Eulogy at funeral Mass

A few weeks ago a prominent political figure here in NY lost his wife and the media were allowed at the funeral Mass. He gave a eulogy from the pulpit – is this licit?
I know that pastors sometimes sneak a quasi-eulogy in under the guise of a sermon but I thought even that was forbidden. I double- checked, it was a Catholic church.

In my dioceses, they’ve prohibited eulogies by lay people, because it was getting out of hand. People were giving 20minute Eulogies and other off the wall things. The Bishop finally put his foot down and stopped it. Thank God!


In my diocese, they issued a guideline that specifically stated there would be no long, drawn-out eulogies; that the center of any Mass is Christ sacrificed, not the deceased; and any “remarks” were two-three minutes tops AFTER Holy Communion. The guideline also expressly forbid secular music, including but not limited to"Danny Boy" and “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the funeral (If the funeralees are walking the body down to the cemetery, what they sing onthe way there does not matter).

As to where the remarks are made after Holy Communion, the ambo is generally the only place with a mic.

We allow one person to speak BEFORE the funeral starts.

As far as the priest doing a eulogy, that’s forbidden by Order of Christian Funerals General Introduction
#27 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.

Wow! That has not happened here yet, but can see the need of it. I attend 5 - 6 funerals per month with my work in the parish. Every time there is a eulogy, I can see the discomfort on Father’s face. Recently we had the son of a woman give her eulogy and what came out of his mouth was astonishing. He was talking about how religious his mother was (and she probably was) - but in doing so, he made it very clear that he had not followed in her footsteps in that regard.

In his eulogy, he tried to compare the Catholic Church today and what it was like when his mother was young. He actually told everyone that “in those days” when the host fell onto the floor at Communion, it was a big deal. He went on to say that if that happens today, it is no big deal. You just move it over to the side with your foot and the vacuum cleaner will get it later.

I will never forget the look on Father’s face! They, indeed, can be dangerous and frightening.


In my Diocese, any eulogy is limited to the wake service/rosary the night before the funeral. The family and friends are given a wide latitude in music, support, and any remarks, poems or other tributes to the decedent. I think the wake is the proper time for such paying of respect and clears the funeral mass for a strict adherence to the rubrics and the great celebration and message that is the Rite of Christian Burial.

That’s what we try to do in our parish too but it’s amazing how many people don’t understand. They have little experience with a vigil service – that liturgy is a recent introduction here and some want nothing to do with it. There’s this whole attitude of 'but that won’t give the people who come to the funeral the opportunity to hear what a wonderful woman Mom was."

Not to get off topic here, but the rosary is a part of our wake service in “most” cases and is totally a family decision. I am an officer of our local council of the Knights of Columbus and we offer a scriptural rosary lead by officers for all deceased Knights at the family’s discretion. It has been very well received as a part of the wake service. I am very comfortable with the idea that if the family wishes, a eulogy is very cathartic and is appropriate during the wake, not the funeral mass.

Our Knights do that too. I agree that it’s appropriate at the vigil and we stress that but most don’t want the mourners who attend the funeral to miss out on hearing the lauding of the loved one. It’s a hard fight and without a diocesan policy Fr. caves every time. FWIW, new policies should be developed during the coming year so maybe well see something on this. It’s certainly the policy of the Archdiocese which we’ve just joined.

I guess my main point is that the wake should be a very flexible and varying service reflecting the family/friends wishes as well as the decedent. Put that together with the Mass of Christian Burial which is more restrictive as it reflects the universal church, and I think we Catholics have a beautiful and fitting sendoff for our loved ones not equaled in other traditions.

Our guidelines are that eulogies are to be given at the wake or at a get-to-gether after the funeral. The priest normally tries to incorporate something about the deceased into the homily.

