Secular Funerals etc.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 514
    Okay so if you want a place to argue about funerals here it is.

    Got talking to a friend who won't participate in the music at a friend's funeral because of the type of funeral it is. I can understand that but I have to say I feel like I have to be there to help my friend and that it might just encourage people of one view to change ever so slightly.

    So predicament.
    One day I may have to face the reality that my father's funeral will be void of religion entirely. Just sort of a summation of his life, maybe a couple of tunes and poems and a few flowers and some strange people in suits. He will however probably want me to provide some of the music and well... To participate in this it has been suggested to me might be to be seen as condoning this.

    I don't think that is the case. I think people know my position.

    Sure, I probably wouldn't want to go but the polite thing to do is to go. It is good to get that chance to change the perspective of just one or two people and convince them to pray anyway, that's how I see it.

    So okay here is the hypothetical situation and question.
    Friend/family member dies
    The funeral is not a Catholic funeral of any shape or form or it does not suit you in terms of the "branch" of Catholicism if you like to use that term.

    You decide you're going to hold a funeral or requiem or ceremony of your choice anyway.

    But do you attend the funeral, requiem or ceremony of their choice that you disagree with as well as the one you hold?
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I would very much enjoy meeting you one day, should I resume attending colloquium, JSearle.
    Your question is one very near to my heart (particularly having just participated in a dear friend's memorial Mass yesterday.) It is not only the case that the soul of the deceased stands before a judgment seat at a particular moment, we all stand at once as witness, defendant and even prosecutor in the story of our own salvation.
    I'd illustrate and answer your question with a short anecdotal account. When I taught public high school choral classes we all suffered the loss of students and classmates as well as their parents, often under tragic circumstances. One of those losses was one of a Mormon father of a choral student in my program. He'd fallen through his own roof while doing electrical work and had a difficult death. I did wrestle whether to attend in his service, but common sense aligned with strong, Catholic faith, and I joined other students of mine and fellow teachers. However, while resolving to observe respectful etiquette I also did not join in singing LDS hymns, nor assenting to difficult prayers, all without drawing any attention to that witness. My conscience informs me that, in true Christian charity (like the Samaritan a couple of Sunday's ago), to not present a source of support and solace for my student would betray my own Catholic witness. That reality didn't verbally show up in my classroom, and prejudice towards our doctrines were never evident. However, there wasn't a kid of any stripe who didn't know of my "affiliation." When I took my chamber singers on retreat, we rehearsed in a seaside RC parish, we sang out of gratitude for them at Mass. Those students who were virulently anti-Catholic would sit out the Creed and things of that sort, but they sang Palestrina et al in beauty and unity of purpose.
    One caveat, I would not endorse the above actions were the service led by Satanists or Wiccans and such. That would be a transgression. Secular? How else do you actively or passively evangelize others there if you're not?
  • A person has the right to the funeral of his choice, and we should respect that, even when we disagree. To the extent that you can, you should participate, but the level is completely up to you and your level of comfort. In theory, I don't think there's an issue providing music, given the music doesn't contradict Catholic teaching.

    I'm not sure I would hold my own requiem/funeral for this person without their permission, as I feel that could potentially border on disrespecting their wishes. But I don't think it would be disrespectful to do something along those lines: request a Mass intention (for a regularly scheduled Mass) for the person's soul.
  • Tim, Charles,

    At what point ( hoping for precision) do we cross over from being respectful to approving, condoning or taking part in the worship of a false god?
    Thanked by 2melofluent Jes
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 321
    I've been to two of these.
    One, devoid of music, was not too bad because the humanist person leading it had a period of silence in which 'anyone who wished to' was invited to pray. Many people did.

    The other one was ghastly; the funeral of someone faced with terminal cancer who had gone to a clinic in Switzerland to be euthanised. His parents were devastated.
    The poems and music chosen by the deceased were deeply depressing, expressing despair and rage. They included Dowland's lute song 'Lachrimae' with the truly chilling line 'Happy they that in Hell feel not the world's despite.' We came out feeling shaken and numb.

