What happened at funeral mass

Hi all,

My great-grandmother died earlier this week and the funeral mass was on Saturday and I had a few issues with what the priest who was celebrating the mass. First off and i’ve never heard of this before, but he said he had to proof read the eulogy my aunt was going to say, which meant she was not allowed to just “wing it” if she so chose. This also prevented anyone from randomly getting up and saying a few words about her life and memories of her. Every catholic funeral mass i’ve been to people have gotten up and said something off the cuff.

Was the priest within his right to make such a request?

One of my great grandmother’s last requests was for the “Ave Maria” to be sung during some time during the mass. It happened that it was sung at the end, during the procession as she was being taken out to the cemetary. Anyhow, come to find out the priest scolded my cousin who sang the song the he told her that, that song can only be sung during the mass at weddings, certain church holidays, ect. but not during a funeral mass.

Was his chastisement correct?

I was incredibly taken aback at the lack of empathy this guy showed my familiy who are very very active in that particular parish and have been attending for 40+ years. So anyway this is my little rant so thank you in advance for all who respond.

God Bless.

Every catholic funeral mass i’ve been to people have gotten up and said something off the cuff.

You’ve been to Funeral Masses where they said eulogies? The rest I don’t know about, but I do know that eulogies are not normally or traditionally said at Catholic funerals. That one was allowed at all is unusual.

Eulogies should not happen at a Catholic funeral mass. This is not the time to share memories. Many times, a person will get up and canonize the deceased…which insults everybody there because we are there to offer mass for the person’s soul. The priest most certainly was in his right to proof read the eulogy…to make sure that the person wouldn’t be canonized and there wouldn’t be any heresies spoken. Nothing spoken regarding eulogies during a Mass should be done "off the cuff’. Save it for the luncheon after.

The ave maria is really not an appropriate recessional song. Maybe this priest was not charitible, or could have handled the situation better, but the song is essentially done as a performance piece, and there really isn’t a spot for it in a normal mass or funeral mass.

Stonez- My condolences on the loss of your great-grandmother. How blessed you were to have had a great-grandmother!

I’m so sorry there were these difficulties at her funeral Mass. It’s hard enough without such confrontations. Some priests don’t have good pastoral skills and it sounds like this may be one.

It was sung during the funeral Mass I attended this week.
“Eulogies” are common in my parish, at the conclusion of the Mass.
Like so many things it seems that there is variation, depending on the priest.

I get called to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion for funerals in my parish, and I’ve been to a number of them recently. It’s made me think I need to update my “final arrangements” information related to funeral (I did tell the cantor who sang the Ave Maria I want him to sing at my funeral, tho not that music :slight_smile: ). This thread makes me realize that I do need to revise my “final arrangements” information AND run it by our priest. Not something I’d have thought of before this.

  1. He should have just said that reading or presenting a eulogy at a Catholic funeral Mass is not permitted, nor is anyone permitted to randomly get up and say a few words about the person. That should take place at the funeral home the evening before.

  2. I’m not aware of the specific music permitted at specific liturgies. A music director would know this better.

First off, my prayers are with you and your family. I pray that your great-grandmother will find a home in Heaven.

The idea of a eulogy is of much debate. Of course, traditionally, they are not said during Mass. The idea of a eulogy usually does canonize the deceased, but it is allowed by the Order of Christian Funerals right before the final commendation. It isn’t a time to really eulogize, but it should be a time of a brief word from a family member.

As for the sung Ave, it really depends on the if it was the prayer itself or not. There should be no problem with it as a farewell song during the incensation, but as far as being a recessional…maybe not the correct time for it.

So to answer your questions

  1. Yes, he was in his right as the pastor of the parish to do this. It makes perfect sense. Winging it usually leads to a long, drawn out farewell, and is not appropriate for the Liturgy.

  2. Yes and no. The Ave Maria is a devotional prayer of the Church. It is not reserved for weddings or holidays or whatever. It even seems most appropriate for a funeral: “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death.” But if it was a recessional, not the most appropriate time for the Ave to be sung. It seems like the priest could have had a bit more tact, but he was well within his right as the Pastor to do these things.

Again, my prayers are with you and your family.

Pax et bonum,

I don’t think eulogies are supposed to be part of the funeral liturgy, so I think that he was gracious in allowing them at all- even if he insisted on proofreading them.

One of my great grandmother’s last requests was for the “Ave Maria” to be sung during some time during the mass. It happened that it was sung at the end, during the procession as she was being taken out to the cemetary. Anyhow, come to find out the priest scolded my cousin who sang the song the he told her that, that song can only be sung during the mass at weddings, certain church holidays, ect. but not during a funeral mass.

