The GIRM says no eulogies? Was there something lost in the translation?
  • Funerals are a liturgical event with clear guidelines.

    Popular secular music is banned. I push that back to the calling hours.

    Why are priests not doing the same with eulogies?
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Because, as much as some here hate this word, all liturgy is necessarily pastoral.

    I challenge you to talk to the highest ranking Vatican Liturgical officials, including the Pope himself, and ask them if a quasi-eulogy should be allowed if the banning of it would cause undue resentment, hatred, and a falling away from the true Faith of the Church. I'd be amazed if they said it should not be allowed under those circumstances.

    People are emotional - and at a funeral, emotions are on over-drive. They come to their Church for comfort.

    Funerals are one area where I am ultra-permissive. You will rarely here me say "no" to something asked for by the family of the deceased, and you will never hear me refer to "documents" in steering them away from something.
    It is just not good pastoral practice.
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 912
    Pastoral doesn't have to mean giving people everything they want.

    There are ways of sticking more closely to the guidelines without lecturing people in mourning about liturgical rules and regulations . . . .
  • Bad liturgy is never pastoral. I'll leave it to others to determine whether or not a eulogy constitutes bad liturgy, but I think that first ground rule needed to be established.
  • ChaedatylChaedatyl
    Posts: 45
    One thing I have seen my pastor do quite often is recommend that the Eulogy (eulogies) be given at the wake. That way, as he gently explains, there is more time for discussing/memory sharing, and if someone gets ultra emotional, it's not during the Mass.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    In my experience, most people WILL accept "that's not what we do here" or "that generally isn't allowed in the context of Catholic liturgy". But I'd save that for recorded music, inappropriate song requests, liturgical abuse, etc. Most people don't have their heart set on any particular aspect of the funeral, and will respond well if their request cannot be granted.
  • I'm wondering if eulogies couldn't be offered before Mass starts in the same tradition that weddings were done before Mass started in the EF. The priest (or eulogist) could offer a eulogy and, at the end, say "Now let us offer Holy Mass for X"
  • Michael: that's precisely what my former pastor did, and it worked quite well. The 'eulogizers' also commented that they felt very relieved and actually able to pray!
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,673
    Eulogies will probably never go away... but if they must be done, they should be done well. Of all the eulogies I've heard through the years, I can only remember one that was decent and one that was good. Usually the person is too emotional or has poorly written it out and stumbles over their words. Often this can lead to embarassment and further problems with distraction during Mass and at any reception afterwards...
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    And then there are the quasi-eulogies, like the one that masqueraded as the Prayers of the Faithful at a recent televised funeral!
  • In deference I will remove my post.

    Here's what Catholics United for Faith says:


    May a eulogy be given at a Catholic funeral?
    Catholic funeral rites do not allow space for a eulogy.9 The focus of a Christian funeral is the paschal mystery: the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.10 The funeral rites are not so much a celebration of the life of the deceased, but a prayer that the life and death of the deceased may be joined to Christ in heaven. Because the focus of a Catholic funeral is first on God, eulogies do not have a place within the funeral liturgy.


    This does not mean we cannot reflect on and celebrate the life of the deceased. It does mean that such a celebration of the life of the deceased would be more appropriate to a non-liturgical gathering (for example, a post-funeral luncheon).

    The Church’s rites do allow a member or a friend of the family to speak in remembrance of the deceased prior to the final commendation.11 This is not a full eulogy, but a brief reflection proportionate to the other parts of the funeral rites.

    • And the Richmond Diocese says:


    May eulogies be given at a funeral Mass?

    The Rite of Christian Funerals does not include the addition of personal eulogies at a funeral Mass. The rite actually says, “A brief homily based on the readings is always given after the gospel reading at the funeral liturgy and may also be given after the readings at the vigil service; but there is never to be a eulogy.” (OCF # 141) The custom of the eulogy comes from Protestant funeral services that may not have the rich ritual and prayers that are ours. Nevertheless, it has indeed become a custom in some places to allow words of remembrance to be said at a Catholic liturgy.

    For pastoral reasons, many pastors have decided to allow a brief personal reflection to be given. The preference would be that it be done at the Vigil Service, a time when people gather to remember, tell stories, and celebrate the life of the one who has died. Some pastors will ask that it precede the actual liturgy and others will permit it at the end of Communion. Because the Rite is very clear on eulogies, Bishop DiLorenzo does not need to officially forbid them. Pastors decide on their own whether a brief reflection – and not a true eulogy – would be pastoral and permissible.