    I wasn't asked to take part in the music, but if so, given what it was, I think I would have refused. But I thought it important to be there; people like this need prayer, and the mercy of God is boundless. I truly hope and pray that as he swallowed whatever it was they gave him, he had a moment to meet God and experience His mercy and overwhelming love.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • CGZ:

    Fair question; alas, I don't think there's going to be a hard and fast standard on that, since the facts on the ground vary. I think we'd have different answers for:

    * A completely secular funeral where people are eulogizing the deceased and the closing song is someone belting out "My Way"; there's no mention of God, but there's no open antagonism against Him, either
    * A Hindu funeral complete with chants
    * A funeral in a "liberal" Catholic church

    If I were in doubt, I would consult knowledgeable people such as trusted priests or other experts.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    I'm going to leave this here as germane to the discussion:

    "To pray with heretics is to, in fact, be a heretic" - Pope Leo XIII (paraphrased)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,905
    "It's amazing how reliable people's postings on the Internet are." -- Pope Benedict XV (paraphrased)
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Chris, I respect your commentary. Ben, I truly wish I could say the same for yours.
    In Christ's parable of the sheep and goats in Mt. 25, do you take it literally that a neighbor in need must physically show up at your door? If that happens on the street, or in his temple, do you then get a pass on feeding, clothing, nursing, consoling...?
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen Liam Jes
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,816
    "THE ONION

    Once upon a time there was a woman, and she was wicked as wicked could be, and she died. And not one good deed was left behind her. The devils took her and threw her into the lake of fire. And her guardian angel stood thinking: what good deed of hers can I remember to tell God? Then he remembered and said to God: once she pulled up an onion and gave it to a beggar woman. And God answered: take now that same onion, hold it out to her in the lake, let her take hold of it and pull, and if you pull her out of the lake, she can go to paradise. The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her: here, woman, he said, take hold of it and I’ll pull. And he began pulling carefully, and had almost pulled her all of the way out, when other sinners in the lake saw her being pulled out and all began holding on to her so as to be pulled out with her. But the woman was wicked as wicked could be, and she began to kick them with her feet: "It’s me who’s getting pulled out, not you; it’s my onion, not yours." No sooner did she say it than the onion broke. And the woman fell back into the lake and is burning there to this day. And the angel wept and went away."

    (From The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky) (paraphrased by someone's translation)

    * * *

    “She [Mrs. Turpin] bent her head slowly and gazed, as if through the very heart of mystery, down into the pig parlor at the hogs. They had settled all in one corner around the old sow who was grunting softly. A red glow suffused them. They appeared to pant with a secret life. Until the sun slipped finally behind the tree line, Mrs. Turpin remained there with her gaze bent to them as if she were absorbing some abysmal life-giving knowledge. At last she lifted her head. There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading, like an extension of the highway, into the descending dusk. She raised her hands from the side of the pen in a gesture hieratic and profound. A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black n*****s in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God- given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. *Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.* She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a minute the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.

    At length she got down and turned off the faucet and made her slow way on the darkening path to the house. In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.”

    (The ending of "Revelation" by Flannery O'Connor, with elision and emphasis added by yours truly)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    I will dig up the exact quote later this evening when I have a chance.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,099
    I think we are straining at gnats here. All of us have friends, colleagues, even distant family members who either don't share our faith, or don't participate in any faith. Attending weddings and funerals is a matter of courtesy, not worship. No, don't receive communion with Protestants, or affirm their creeds. Just go and be respectful. That is not a lot to ask of anyone.
    Thanked by 2JL chonak
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,905
    I wouldn't be surprised: Pope Leo may indeed have made some warning about praying with heretics. There's a long-standing cautionary tradition in the Church against it. But attending a funeral out of respect for a person does not imply that one is joining in all the prayers that are being recited.