There’s nothing wrong with singing it at a funeral Mass. I am glad, for your sake, that you did it without asking the priest. Now, the priest may have personal preferences about when it should and should not be sung- but had I been in your situation, and had I been told not to sing the Ave Maria at a funeral Mass, I would have been offended.

One thing to remember:

This was not your great-grandmother’s funeral mass.

It’s the CHURCH’S funeral mass, and it’s being celebrated for, applied to, and bestowed upon your great-grandmother.

#1 - Eulogies are actually not appropriate during the mass. At many of the parishes I have been hired to be a musician for funerals they have started to ask people to give the eulogies at the luncheon after the funeral or they have it done before the mass starts. I actually can understand why the priest would ask to proofread the eulogy. Too many times in the past have I listened to really inappropriate eulogies. So, perhaps this priest has also experienced the same thing and just wants to be sure that the eulogy would be appropriate.

#2 - The priest probably could have been gentler in his handling of the situation without scolding your cousin and although he is right that it shouldn’t be done during a recessional, the priests I know who must be very astute in these matters (ie. Directors of Worship for the archdiocese) having an “Ave Maria” sung during another part of the funeral mass is also not inappropriate. Although I know of no place which says an “Ave Maria” is only appropriate during a wedding or certain holidays, I will say that unless it is during a Marian month or a special Feast Day, a Marian hymn of any sort is actually not appropriate as a processional or a recessional no matter what kind of mass it is. I work with some very conservative and orthodox priests. A couple of them, as I have mentioned above, have been the director of worship for our diocese - one of them is currently the DofW, the other now has his parish and is starting the TLM there (just to give you an idea of how conservative they are). They were/are very strict about what is permitted and not. The current one mostly wants antiphons chanted. Choral motets are permitted during offertory and as a second communion piece, etc. That said, an “Ave Maria” no matter what setting of it (a chant, polyphonic piece, solo piece, etc) would be allowed during a funeral mass such as the Offertory, especially if the deceased had a special devotion to Mary, but not during the processional or recessional. This would also be the case for weddings or any mass in general if it is not a Marian month or special feast day.

Hello … I, too, have questions about eulogies at a Catholic Funeral Mass. I was allowed to give a short eulogy for my mother during her Funeral Mass in 1998. However, when my father died in 2004, the priest said absolutely not … the Church does not pemit this as the Mass is not about the life of the person who died but about the Church offering prayers for his new life with God. I can understand this point of view even though I think a eulogy could be acceptable at the beginning or the end of the Mass as long as it was not overdone. But, as a Canadian Catholic, I do not understand why my father could have no eulogy but at the State Funeral Mass of the former Governor General of Canada, several dignitaries arose to eulogize this man during the Mass. And this is not the first time that I have seen famous and prominent Catholics permitted to have eulogies while the rest of us are denied this privilege. Why is this?

I do know that in certain dioceses or parishes within particular dioceses they have in recent years been trying to adhere better to what is appropriate for mass which is probably why your mother could have the eulogy and your father could not.

In regards to allowing it for state dignitaries or people of some status, I don’t have the answer. I personally have always found that unusual as well. To me, it doesn’t matter how famous or honoured you are, if it isn’t appropriate during the mass, you shouldn’t be permitted to have a eulogy during the mass no matter what. Most of those funerals will have a huge luncheon afterwards where they can do all of their eulogizing anyway. I’m hoping that someone who might have a better knowledge of this can answer this.

The church prescribes what is supposed to be sung during the incensing…'a song of farewell"— may the angels lead you into paradise…etc.

Agapewolf is right in this. Any setting of an “Ave Maria” would not be appropriate during the incensing. It would be a song of farewell and it can be in the vernacular or in Latin.

You’ve pretty much gotten the answers to your questions. Just a couple of comments…

The first is that there’s much more flexibility with the Vigil service before the funeral. That would be a good time for eulogies, sharing memories, etc. It would also be a good time for a favorite song (even a non-religious song that wouldn’t fit at Mass).

The second thing is that this shows there’s a real need for people who can work with bereaved families in planning the funeral. Most families haven’t had experience with selecting readings, music, etc. for Mass and need someone who can help them make the choices and be empathetic to the family while also upholding the liturgical guidelines. Not everyone – including your priest, apparently – is good at maintaining that balance.

This is so true. A few times have I had people call me up totally upset over the way a priest or a music director handled the situation of music choices. (This is usually when I have freelanced through the diocese and am contacted separately by the family of the deceased to cantor the funeral.) It would never be properly and kindly explained to them why certain choices would not be appropriate. Once I gently explained the reasons why a piece like “Danny Boy” or something similar was not permitted, they calm down, understand the reasoning and ask for my help in selecting something appropriate. What has usually occurred is that the person who got them upset in the first place would just say it isn’t allowed and that’s that. No reason.