But for pastoral reasons brief eulogies are commonly allowed in the case of large funerals where it is unlikely most people will attend anything other than the funeral itself. Eulogies are also typical if the press is likely to be present. (Those tend to be big funerals with large numbers of non-Catholics present. They are usually because a public figure died or because someone died as a result of a newsmaking accident or crime.)

If ever there is a time when the rubrics should be followed to a T it’s when it’s a big public Catholic funeral with the press present!! For Canadian Catholics the funeral of Pierre Trudeau was a terrible example of a Catholic funeral. It was good theatre but it was BAAAD liturgy. A funeral celebrated by a Cardinal featuring 3 eulogies, a flag draped coffin, and IIRC at least one reader went up with a crumpled page from which to do the reading. I cringed.

No national flags on caskets in this diocese, the diocese next door, or the Archdiocese. If the deceased is entitled to rendered honors via military or civil service, the flag comes off at the door, in the vesitbule. Once in the door but in the back of the nave, the casket is blessed and the pall is placed on it (Lots of incense, too). It usually doesn’t matter whether the deceased is the Mayor of Chicago, President of the County Board, or a military member killed in action. When Mass is over, the pall comes off and the flag goes back.

Sounds like you must have seen Harry Caray’s funeral :stuck_out_tongue:

in this diocese it is allowed only at the wake, and only after the priest or deacon have done the formal part of the service. no one speaks at the funeral liturgy except the priest or deacon, although the family is allowed to make a short announcement about reception after the burial, thank yous etc.

Actually, when you think about it, wedding Masses are much the same. A funeral homily or marriage vows are sort of “tossed in” with the Mass…the Mass being the centerpiece of the celebration, as opposed to the wedding or funeral.

Not saying I like it or don’t…just an observation.

Similarly with individual priests…some priests say very reverent and devout Masses, while their homilies stink…other priests treat Mass like a neccessary nuiscance, that gives them the opportunity to give a rock-em, sock-em sermon…

I wish I could say that for our local KC councils down here. Once in a while, they will do it, but, for some it’s more for show. My dad is a member of the Fourth Degree. He is the founding Faithful Navigator of my city’s second assembly. He has instructed his guys on proper procedure during the Vigil of the Deceased and during the funeral Mass (especially when they are in full regalia). When my mother died (prior to my dad’s establishing the second fourth degree), the members came wearing their social baldric (sash, for non-KC folks). It was because my mother was pretty much a one-woman auxiliary and did everything to help them (even straightening out the books).

But, I digress from the OP. I didn’t have a “eulogy” for my own mother’s funeral Mass. I was still in too much shock (even though with cancer, I knew that it would be inevitable and rather soon). However, I did say a 90-second one when my grandma died (on behalf of the family) and I talked about the fact that the most important legacy she left me and my dad (can’t speak for his half-sister or my cousins on that one) was her Catholic faith and her devotion.

My step-grandfather preceded my grandma by about two months. At his Mass, the priest (both funerals were in South Austin), the pastor spent 75% talking about my step-grandfather. The pastor didn’t know him as well as we did and he all but canonized him. The homily is supposed to focus on the readings and on the liturgy. It’s not a canonization of the deceased.

When my grandma died, a very dear priest friend of mine drove up to Austin for the funeral. It was a huge 180-degree difference. Along with the fact that the music was much improved (no Eagles’ Wings and other SJL–we had Attende Domine, Salve Regina and chant while my friend was incensing), the homily was beautiful and focused on the readings and the liturgy. After the Mass, the organist and the cantor told me that it was one of the most beautiful lituriges they had ever witnessed. Now, my friend knew my grandma and had visited her at the nursing home once when he was passing through Central Texas. I had also told him a lot about her. He did mention her, in passing, but, kept the focus on the Gospel.

Writing a eulogy at a time when you’re probably already grieving might feel like more than you can handle. But if you can take a deep breath and put your apprehensions aside, you’ll find that it can be a profound and satisfying experience – allowing you to help others celebrate your loved one’s life and work through your own grief at the same time.

Here’s how:

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