“Don’t say a eulogy at my funeral. Modern Catholic funerals can look a lot like Protestant variants. At first glance, that might not seem like a problem, but upon scrutiny, the profound disservice that is being done to the dead becomes clear.
Imagine attending a Catholic funeral. The pews are full, attesting to how the deceased had clearly reached a great number of people. Now, why are those people there, at a funeral Mass? They should be there for two primary reasons.
1. To join in solemn acknowledgment of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, which is what provides the pathway for us to enjoy eternal life.
2. To pray for the deceased’s soul.
We should grieve at the knowledge that it rarely happens that way. With increasing frequency, Catholic funerals take a different approach. “Progressive” priests give homilies that tell of the life that the deceased lived, the decedent’s love of various sports teams, and his family. They eulogize and label it a homily. After Communion, members of the man’s family are called to the pulpit to offer eulogies of their own. They postulate about what they believe their loved one is doing in heaven.
When I die, please don’t offer a eulogy at my funeral. It’s not because I’m inherently opposed to being remembered, and certainly not because I don’t want my loved ones to gain comfort from sharing stories that they may have. It’s because that’s not the place for those activities and because doing so undermines the purpose of having a funeral Mass at all. The funeral liturgy is an act of worship, in which the Church gathers to commend the deceased to God’s mercy. It’s not merely an expression of grief.
We pray for the dead in part because we acknowledge that people, no matter how much we love them, might not be in heaven. Thus, we pray for them, sacrifice for them, and offer Masses for them. Proclamations about what our loved one is doing in heaven undermine this. Recalling from the pulpit fond memories about the deceased distracts us from what is most important and from what our obligations are to the dead now.
Perhaps it seems harsh, as though this stipulation takes something from the grieving family members. But there is a helpful way to think of it differently. Imagine that you are in the casket. You are the deceased. How sure are you that you’ll go straight to heaven? Are you pure enough to stand in the presence of God, without hesitation, without shame or regret? Do you want your loved ones to presume that you are in heaven, or should they pray for your soul, so that if you are in purgatory, you might be helped? Only you and God know the tally of your sins; that is the case for each one of us. If it were my funeral Mass, I would want people to be reminded of the need to pray for the souls of those who have passed on—mine especially.
Catholic funerals are increasingly mirroring Protestant services, with differences between them barely discernible. One of those differences between our faiths—one of the chief ones—is our understanding of what happens after death. We pray for the dead because we know that they might be in purgatory.
If we don’t believe that they need this help, why even have a funeral Mass at all? Shouldn’t we merely clink glasses and say a toast to our departed comrade? If there is no liturgical response needed, then yes. We still have the vestiges of a time when we recognized the need, but the laity’s understanding of it is parched, so that even when priests seek to offer a reverent funeral Mass, they risk offending a grieving family that does not understand what should be taking place.
By all means, people can have gatherings in which speakers reminisce about the life of the dead, usually at the vigil (wake) or a funeral reception. This isn’t an attempt to deny family members their rightful grieving process; rather, it is to prevent the departed from being denied what he needs. It is tragic to witness a funeral Mass in which hundreds of people gather and likely none will pray for the departed’s soul, because they didn’t see the need and weren’t told of it.
The decision to remain silent on this topic is to forsake the dead in order to oblige those who might complain. Surely, we have exhausted the simplification of the liturgy to compensate for poor catechesis. It is not without its victims, even if they can no longer speak for themselves.”
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom