About this blogger:
Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward an STL in sacred liturgy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Connect on Facebook:
Connect on Twitter:
“I still haven’t made up my mind whether I shall publish it all. Some people are so humorless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one’s efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them. Most readers know nothing about canon law. Many regard it with contempt and find everything heavy going that isn’t completely lowbrow. Some are so grimly serious that they disapprove of all humor. Others come to different conclusions every time they stand up or sit down. They seize upon your publications, as a wrestler seizes upon his opponent’s hair, and use them to drag you down, while they themselves remain quite invulnerable, because their barren pates are completely bald, so there’s nothing for you to get hold of.”
— St. Thomas More to Peter Gilles, 1516

ABOUT US  |  HEADER  |  ARCHIVE
Bishop Bans Eulogies
published 25 August 2013 by Fr. David Friel

NYONE INVOLVED IN SACRED MUSIC, like any member of the clergy, is familiar with the problems surrounding eulogies. The funeral rite makes allowance for “words of remembrance” to be offered, but the approach taken on a practical level differs widely among pastors and parishes and dioceses.

What are some of the problems? They can be too long, too personal, or too mumbled. They can be sappy, disedifying, or even blasphemous. They often become more a personal test of strength than an integral part of the sacrifice being offered. They rarely include anything prayerful or related to faith, and there is no guarantee that the theological underpinnings of the reflection will be orthodox.

Just this month, Bishop Michael Smith has issued new guidelines concerning what is permissible in the Diocese of Meath. In his statement (available here), he expresses his earnest desire to uphold “the dignity and intent of the funeral liturgy, often in difficult circumstances.” Although the focus of the statement surrounds “panegyrics and eulogies,” the bishop ventures into some other aspects of the funeral Mass, including sacred music. He writes: “Secular songs, poems and texts devoid of a Christian content are out of place in the Funeral Liturgy.”

Bishop Smith is wise to recognize the potential troubles that eulogies can cause. He is even wiser, I believe, to notice that funeral music really matters. If one is truly concerned about preserving “the dignity and intent of the funeral liturgy,” one must account for the music that is sung. Speaking about the funeral rites, the bishop rightly observes, “A dumbing down of their integrity does no service to the faith.”

The propers for the funeral Mass are quite beautiful, including those which have become available in English in recent years. Is the intrinsic “dignity and intent of the funeral liturgy” well served by Be Not Afraid, Prayer of St. Francis, On Eagles’ Wings, and How Great Thou Art? It would be difficult to argue that these and other songs encourage prayer for the deceased in the same way as Lux Aeterna. Any “dumbing down” of our sacred music—even if it was Josephine’s favorite song—is deleterious to the integrity of the funeral Mass.

I am generally disposed to think that diocesan directives are rather ineffective. In this particular case, however, I am pleased and grateful to see Bishop Smith’s new directive, since it provides pastors with authority higher than their own by which to eliminate eulogies that would be more appropriate to the funeral luncheon.

Would a similar statement from your diocesan Ordinary be useful?