Saturday, April 19, 2008

Eulogies and Funeral Masses

Yesterday I attended a Funeral Mass with my Mom. Neither of us knew the deceased personally; he was my Mom’s friend’s husband’s brother-in-law. My Mom went to be emotionally supportive of her friend and since Mom needed a drive and the funeral was far away, I attended with her.

The Funeral Mass itself was beautiful. The priest was a relative of the deceased and he incorporated some personal words about the deceased’s faith-life and kindness to his family into the homily which was based on the scripture readings. The Mass was warm and personal, encouraging and hopeful.

But now I know one of the reasons why the Church wants us to keep eulogies out of the Mass and perhaps only allow a few brief words of remembrance by one family member or friend.

Before the close of the Mass, four relatives went before the congregation to speak about the deceased. There’s no question they loved him dearly; he was a beloved father, grandfather, and friend. Their grief over losing him was understandably very fresh and strong, and it was gut-wrenching to hear each of their lengthy, emotional reflections about him. Actually, gut-wrenching is an understatement. Mom and I lost my Dad less than a year and a half ago, and hearing these folks talk about their loved one was stirring up some very deep pain inside us. I told Mom afterwards that I’d felt like running out of the Church and she told me she’d felt the same way – the only reason neither of us did is because it would’ve looked rude.

So there we sat, feeling trapped and forced to experience very painful, personal emotions in this large crowd of people. I hate blubbering in front of my Mother, especially when she’s all choked up, and I really can’t stand crying when I’m surrounded by a crowd of people, even if most of them are all teary-eyed themselves…

My heart goes out to this family – this is a very painful, sad time for them. They need to grieve and share their stories about the loved one they’ve just lost. This is natural and healthy and human. I just wish this sharing didn’t take place right at the end of the Funeral Mass. My head still hurts and my stomach ties in knots, just thinking about it.

When we got into the car afterwards to drive home, I dramatically announced that I wasn’t going to any more funerals if they were going to be like that – at which moment, my Mom freely burst into tears, now that we were in the privacy of our car. I hastily reassured her that I would at least go to her funeral, which a few seconds later made us both laugh. Fortunately, Mom sometimes shares my strange sense of humour.

Mom and I are agreed that Funeral Masses aren’t the place for eulogizing – it’s just too hard on everyone present…


Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on this blog at 11:30 p.m.April 19/08 with the same thoughts churning through my head.

Am in total agreement, the solemnity of a funeral mass is lost with the overwhelming grief expressed in eulogies.


Seraphic Single said...

On a different note, you've been tagged! See my site for details.

Anonymous said...

I always thought the Church said this to avoid the mistake of instantly canonizing the deceased when they might very well need our prayers instead. I never thought of this other side of the issue! The Church is indeed very wise!


belloc said...

Hi AB - I think you're right - the mistake of "instant canonization of the deceased" is probably the main reason for not having eulogies at funeral masses, but, as we've seen, there are other reasons too.

In fairness to this particular family, they didn't canonize their loved one in their eulogies; in fact, they even mentioned some of his more "earthly" but humourous qualities... Still, it was so painful to hear their grief - I pray they experience much consolation in the days to come.