Thursday, January 23, 2003

You may have read that Archbishop Meyers of Newark has banned personal eulogies at funerals. His former diocese, Peoria, still allows them, with limits.

Eulogies at Catholic funeral Masses are a recent practice, DeSutter said, becoming common only in the past 20 years. The topic has been discussed by Illinois bishops, he said, but the practice is still left to pastor's discretion. "Like anything else, you kind of learn by trial and error, and I think it's being refined as we go along, and people are learning how to incorporate it into the liturgy," he said.

It all cuts to the point of a funeral liturgy or "Mass of Christian Burial." In the Catholic context, the focus is not on the deceased - it is on Christ and our hope of resurrection. For some reason, though, over the past decades, despite the rite itself, which was reformed and does, indeed, retain that focus, in practice way too many Catholic funeral liturgies have become canonization celebrations....

Another point, however, is that this moment is the most delicate moment, and is frequently mishandled, often brutally, by priests and liturgists. A while back, I recall great controversy in the diocese in which I was living about praying the rosary at the vigil - wake, viewing, whatever - service. One priest had got it into his head that this was forbidden now, and refused permission each and every time when it was requested, and in a pretty cold way, too.

It is a delicate balance, one that was challenged a few months back by the question of "Danny Boy" and other secular songs being used at Masses of Christian Burial. No, it's not appropriate at all...but how do you say no?

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