Please keep in mind, dear posters the following:

The problem here is not that some priests do not allow eulogies at funeral Masses

The problem here is that some priests do allow eulogies at funeral Masses

Eulogies are not appropriate at Mass. The Mass is about praying for the soul of the departed person.

There are so many reasons why it’s inappropriate for people to stand up during the Mass and say things that are simply not part of the Mass. A priest is not only within his rights, but it is his solemn responsibility to ensure that what will be happening at any Mass is appropriate. Even if a priest decides to allow someone the opportunity to stand up and say a few words (and this is permitted, within reason, and with limitations), he would be outright negligent in his responsibility as a priest if he fails to somehow or another “screen” or “proofread” (or whatever other words might apply) the material that’s being said.

The Church does say that there is “never to be a eulogy” either at the Mass or at the Vigil Service (order of funerals 27). If the family desires a eulogy, there’s nothing wrong with this, as such, but it must be done outside of the liturgy of the Church. At the funeral home, either before or after the Vigil (or entirely distinct from it) would be the appropriate time.

As many have already said, eulogies do not really belong in a funeral Mass. You could have them at the wake, after the Vigil of the Deceased/Rosary has taken place, but, not necessarily during the Mass. My step-grandfather’s pastor did a eulogy of my step-grandfather and all but canonized him, not realizing that there was a lot of abuse that went on in our family. My dad and I just gritted our teeth. It was really bad. When it came time for my grandma’s funeral, I did not want him to celebrate the Mass and asked my Parochial Vicar to drive up from home, instead.

The Ave Maria is routinely used here in our diocese. In fact, it was used at the funeral Mass for my mother (during the offertory), which is also the time when it is generally sung down here (weddings and funerals). Now when my paternal grandmother died, my PV chanted the Ave Maria while he was incensing the gifts during the funeral Mass. My grandma’s parish cantor and organist were taken off-guard because he used incense (something that does not routinely happen over there, but, with my PV, it’s standard). For the recessional, we used Salve Regina, which my PV also belted out. By the way, the interesting thing about the Salve Regina is that this is the hymn that is used as the recessional when a priest dies. When my former pastor died, the priests chanted it as they loaded his body onto the hearse. Evidently, it was also chanted as the body of Pope John Paul II was carried to his crypt.

FrDavid96 wrote:

“[The priest] would be outright negligent in his responsibility as a priest if he fails to somehow or another “screen” or “proofread” (or whatever other words might apply) the material that’s being said.”

This is very true. An incident occurred at a funeral in my parish. It was after the mass and the priest allowed a man to use the ambo to say a few words about the deceased, which is normal in our parish. The man, however, proceeded to denigrate the Catholic Church’s beliefs, while waving his bible. Needless to say the priest was very much concerned. His quandary was whether to interrupt or say nothing. He choose to say nothing, probably because that would exacerbate the issue. The priest in question was ordained in the Tridentine Rite and to this day has great respect for the liturgy. I mention this to assure you that he is not a priest who takes the liturgy lightly some of the recently ordained priests.

What’s most galling about those political funerals is that they were celebrated by Cardinals or Archbishops – you’d thing they’d know better, wouldn’t you?

The most famous of course is the eulogy given by the son of a former Prime Minister at his dad’s funeral. That annoyed me to no end and it wasn’t the only thing at that funeral that made me cringe. As Bishop Henry wrote afterwards “It was good television. Some would even say good politics. Nevertheless, it was also bad liturgy.” The same would apply to the the recent funeral and its controversy.

I’m afraid, though, that we have done a lousy job of catechizing our parishioners about the proper liturgy for funerals – and weddings. It’s particularly difficult with funerals because at the time the family approaches the Church they are in an agitated state and often they’ve already planned a lot and it’s almost impossible to get them to change anything without generating a lot of animosity.

In our parish, if the family insists on a eulogy it takes place before the reception of the body and placing of the pall.

Eulogies are not allowed, but the rite does allow for Words of Remembrance to be given by a family member or friend. These words are to focus on the faith life of the deceased. Perhaps that is why the priest wanted to review them before the funeral. Many parishes however do not allow them, because they are optional, and they suggest these words be done at the wake service, the cemetary or the dinner following the burial. We allow them at our parish but one priest makes them say it before Mass begins and we never let them use the Ambo. I think it is proabably better to bann these words of remembrance all together since, in most people’s mind, they are for all intents and purposes a eulogy.

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