    • Preeminence....NPM? In numbers, but not in quality. A local situation that I hesitate just yet to mention is an example.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Sorry, Frogman, although I agree with nearly 100% of what you say, you are dead wrong on this one, and you are starting to push my buttons.

    Frankly, this kind of statement "They must not be done. That's what the GIRM says." is what gives our whole movement a bad name. It is what gets church musicians unemployed. It is what gives the NPM crowd their pre-eminence over the liturgy and music scene.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,152
    PGA, you're a bit overwrought.

    This is a no-brainer. Have your "eulogy" precisely where the GIRM suggests: before the final dismissal. OR have it (as another suggested) before the Mass begins.

    Or you can continue to drive people away from the Church with practices which are Protestant.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I side with PGA's sentiment, and dad29's solution. Put eulogies (or whatever fancy wordplay you do to convince yourself it isn't a eulogy) after communion or before the Mass. Better yet, encourage them at the reception, where they are more appropriate, effective, and comfortable. I really have a hard time believing someone will be offended at being told they can't replace the sermon at a Mass.

    At any rate, this is the pastor's problem to deal with, not ours. While aunt Sally is valiantly trying to keep herself together, practice your fingerings for On Eagle's Wings. No need for us to get worked up over something we can't control.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Can somebody remind us what the purpose of the Requiem Mass is?

    Isn't it supposed to be offered of our charity for the repose of the soul of the deceased and in the hopes that the burden of their sins might be eased as they prepare for their time in purgatory?

    Oh, that's right. We don't call it a Requiem anymore. We're past all that. No, no. We gather to remember the life of the person who died. It's a "celebration", not a funeral. They'll get to heaven just fine. In fact, to hear it said by many priests, these folks never even spend time in purgatory and go straight on to heaven. No need to pray for them.

    And, it's so very important that those who are left behind to grieve hear their favorite "songs" at Mass and tell their favorite stories about the deceased during Mass rather than hearing the appointed texts and Propers and solid preaching, because after all it's not about praying for the repose of the soul of the deceased anymore, it's about catering to the wants of the family, regardless their understanding or proper disposition to make those choices.

    Remember: we're not dealing with how we "feel" in the moment, and that's not the purpose of the Church. We're dealing with the welfare of immortal souls. What could be more pastoral than that?
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    DavidAndrew -

    That is all fine and well. You are in a parish where everything is to be "by the book", chant is given the place it deserves, etc. et al.

    I have a wife and son to support. I refuse to fight these battles that even the most conservative priests don't fight and won't back me up on.

    I'm not getting driven out over something like this. And that is EXACTLY what will happen if you start digging in your heels with grieving families over this kind of stuff time and again.

    My pastor is "conservative". He is a canon lawyer. He doesn't like anything weird in the liturgy. And he allows this. Because when it comes to grieving families, he wants to get them back to the Church.

    I'm sorry everyone, the Church has never been about rigid and unbending rules.

    Bob Batastini actually wrote an article once about how he went to Rome and expected the MC to want everything "by the book" ... it being St. Peter's Basilica and all ... He was basically shocked at how many liberties THEY TOOK (compared to the literal printed instructions).

    If they don't PRECISELY "say the black, do the red" at St. Peter's Basilica, you're not going to win this argument at any parish or cathedral in the United States. Period.

    I'd rather spend my political capital on "bigger pictures" changes.
  • What's wrong with steering people to the most appropriate times? Its pastoral on both levels- helping the family grieve and allowing them full sacred liturgy.

    In one parish in which I sub, it is routine to have 4-5 eulogies. No guidelines as far as I can tell. People share about drinking with their uncle, shopping with mom memories, etc. Looooong original poems are routine. One dear soul who died with AIDS was eulogized by an old friend who got up and tearily led the faithful through the 'good old days' when the deceased would put on his high heels and lead friends on a parade through a major San Diego street after a great night of drinking. Another man who had left the Church for a mega-church took the opportunity of a eulogy to 'share' with everyone how they can be saved.

    The stories go on. I can count on one hand eulogies that had something to do with the faith of the deceased, or with faith at all. People who are non-Catholics or C&E Catholics leave the Church with a very mixed idea of what Catholicism is, and a truly evangelical opportunity is muddied or completely missed.

    One needs to be loving and pastoral, and one also needs to allow the sacred liturgy to happen. This means some guidelines, charitably and clearly presented, are important.

