The Old Rugged Cross
  • opus2080
    Posts: 7
    Hi All

    So, for a Catholic funeral, is it appropriate to sing The Old Rugged Cross. A Parish where I am serving as Interim DM has used it in the past, and it came up as a request for a funeral I have in June. I am saying that it's not appropriate for the holy sacrifice of the mass. Now, I was asked a few weeks ago to give them an updated funeral list, and this wasn't on it. But that doesn't seem to matter.

    Thoughts???
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 573
    The funeral choir at my parish sang for a funeral several weeks back and we sang "Soon and Very Soon" because it was a favorite hymn of the deceased, but it was the last song we did. So it wasn't during the Mass, it was when they were moving the casket and heading toward the cemetery.

    The Old Rugged Cross is a lovely hymn but it really doesn't belong in the Mass. You could do it before the Mass or as the recessional.

    As an alternate you could do "Sweet Name Which Makes the Dying Live" which was the recessional at my grandfathers funeral.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,612
    I had a very sweet lady who would ask for the Old Rugged Cross every year for Good Friday. A previous pastor had allowed them to sing it. I got around it by agreeing to do Were You There... I hated that one, also, and I wasn't there for what it's worth. The trouble with those inappropriate for mass hymns is that once you do them, it can be really difficult to get rid of them.

    On a hill far away,
    Stood an old Chevrolet.
    It was battered and covered with rust.
    How I loved that old car.
    Took me here, near and far.
    I'll drive it til I turn to dust.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 419
    I see nothing in it that’s contrary to Catholic teaching or even questionable, save only 2 lines of the last verse, which might sound a bit presumptuous if one is in a pedantic mood

    1 On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
    the emblem of suffering and shame;
    and I love that old cross where the dearest and best
    for a world of lost sinners was slain.

    Refrain:
    So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
    till my trophies at last I lay down;
    I will cling to the old rugged cross,
    and exchange it some day for a crown.

    2 O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
    has a wondrous attraction for me;
    for the dear Lamb of God left his glory above
    to bear it to dark Calvary. [Refrain]

    3 In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
    a wondrous beauty I see,
    for 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
    to pardon and sanctify me. [Refrain]

    4 To that old rugged cross I will ever be true,
    its shame and reproach gladly bear;
    then he'll call me some day to my home far away,
    where his glory forever I'll share. [Refrain]


    The song is in praise of the Cross, and of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. It is certainly “of a time”, individualistic, and musically mawkish, but as devotional music, I do not think it is any more harmful than “Mother dear, O pray for me” or any of the other Victorian low-Mass things that seem to be coming back into vogue in places. Of course it is not a good replacement for any of the funeral propers, but if it’s a lost cause and there’s to be some sort of Moment Musicale with a eulogy, I’d certainly prefer this to Lady of Knock or Here am I, Lord or whatever.
  • Two reservations:

    It's not appropriate for a funeral because there are other prescribed texts. If anything goes, then... anything goes. The fact that it was the favorite of the deceased makes absolutely no difference.

    The tune always reminds me of a cohort of slightly drunken Scotsmen, perhaps because of where I first encountered the hymn, which was in a congregationalist congregation in a backwater in Ohio. Proud Scots proudly belting it out made quite the impression.

  • Liam
    Posts: 4,535
    then he'll call me some day to my home far away,
    where his glory forever I'll share.

    could be altered to read:

    may he call me some day to my home far away,
    and his glory forever to share.
  • Liam,

    It could be so changed, but would it preserve the original intent? What happens when OCP and GIA and company change the words of well known hymns (God rest ye merry, gentlemen?) Or, if we published the collected poems of Audre Lorde, and edited them to seem entirely Catholic?
  • Suzanne
    Posts: 9
    I had never heard "The Old Rugged Cross" in a Catholic church until about 5 weeks ago. Our new pastor is very fond of it and has had us sing it twice already as the "Reflection Hymn" after Communion. Along with other copied and printed hymns, it now sits in a folder in our pews. I had hoped that it was still under copyright so we wouldn't be able to have it available in the pew, but, alas, it's public domain.
  • alas


    Usually, people like the fact that a hymn is in the public domain, but I understand your sadness. Can your new pastor see good Catholic sense?
  • Andrew_Malton
    Posts: 1,034
    If you remain true to the Cross and bear its reproach and shame in the world for the sake of Christ, it is your arca naufrago, the ark that saves you from shipwreck, and you will surely see Him and share in his glory, and dwell in the house prepared for you in Heaven.

    (Sure, you can throw it all away, reject Him, and miss Heaven. But that's not what this verse is about, not what you desire, not what He wants, not what He died for.)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • argentarius
    Posts: 28
    My predecessor had a request for "Country Roads" by John Denver, and the Pastor had her do it. This because the deceased went to school at West Virginia University. So count your blessings!
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,535
    "It could be so changed, but would it preserve the original intent?"

    You can take that up with ... Urban VIII. Alteration of hymn texts is a longstanding practice, not a modern thing.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    Maybe it would be better to leave Urban VIII's legacy out of it?
    Urban's most lasting legacy had nothing to do with his nepotism, or his extravagance, or his condemnation of Galileo. That legacy was the damage done to the Latin hymns of Catholicism, which were revised and rewritten, not only under Urban's orders, but also with his active participation
    Thanked by 1JonathanKK
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,535
    That's why I mentioned him....
  • Liam,

    The damage was done to Latin hymns, by a Latinist. The hymns weren't deliberately rewritten to misrepresent the Catholic teaching on some point, or to soften the doctrine on some point, so far as I know. The hymns were, also, not previously morally offensive or doubtful and subsequently morally pure. So, should he have done it? Probably not, but it's not the same kettle of fish as what we're discussing here _except_ in that both involve the "revision" of texts.

