Monday, 25 October 2010

The modern Caribbean funeral service

Two weeks ago I attended the funeral of a lifelong committed Catholic. She lived alone and it would seem that the body was claimed by someone who was not Catholic. I was quite surprised to see a preacher of some sort conducting the funeral service which was held at the St James crematorium.

It is interesting to note that sometimes these preachers borrow from Catholic Traditions. We also borrow from their traditions. A eulogy is common now at Catholic Funerals. It is not a Catholic thing and so when it is allowed it is done before the Funeral Mass.

The Vatican published the revised Order of Christian Funerals (OCF) for the United States in 1989. The prohibition of eulogies at Catholic funerals was restated. "A brief homily based on the readings should always be given at the funeral liturgy, but never any kind of eulogy. “

The focus of the Mass is God, not the deceased. We pray to the Father, through the son with the Spirit. We ask for the intercession of the Saints and pray for our loved one who has left the Church Militant (Earth) and is either a part of the Church Suffering (purgatory) or the Church Triumphant (Heaven). Remember we are all ONE body no matter where we are, and as one body we give praise to God.

In Australia the Funeral Mass has gotten out of hand. It is said that many people have DVD presentations. The new funeral term is “Celebration of life” and included is a proliferation of secular (even club) music.

Well, all this has angered the Archbishop of Melbourne Australia, Denis Hart, who declared last month that “A funeral should not be a "celebration" of the deceased's life, but instead a final sacred farewell. Celebrations of that life should be held at social occasions before or after the funeral.”

All this feel good stuff takes away from the real business of Praying for the Dead. The church believes it is so important we have a month dedicated to praying for the dead: November. Wouldn’t you want to be prayed for when you die?

Archbishop Hart said that "The wishes of the deceased, family and friends should be taken into account ... but in planning the liturgy, the celebrant should moderate any tendency to turn the funeral into a secular celebration of the life of the deceased," the guidelines state. Secular items are never to be sung or played at a Catholic funeral, such as romantic ballads, pop or rock music, political songs or even football club songs."

The Catholic church has been infiltrated by non-catholic songs that we have made our own. Included in this is “Amazing Grace”, another popular funeral song. In the song it says “how precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed” but Grace is given freely by God to everyone, not just those who believe. The song does not express Catholic teaching. For my part I already have a song chosen for my funeral and I cannot think of a more beautiful and profound song than “Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is calling… come home)”

As I sat there in the crematorium I thought, well, there are many ways to give someone a good sendoff. Maybe it’s not the Catholic way, but I have no doubt that Jesus said to her, “Well done, good and faithful servant, Welcome home!”

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