Catholic Funerals and the True Perspective of Faith | William L. Patenaude | CWR
Liturgical abuses during funeral Masses have the potential to obscure important realities of the Faith.
You’re probably witnessing liturgical abuses when the woman in the pew behind you asks out loud, “What the hell is he doing?”
This happened at a funeral. A visiting celebrant (at a parish that I do not belong to) left the sanctuary before we prayed the Our Father. He repositioned people in the front few pews and lead the prayer while holding the hands of various family members and pall bearers, even though the coffin was in the way. This followed and preceded other changes to the liturgy that brought too much attention to the celebrant, confused the family, frustrated the servers, and had the rest of us wondering what would happen next.
Funeral liturgies should be what they are intended to be: powerful moments of transcendence that point us to questions that only faith in Jesus Christ can answer—questions about death and life, sin and salvation, humanity and God. The faithful, the lapsed, and the uninitiated should experience in ways proper to each the promises and mysteries of revelation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “[t]he death of a member of the community…is an event that should lead beyond the perspectives of this world and should draw the faithful into the true perspective of faith in the risen Christ” (par 1687).
This leading us beyond is a means of catechesis and evangelization. But when funerals become events of liturgical showmanship or poor (if not heretical) catechesis—or when they center on the sentiments of the survivors rather than the salvation of the deceased—the Church cannot teach as she ought. Nor can she evangelize as she must.
A funeral or a Mass of canonization?
Of the Catholic funerals I’ve attended, many have contained one or two (or more) emphatic statements that the deceased (along with all family members that have gone before them) are most certainly with God in heaven. If it were not for the proclamation of Scripture or the prayers of the liturgy one might never hear the words hope or mercy.