    Charles,

    What's your source for this? Surely the condemnation of Galileo is a modern conceit as his "failure" as pope?
  • opus2080
    Posts: 7
    I'm not going to do it just out of principal. They asked .s to redo the funeral list, and I did. This isn't on the list, nor does it fall under the if it's in the missal we will do it clause.
    Thanked by 1MatthewRoth
  • PaxMelodious
    Posts: 366
    It's the last week in April, and you are planning music for a funeral in June?
  • Suzanne
    Posts: 9
    My brother died Christmas Eve and his funeral is next month. Lots of funerals have been postponed due to COVID.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • What does one do with the corpse in the interim? [serious question, so flippant answers are unhelpful]
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,535
    Cremation is more common than inhumation in the USA. The church no longer requires funeral Masses to occur before cremation.
  • Suzanne
    Posts: 9
    Yes, cremation is very common in Canada too, and many obituaries these days end with the sentence, "Cremation has taken place; funeral will be announced at a later date."
  • May I not die in a place where such practice is common place!
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,526
    Pastors should, however, and I don’t think it’s so simple as “the church no longer requires waiting,” because it’s only superficially true. Cremation was exceptional, and if it was required, then waiting wasn’t a possibility, but the church has never really grappled with the possibility that otherwise-serious Catholics would wish to be cremated for any reason, to the point where they even actively desire this instead of burial.

    The law and most pastoral practice assumes that this is exceptional and mostly practical… in short, all of this is bad, and while suddenly banning cremation again probably won’t go over well, we should at least fix what we can fix now.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,535
    The remains of 56% of Americans who died were cremated in 2020 (per the Cremation Association of North America, which estimates the remains of 80% of deceased Americans will be cremated by 2040.
  • Matthew,

    Standing up for the Church's traditional practice and doctrine would be a good place to start. Reinstating Sunday Mass obligation and teaching about the need to be in the state of grace would be another good place to start.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,044
    @Pax & @CGZ, in my area, it is not uncommon for the families of poor people to not have a funeral until they can raise the money to pay for the funeral expenses (coffin, burial spot, etc.) It is not uncommon for a funeral to occur months after death.
  • AH.
    Define "poor" people.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    It is not uncommon for a funeral to occur months after death.

    Whenever this occurs it makes me think of the vision of a suffering soul that Padre Pio had when he was a young priest. He saw the soul who pleaded with him to say mass for him to ease his sufferings, and Pio said that he would offer Mass the following morning for the man. The soul in purgatory shouted “Cruel!” before disappearing.

    We really have whitewashed what purgatory really is, much to the detriment of the suffering souls.
    Thanked by 2hilluminar LauraKaz
  • Suzanne
    Posts: 9
    I live in a remote area and it's not rare for a parishioner to die in a distant hospital. It's easier for the family to have the body cremated and the cremated remains brought back, than to ship the body in a casket for the funeral and then send it back out for cremation.

    But the delays we're seeing these days have more to do with family traveling in these COVID times.

  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,044
    "poor people" - people who live at or below 200% of the poverty level.
  • Wow! 200% of the poverty level is still poor? It sounds as if our definition (or the government's) needs some revision. Maybe a sober assessment of the state of the economy and standard of living would be in order, too.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,535
    Which US dioceses have continued to dispense from Sunday Mass obligation?
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,535
    The narratives concerning Padre Pio's mystical vision of Pietro Di Mauro seems to get added to. So far as I can tell, it seems Padre Pio's own testimony did not include that "Cruel" part. The incident occurred in 1922 (Di Mauro died in 1908), at a time when Mass would not have been lawfully celebrated in the evening.
  • When our diocese reinstated it, it did so so quietly that I missed it in the diocesan newspaper. It's on the diocesan website, dated February 2022, and effective the first Sunday of Lent. I have no idea how widespread it is, otherwise.
    https://www.dsj.org/lifting-of-the-dispensation-of-the-sunday-obligation/
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    Liam, it would seem I had read a corrupted account. A little investigation bears your criticism out.

    That said, I have read St. Catherine of Genoa’s treatise on purgatory, and if she is to be believed (she is) it’s still a terribly unpleasant place.
  • opus2080
    Posts: 7
    I have at least a dozen funerals booked for May and June. Some were waiting for the cemetery to open, others for nice weather for travel ect. Most are cremation, though three are full bodies stored in the parish cemetery vault. I've never seen such a backlog. I have some back to back in June.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,526
    The poverty level in the US is pretty low, so, yeah, I'd consider that poor.

    But back to cremation: I don't particularly care that the majority of Americans are cremated other than it influences Catholics who could decide otherwise, and I don't want to be insensitive to the fact that cemeteries are expensive or the racket which is (sometimes) the funeral-home industry. Nevertheless, we have work to do, and it's only going to get worse as we further clinicalize death with the world created in the wake of the coronavirus.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,612
    "poor people" - people who live at or below 200% of the poverty level.


    You mean about half the country under current conditions?

    Funeral costs are beyond all reason so I can understand folks going with a cheaper alternative.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    Opus, what I don’t understand is the delay. Even if the body cannot be buried immediately, the funeral mass should still be offered for the repose of the soul, and then the body stored until the delayed interment. At least that’s my view. It seems a scandal to me to deprive souls very necessary and important graces for salvation just for the sake of some convenience in logistics.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,535
    Memorial Masses can and should be offered in the interim; there is no need to wait for the funeral for that.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    The problem is most families are so poorly catechized that they don’t do this. “Having a mass said” is hardly understood or employed anymore. Our church advertises that there are plenty of open masses that can be scheduled, because people just don’t think to do it. It’s sad.

    But I agree: memorial masses (the more the better!) are indeed a good thing.
    Thanked by 2hilluminar LauraKaz