    Besides, that caution isn't really germane to this thread, which is about secular funerals, where there's no expectation of any prayers, let alone heretical ones.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Well, and we have to consider what Pope Leo meant by "praying." Did he mean attending worship services, joining in a meal prayer led by a heretic, standing next to a heretic and praying for the dead? What was he getting at here? It seems likely to me that it was a caution regarding attending heretical worship, and joining in their liturgies.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,816
    And there's the fact that, in a humanist funeral, the group may well be *not* praying as such at all.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I will dig up the exact quote later this evening when I have a chance.

    Unnecessary, really, unless you need to be exactly sure that such folk as cited are, indeed, heretics.
    @jesearle, sorry for the digressions.
    Thanked by 2Liam Jes
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,816
    Melo

    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2016/05/06/before-calling-someone-a-heretic-you-might-want-to-check-canon-law/

    Eagerness for a hard bite on the H bone is not the same thing as the virtue of zeal (though, because it's easier, it's sometimes confused for it).
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen melofluent Jes
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 737
    This discussion greatly reminds of the thread on Catholics working in, either as a single/random gig or as an actually musical-member of, a Protestant church.
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen CharlesW Jes
  • [Largely irrelevant, but hopefully edifying, comment]

    I've always been partial to the name Charles. The priest who baptized my youngest was Fr. Charles.(God rest his soul) ... the son being baptized was (is) Charles, and my father is Charles -- he will turn 90 in August.

    [Straining to make it relevant]

    Is the name "Charles" enough for me to support someone? Should I refuse to help anyone whose name isn't Charles? Does it matter what I'm helping this person do?


    There is merit to the claim that one must go among the heathen to convert them. There is also merit to the claim that one must not worship the false gods of the heathen if one is to bring them to the knowledge and love of the true God.

    Accordingly, one must ask in this context, are there any principles which we can apply to understand a solidly Catholic answer to the OP?
    Thanked by 2Jes PaxMelodious
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,905
    I think we can rule out the thought of having a second funeral, because the funeral service is done only in connection with the burial. Any later service is something else.

    It would be very traditional to have Mass offered a month after the death, a "Month's Mind" Mass, and invite friends and family to it, and perhaps have a reception or a collation afterward.
  • Jani
    Posts: 386
    May I add to Melofluent's comment.....when one lives in rural Utah, one would certainly be bereft of friendship were it not for the Mormons. Having been to many, many Mormon funerals, I can confidently say that there is *not* a lot of "religion" in them, but rather much speechifying. There are a couple songs, mostly secular, which are sung by family and friends and that's about it. I consider it a Christian duty to ask God's mercy on them while I am there. That said, in January my children's LDS piano teacher died and one of my daughters participated in a two piano, eight-hand tribute to this lovely soul who gave my family so much with her music. I would no more have missed the funeral or forbade my child to participate, than miss my own.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 514
    Okay, So I haven't read all of these but I've been keeping a skimming eye over it all.

    As for heretical funerals.
    I'm not saying I would pray with these people... more for them and in my Catholic way. I can't see how it is wrong to do so. I don't think there is anything anti church about that.

    My Dad's funeral will probably be quite unusual when it comes time as he'll probably want the German Mass by Schubert to be sung but completely missing the actual part of the mass (like the whole reason one does a mass setting is for the mass...) anyway I can't fathom not turning up to my father's "memorial ceremony" as ridiculous as I might think it would be at the time.

