"Funerals with a Custom Fit..."

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 11, 2004

That headline isn't mine; it comes right off today's story in the New York Times.

We're talking about these new-fangled, silly funerals-- er, "celebrations of life"-- replete with posters and videos of the deceased, where people get themselves cremated and their ashes are put into a ring for the widow (when she re-marries, I bet she pitches it), and where the festivities conclude with the releasing of doves and balloons. We read that Father Wasielewski of Phoenix opposes all this. Good, right? Ah, but here's Father's view of how to conduct such an event.

That does not mean a funeral mass has to be grim. In churches that allow it, Father Wasielewski, the industry critic, drapes the pews with balloons and crepe paper. "I try to leave grief out of the funeral," he sqid. "St. Paul says, "'Do not grieve unless you have no hope."
(Doesn't St. Paul say something more like, "We do not grieve as those who have no hope"?)
At the service, he said, he tells relatives and friends of the dead: 'How many of you think George here went to hell?' No hands go up. 'Went to Heaven?' All hands go up. "So, let's have celebration. We don't want anyone grieving."

And then, comes this priceless line:

If anyone's going to grieve, we'd like them to leave right now."

Does this priest need a new line of work, or what?

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2004 5:40 AM ET USA

    I just finished leading a homiletics seminar for some of the deacons in this diocese. We spent some time talking about wakes, which we frequently conduct for parishioners. And, yes, the sample homilies I heard sounded like canonizations, probably because we don't want to talk about issues like purification and being "incomplete works." I suggested that the other guys use C.S. Lewis's line "if you don't mind, sir, I'd like to get cleaned up first."

  • Posted by: - Feb. 11, 2004 4:35 PM ET USA

    For those who have the means, a bequest of a large sum to fund a traditional choir to render a deeply moving Requiem Mass upon death would do more to evangelize the culture than any homily that could be read. In this day and age it is an act of charity, not frivolity, to do so.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 11, 2004 4:04 PM ET USA

    What is most sad is that this is just the extreme of what most Catholic funerals have become. Too often funeral masses have become canonization ceremonies. Outweighting the right of the surviving loved ones to grieve and mourn is the right of the deceased to receive prayers that they be freed from their likely state of purgation. In addition, these evangelizing moments, when non-church-goers are in the pews, are too often squandered.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 11, 2004 12:29 PM ET USA

    What, no perfect bridge hands carefully placed on the coffin? I saw this at a funeral a few years ago in a diocese of notorious reputation. For those who don't get the reference, the deceased was an avid bridge player and the perfect hand meant he went straight to heaven. Oh, and no crucifix. Of course. Life and death is a party, eh?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 11, 2004 11:56 AM ET USA

    "During the mid-1990s the recognized churches, particularly the Church of England, moved from the theology of sin and redemption to a less uncompromising doctrine; corporate social responsibility coupled with a sentimental humanism." The quote is from a book by P.D. James "The Children of Men" in which humans have lost the ability to reproduce. The frightening thing about denying sin is that if a person can admit his sin, he also can't clean up the mess. What is left is hopelessness and denial.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 11, 2004 10:45 AM ET USA

    With regard to the balloons and crepe paper. Is it safe to assume that this priest is a clown? Maybe the church could hire him out to decorate for parties and then earnings could be used to defray the cost of all the sexual abuse court settlements. It could promote healing.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 11, 2004 9:32 AM ET USA

    Tom Wolfe is a great writer, but Evelyn Waugh nailed this lunacy spot on in his wonderful book The Loved One. All that's missing is the pets being buried next to their masters and the wonderfully loopy funeral notice going out to family members. Uttering the word "requiem mass" at a Catholic parish has about the same effect as yelling "spanish inquisition" at a Wiccan gathering.