Last week, Ottawa archbishop Terrence Prendergast made news for announcing that he would enforce — or at least remind his flock of — the Church’s exclusion of eulogies during funeral Masses, i.e., Masses of Christian Burial, remarking, “We gather not to praise the deceased, but to pray for them.” This has long been a favorite topic of mine and was the subject of a piece I wrote for Catholic Exchange in 2007 shortly after my father died. Archbishop Prendergast has a kindred spirit here in Cincinnati, as St. Cecilia’s Fr. Jamie Weber draws a bright line around eulogies in the parish’s published “Guidelines for Christian Burial“:
The eulogy is not part of the Mass of Christian Burial. Eulogies by family members or friends are encouraged at the viewing and at the cemetery. One Eulogy by a family member or friend is permitted 5 minutes prior to the Mass of Christian Burial at St. Cecilia; no exceptions.
St. Cecilia’s guidelines also remind parishioners that the Church’s teaching on cremation isn’t as permissive as some make it out to be:
Through the centuries, the Church has followed the practice of burial or entombment after the manner of Christ’s own burial. This expresses respect for the human body as a member of Christ and faith in the resurrection of the body. “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching” (canon 1176, § 3).
It is the priest’s responsibility to verify the proper motivation and to determine that those arranging for the funeral have made satisfactory provision for the cremated remains, preferably in a Catholic cemetery. When these required conditions are met, the various elements of the Catholic funeral rite are conducted in the usual way. The body of the deceased should be present for the Funeral Mass. The respect that the Church has for the bodies of the deceased should also be evident in the way cremated remains are treated before burial.
Kudos to Fr. Weber and Archbishop Prendergast for taking strong stands on important topics.