take the utmost care to be welcoming and exhibit love and service to those grieving. That does not mean, of course, ignoring Church teaching (I.e. everybody’s welcome to come to Communion) but it should color all our attitudes toward those visiting our churches.

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