Saturday, August 07, 2010

Eulogy article

Almost every clergyman (and most laity) have stories they can tell about experiences they've had at funerals with respect to eulogies. The stories, sadly, are usually about bad ones rather than good.

Thanks to Fr. Bernie Healey of the Diocese of Providence for bringing this to my attention, which comes from the U.S. Catholic website. Here are some bits from the article. They're looking for input on readers' experiences with eulogies, so click HERE to go to the website and read the full article.

Death by eulogy

A Catholic funeral is no place for a eulogy, says a Catholic pastor, but that doesn't mean we can't speak well of the dead.

By James Field, pastor of Incarnation Parish in Melrose and Saugus, Massachusetts and the former director of the Office of Worship for the Archdiocese of Boston.

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.

...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.

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.

Not long ago, a priest in a nearby parish was horrified to hear a beer can pop open in the pulpit as a tipsy cavalcade of grandchildren saluted their salubrious grandpa with a final Schlitz. Next they will be wielding champagne bottles against the casket like Mamie Eisenhower smacking the bow of an aircraft carrier. I once squirmed through an extended story involving bad clams, diarrhea in a roadside forest, pursuing skunks, and home remedies that was a disgrace to the memory of a fine old Catholic gentleman.

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