    I once had a habit of turning up to funerals of various sorts. I worked for a crematorium for a while (No I didn't burn bodies, it was sadly bread and butter I needed but I really didn't agree with making.) I did my best to suggest Catholic prayers, Catholic hymns, Catholic music in these instances and generally it lead to people asking lots of questions and often accepting these suggestions. Often these people who had died (obviously they didn't ask me questions at the service... that would be weird.) they had expressed a sudden interest in believing in God before they died and the families were often tied as to whether they do a Catholic funeral or just stick with the pre-booked crematorium service, some of these families I managed to sway from the crematorium company and some still went ahead using Catholic music and prayers but I would see them at my church the next couple of weekends. Sure, there was the occasion where someone stood up and attempted to share with people a Buddhist viewpoint or quote, there would be a "spiritual poem" recited blah blah but I can't say in the 50+ funerals I did in 2014 that I ever participated in their prayers but rather focussed on praying for the soul of the deceased and the unknowing souls in the room. Most of the funerals were sadly just summaries of people's lives with a lot of photos and a lot of grief from people who had forgotten who to pray to and how to pray at all or they were funerals of disenchanted Catholics who were sorely affected by the abuse scandal in the church. I often saw my role as a pastoral one helping those who probably needed God most at that time.

    Sure, if someone held some sort of funeral that purposefully went against Catholicism I would not attend.
    But if it is just an empty ceremony of secular "me, myself and I's" then I feel an obligation to attend and pray for them.
    And if it is a more liberal Catholic view I feel that I have the same obligation to pray for them but also to be present and participate in a way that sets an example.
    For example, attending a Catholic church where communion is received in the hand I would not necessarily make a point of receiving on the tongue but I would receive on the tongue and that might spark some interest in the person who receives on the hand to check out why other Catholics receive on the tongue and if doing the music I might try to include the Dies Irae or something like that.

    I personally don't have a gripe with the Novus Ordo Mass. I grew up with it and it's the most familiar to me. I grew up with a traditionally minded priest who made a point in his Homily to state that we need to pray for the soul of the person and at no point said "rejoice they are saved" I think I would have needed a bucket if he did say that. But if I knew that there was someone out there who was of that bent I wouldn't not attend the funeral, I would be there to pray for the people who were present and for the souls of the departed. Indeed I wouldn't not participate in the mass though I would do things that I am more comfortable doing in the mass such as the Domine Non Sum Dignus saying this three times, I would wear my hat/mantilla/headcovering to the mass, and if I was in charge of the music try to include something traditional that has words/scripture people can learn from.

    Think about that dinner party you went to on the weekend. Did absolutely everybody say grace? If they did, did they make the sign of the cross? If you're with a friend who says grace you'd make the sign of the cross right? Does that mean you're being heretical because you're saying grace at the same time in the same place as another person of other religion but as a Catholic? Does it mean you've said the wrong grace? Or does it raise the question "hey why do you make the sign of the cross?" so that you can answer "Because I am unashamed to be a Catholic."
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 737
    Actually, regardless of another's form of "saying grace," my kids, husband, and I always say aloud our "Bless us, O Lord..." followed by "and may the souls.." At my in-laws', all of which say, "God is good, God is great..." we let my oldest son (currently 4) lead the Catholic prayer, to which my husband's family sometimes says, "Amen" (though usually, just "good job! ok, our turn.."). So, no, I don't join in their prayer, and they aren't surprised by our crossing ourselves afterwards.

    At my sister's father-in-law's memorial service at his church, my husband, kids, and I went in, stood in line to say our "sorry for your loss" to my b-i-l and his mom, responding with "we'll pray for him and for you" when they said, "at least he's in a better place; and can see again (he'd become legally blind... and he was also a Mason...), walk again, etc." And then we left before any prayers or weird eulogies could begin by his masonic friends or baptist friends.

    *shrug*
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • JesJes
    Posts: 514
    Exactly! You both eat the same meal and you both pray your own prayers.
    When I'm with my Lutheran friend he prays his prayer and I pray mine making the sign of the cross, we pray it at the same time but by no means are we praying the same thing together...
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,545
    I think we can rule out the thought of having a second funeral, because the funeral service is done only in connection with the burial. Any later service is something else.


    In the E.F. there is not much difference between the Requiem (Burial) Mass and the Requiem Mass. We have regularly celebrated Requiem Masses without the body but with a Catafaque, so we can have the prayers after Mass. The beneficial effect of the Prayers of the Mass are unimaginable!

