St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Eulogies and Funerals                                                     -Homily November 2, 2014

 

Dear Parishioners, I have to say that the issue I will speak about today has a particular impact on me. It has happened that people have refused to have a funeral in the Church because eulogies are not part of the Funeral Rites. It has arrived to the point in which people decided not to have a Catholic priest at all in the funeral celebration, and that poor Catholic soul didn’t even have a blessing. It saddens me, and it hurts me. How is it possible, that a Catholic person does not have the prayer of the Church for eternal rest, and that another Catholic decides to deprive a departed brother or sister of the only possible help we can give? We are leaving our own relatives to suffer in purgatory, while we on earth celebrate and do our own things. Are we so ungrateful? Is it lack of faith? Is it lack of love and concern? I don’t know what to think, but I need to talk about this.[1]

 

“Catholics may be surprised to learn, as they prepare for the funeral liturgy, that a eulogy is not permitted and there is no provision for a eulogy by a family member or friend in the ritual […] Eulogies are often a significant feature in non-Catholic funerals, but Catholics should understand that this is not an element of Catholic tradition or liturgy.”

 

“The word ‘eulogy’ refers to speech or writing that offers high praise, particularly for one who has died. When Christians gather for the funeral Mass, we do so to praise God the Father, who has given us eternal life in His Son, and who is merciful to those who die believing in Jesus. In the Christian funeral, we gather not to praise the deceased but to pray for them [because we know that they may be in purgatory]. For this reason, eulogies are not given.”

 

“The fact that a eulogy is not permitted does not mean that there can be no reference to the deceased person during the homily […] References to the person’s life of faith and love are obviously appropriate. It is the “high praise” of a eulogy in the strict sense of the word, praise that has no reference to Christian life and is sometimes exaggerated, that is out of place in an act of worship.” We are praising God, not a person. And if that person was so exaggeratedly good, why do we need to pray for them? The concern of the Church is that if we praise too much a person, we will not pray that hard for that person, and that is bad for the poor person who died and may now be in need of our prayers.

 

“It is natural that members of the family of the deceased may wish to speak publicly in remembrance of their loved one. A very effective way of doing so is at the celebration of the [parish] prayers during the period of visitation at the funeral home, at the cemetery, during the reception following the liturgy” or, in our diocese, right before or right after Mass. “Families may wish to publicize this as part of the obituary notice.”

 

Let me summarize some of the important points. A eulogy is not fitting in a funeral.[2] We gather to praise God, not the deceased person. We gather not to praise the dead, but to pray for them. They may be in need of our prayers. We must help them. It is not Christian to rejoice when someone we love is suffering. It is not Christian to talk about the good fortune a person used to have, when that person is now not fortunate and we do nothing to help him or her. Our beloved in Purgatory are suffering. It is fine to talk and do eulogies, but the first thing is to pray.

 

A eulogy can take place in another time: Before Mass, after Mass, at the reception, at the cemetery.  Make it short… Also, be moderate: Do not exaggerate in your eulogies. It is not that we become perfect because we have died. Let us remember that death is coming to all, and so we should try to appreciate the good things of our beloved one when they are alive.

 

Dear Friends: It should never happen again that someone does not have a funeral because they cannot have a eulogy. A eulogy should not be the reason for which I use the funeral home instead of the Church. To pray is the most important, and the Mass is the best prayer. What kind of love we show to our departed brothers and sisters if we don’t help them? What kind of faith we have? Do we not realize that their souls are alive? The dead have not only a past, they have a present. And not only in our memories: they have a present in Heaven, or perhaps in Purgatory. Let us pray for them. Let us love them. Let us thank them for what they did for us with our prayers. Let us praise the Lord, who gives us still the opportunity of doing something for those who have gone before us. 

–Fr. Andrew



[1] The following are excerpts from the Guidelines for the Celebration of Funerals in the Diocese of Pembroke, available in their website www.pembrokediocese.com and partially assumed by the diocese of Peterborough.

[2] It is a general rule and it has to be maintained. As a general rule, it may have exceptions. It may be the case of those state funerals in which they have been allowed sometimes. I don’t think a state funeral will happen very often at St. Michael’s…