    'I refuse to fight these battles that even the most conservative priests don't fight and won't back me up on.'
    I can totally sympathize with that!
    While this is a huge frustration for musicians, at the end of the day we are not in charge of this aspect of liturgy and are not responsible for it. We can talk to our celebrants about it and pray. Its a lamentable and damaging practice in many areas, but we can't stop it if the priests won't, rubrics or no.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,865
    A couple of years ago I sang in a choir for a funeral and was paid a stipend for the favor. If I'd known the length of the eulogies that were to be included, I'd have insisted on an overtime rate.
  • As Ma, the Singing Mum has clearly stated, Funeral Mass Liturgies can be and are hijacked with people with un-Catholic intent.

    Priests, including those who are canon lawyers, are not permitted to change a word of the Mass, for good reason.

    Why present the Mass as a liturgy and then permit it to be challenged by words of lay people?
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    My parish isn't necessarily free of this kind of nonsense, and in fact the Pastor has often said he just won't fight the battle every time, unless the requests are really ridiculous. What is fortunate is that for the most part the people don't go completely off the rails with their requests, and Father somehow manages to keep a fairly good control on the essentials of the liturgy.

    More importantly, isn't it a truly awful commentary on the state of the Church that we're at times forced to "sell out" (for 30 pieces of silver?) in order for musicians to keep their jobs (and support themselves and their families) and for Pastors to keep people happy and in the pews? I find it unfortunate that the Church, despite the best efforts of the Holy Father and many good bishops and priests, remains a "cafeteria", a service industry that caters to the wants of the people, and that musicians at times feel more like prostitutes being pimped by their bosses who have been made to believe that the financial bottom line of the parish is more important than the welfare of immortal souls. I wonder if there will come a time that the leadership of St. John Cantius Chicago will be forced to say, "we can't pay our light bills, so maybe we'd better stop doing TLMs and maybe update our music to attract a better-paying crowd"?

    Anecdotally, I converted to Catholicism with some serious reservations; coming from an Anglo-Catholic mindset and aesthetic, I found the trite music, clunky prayer and lectionary translations, lack-luster liturgical execution, tasteless vestments and sacred vessels, ugly architecture and cheap art to be a huge turn-off. Fortunately I was being moved by the Holy Spirit to "swim the Tiber," and was able to overlook these things, perhaps in the dim hope that the music, etc., would turn around. (If I'd just waited, I'd probably have been a part of an Anglican Use parish). Unfortunately, thanks mostly to an over-the-top feminist nun and an extremely liberal priest who led the RCIA, together with regular participation in NPM, my tastes and sensibilities were blunted sufficiently to actually begin enjoying all of the tacky clap-trap that I had originally found wanting. It's not difficult, however, to imagine how many others are equally turned-off by those same things, or witness Catholic liturgy for the first time at a wedding or funeral and decide, "We do this stuff so much better. I think I'll just stay in my own denomination. Clearly Catholicism hasn't anything special to offer."

    These are tough times, and difficult decisions need to be made. But in the final analysis the Church isn't in the business of making people happy or catering to their wants, the Church has been established by Christ for the care and salvation of immortal souls.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    If I may be needlessly (or not?) provocative, there's a thread running through many of the responses on the "don't do what isn't in the red" side:

    "Priests, including those who are canon lawyers, are not permitted to change a word of the Mass, for good reason."
    "Why present the Mass as a liturgy and then permit it to be challenged by words of lay people?"
    "But in the final analysis the Church isn't in the business of making people happy or catering to their wants"

    This is all well and good, but if the Church "isn't in the business of... catering to their wants," why is there a choice of readings for the funeral liturgy? Why is there an option 4 to replace the antiphons? If "the Church" doesn't want the liturgy of Christian Funerals tinkered with, who put in all these options?

    Although in practice I try to be accommodating for funerals (because I hope people will do the same for my family at my end!), in theory I find all these options to be promoting the very practices which we are unanimous in deploring. I recall a "TED Talk" which talked about how happiness is NOT linked to freedom (how's that for a 4th of July weekend sentiment?), but rather most people get along happily enough if they aren't asked to make decisions. Really, I think the current practice of the OCF just needs some COMMON SENSE! Someone dies, so we ASK their survivors, in their grief, will you please make a decision impacting one of the most important aspects of Mass? We give them that liberty, then we're surprised if they want (maybe in their mind only) an orthodox hymn at the funeral?