    For a Catholic deceased, I would see no problem with organising an E.F. Requiem Mass for them, and not attending the secular funeral... Some E.F. priests are very happy to say Requiem Masses, happily I have worked with a couple and we have celebrated many, including Anniversary Masses for those long dead.

    In the E.F. you can have...
    Requiem Mass (on first hearing the news)
    Requiem (Burial) Mass
    Mass on the 3rd, 7th and 30th Day after Death OR Burial
    Anniversary Mass (of the death or burial)

    You could also sing a Votive Office for the Dead...

    N.B. One neo-con catholic here in England, who was very critical of Trad's found out about a 10th anniversary requiem we were organising for Michael Davies. Afterwards she publicly wrote that she could not imagine any of her neo-con friends doing this for her and she wanted friends like the Trad's.

    For non-Catholics I would have a Mass said for their intention OR a Requiem for the Holy Souls.
    Thanked by 2Xav mmeladirectress
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,099
    I frequently have masses said for departed friends who were not Catholic. Having such a mass said is a good thing, and God is perfectly capable of sorting out any implications or effects. That's beyond my pay grade.
    Thanked by 1Jani
  • JesJes
    Posts: 514
    Yes that's what I meant a requiem for the Holy Souls would be my option for Dad I reckon. Not that it is nearly time but like I like to be prepared.

    I planned my funeral first before planning Dad's so now I gotta get on with the rest of the family.

    I'm from an ancestry line of death dealers. Gravediggers, morgue owners, funeral organisers and funeral musicians. I don't want to let my family name down not that I share their name just their ancestry haha.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and a good reading on the situation.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,570
    I've always been partial to the name Charles.


    I agree! Charles is the name of the fellow who taught me Gregorian chant, the regular bass in my schola, my favorite composer of all time, and everyone's Favorite Exquisitely Cantankerous Eastern Catholic Poster.

    All fine, upstanding gentlemen. Much virtue in 'Charles'.

    < / nonsensical input>

    Thanked by 2Jes CharlesW
  • JesJes
    Posts: 514
    My brother's name is Charles he's two years old and can make different animal noises and can catch a ball and can say duck and oh oh and oh dear! So cute!

    okay seriously I got my answer so < / nonsensical input > is fine now
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,615
    Perhaps spend more time praying for your father's conversion (and talking to him about Catholicism if possible without causing undo damage) while he's alive than worrying about his funeral just yet.

    My parents are both atheists and my mother wants to have her ashes sprinkled in the woods. Beyond telling her that she has to find someone morally willing to sprinkle her since I won't be able to, I try not to think of it much and just pray for their conversion.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,570
    My dad (Methodist) wants his ashes spread on the family farm, so he can grow up with the corn or some such thing.

    My mother, however, is another question. She's lapsed Catholic; back in the day she told me she did not, under any circumstances, want a Requiem Mass. Since she's stopped attending Mass on a regular basis she's not expressed any opinion any way. Since I'm the only practicing Catholic in my family right now, the funeral arrangements will probably fall to me. So, do I abide by a verbal request made by my mother before her current state, or do I do what's best for her soul?
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • >> So, do I abide by a verbal request made by my mother before her current state, or do I do what's best for her soul?

    when you see her again in eternity, which do you think she will thank you for then?
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • JesJes
    Posts: 514
    Exactly this is really hard.
    There isn't much we can really do. This is why we hold requiem's for our friends parents at home regardless of where the funeral is.
  • Jes,

    Whatever you hold at your home..... are you sure it's a requiem?
  • JesJes
    Posts: 514
    Um yes. Sorry, should have probably said "home base" the church. I call that my home. My house certainly ain't a home and I would never hold a funeral there.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 514
    Hehe didn't you know I'd be talking about our Father's house?
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,905
    If someone doesn't want a Catholic funeral, that's the person's right.

    But after that, people can pray and have Mass offered for the departed's eternal happiness, and no one can reasonably expect to forbid that.