    Let's just think this through. There's nothing pastoral with giving someone who just lost a loved one a whole job to do.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    And since I don't believe it's useful to go on at each other about theoretical ideas that have no basis in reality, let me offer a solution to both parties in this discussion, one that I've actually used:

    At my last church, I did not ask the family to select the music. If they had any REQUESTS for music, they would tell the pastor, and he would direct me to get in touch with them, and if their request is reasonable I would accommodate. I always made it very clear to them that they are not expected to select all the music, and that I only need one or two requests to accommodate. Other than that, the ordinary would be the Requiem ordinary, "Lux aeterna" would be sung at communion by a cantor (so no communion hymn), and "In Paradisum" would be sung by the pastor at the end. These were open to change, but we didn't really run them by the family so generally they didn't care.

    So even if the funeral gets taken over by sappy songs, you still have an authentically Catholic funeral with plenty of prayer for the dead (the pastor always included an exhortation to such in his sermon).
  • Nicely put.
  • unfatmatt
    Posts: 29
    Our cathedral had a funeral last year for the mother of a member of the staff. There were four eulogies by four members of her family.

    Logistically speaking, it would have been far better to have them at the wake or reception, as they took about 30 minutes.

    Liturgically, I don't know that any of the eulogists were even Catholic, as they sauntered up the steps past the altar with no acknowledgment of necessary reverence, etc..
  • kathyf
    Posts: 21
    At my dad's funeral, we had a nicely done funeral, Mass was said by my dear, reverent Jesuit uncle, Dad's brother. But my dad's friend, also a priest, invited anyone at the end to come up and "say a few words" after he did. Only one person did, a neighbor who can talk on the fly. Nobody else had anything prepared, so I thought the family looked stupid for not saying anything. It made me feel better finding out that there are to be no eulogies, and Fr. Won'tmentionhisname liturgically aberrated. I have instructions written out that nobody is to come up and say, "How goofy Kathy was, etc..."
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 912
    There's more here than simply avoiding embarrassment or obeying the rubrics: a danger that if you let the rules go here, what's stopping people from having their preference for other aspects of the liturgy - alternative readings, questionable symbols on the casket, tacky photos in the sanctuary, etc. etc.

    I'm all in favor of "bending the rules" if this is necessary to avoid alienating people forever - I just object to giving in beforehand.
  • Today I had the privilege to sing at the funeral of a firefighter who recently died while on duty in a fire in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The funeral mass was held at St. Augustine's cathedral, and Bishop Lori was present. The full pagentry of the funeral for a fallen firefighter took place, and I have so much respect for the other firefighters who added so much dignity to the event and hopefully brought comfort for the grieving family. A huge number of firefighters from all over Connecticut and as far away as Canada were present, mostly outside, since they could not all be accommodated in the cathedral.

    I have to say that I think that the mass and the ceremonies toward the end of mass would have both been more affective if the later ceremonies had not actually taken place during the funeral mass. I don't know all of the expectations are of firefighters in this situation are; perhaps it is simply presumed that the numerous eulogies, conferal of flag, ringing of the bell, etc. are to take place in church. I am sensitive to such expectations. The ceremonies that took place between the post communion and the final commendation were beautiful, uplifting, respectful, consoling and lengthy. Mass lasted close to three hours in all. It struck me, however, that mass almost seemed to be the lead up to the later ceremony, however. If the homily hadn't been as substantial and memorable, I would have substituted "was" for "almost seemed". I thought it sad, however, that so many firefighters weren't able to see the customs' of their admirable occupation being performed. Might it not have been better for a second site to have been used after mass, such as a local arena, where the many eulogies and such could have been done, and perhaps give the mourners a little break in between?

    It was also clear that one of the aspects about having a eulogy is that the desire to have them during mass must be that the congregation as Body of Christ provides the context for the memorialization of the actions of the deceased. This strikes me as valid, and if eulogies aren't to be said at mass, the Church needs to figure out a structured way for them to be done in another ritual, eg. a memorialization of the deceased's witness to Christ. The Paschal mystery thus becomes the lens through which we seen not only their death but also their life. Getting input from groups of firefighters, police officers, soldiers, etc. would be crucial to putting such a ritual together.

    When the one being eulogized is a hero, a concise eulogy in a funeral mass doesn't strike me as objectionable. When the person is of less exemplary character, that context could be mistaken for approbation of less positive behavior. I kind of think that if some get to have eulogies, all should get to have eulogies. The context is crucial, however, and it seems to me that the funeral mass isn't the best one. I don't believe in only following the rules that I agree with, but I think at its heart the rule against eulogies in funeral masses is on the right track.

    One of the speakers did refer to the event as a celebration of the life of the slain firefighter, though two of the prayers of the faithful were for the soul of the deceased.