Thursday, October 16, 2008

Requiescat in Pace

The last couple of weeks have had a common theme in the parish - death.

The parish priest has a policy at funerals that the priest will do a Requiem Mass or Service in a church but graveside commitals and crematorium services are done by laymen. As I am a Seminarian I have first refusal whenever a funeral comes up.

Therefore I had my first graveside commital last week and two crematorium services this week. They all went very well. For the commital the Father lent me his Holy Water sprinkler and at the end of the rite I offered it to the family as I have seen done at numerous funerals. As one of the grandaughters sprinkled the lid came off the sprinkler into the grave. As it was an Irish funeral all the mourners cracked up, unfortunately the priest didn't see the funny side and has banned me from carrying out that practice again.

The crematorium services were very interesting. At the first one I was concentrating so hard on what I was doing I didn't notice the emotion of the mourners, which is normally so noticeable. When I met the family with the parish priest to arrange the service he told them it was my first time and the eldest son found this quite amusing. As they arrived at the crematorium I greeted the family and he turned to all the mourners and announced that it was my first time. At the end of the service he took my hand, thanked me and said, 'Ten out of ten, well done.' That meant a lot to me.

At the second one I was asked to read the eulogies the children of the deceased had prepared (something I don't mind doing at a crematorium service but I would not encourage at a Requiem Mass) and the emotion was very noticeable. I found it hard to keep the tears back as I read their beautiful words and listened to their crying. At the end they didn't shake my hand or thank me and I thought I had done something wrong. When I asked the parish priest he said that happens sometimes, they feel that now the funeral has happened they no longer need to deal with the Church and thus ignore Her ministers.

This evening I am meeting the son and daughter-in-law of a lady I will be cremating next week to arrange the service.

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

1 comment:

PeterHWright said...

I couldn't agree more that the Requiem is no place for eulogies. The Requiem Mass is offered for the soul of the deceased. It should not be confused with, or conflated with, a memorial service where people remember the life of the deceased, their relation to, and memories of, him or her. At least, I don't think so.

When my parents died, I maintained this distinction, as was their wish. Their close relatives, siblings, etc., were dead, and I myself was in no mood for a "get together" of distant relatives whom I hardly knew and who hardly knew my parents. Letters of condolence, and Mass cards for the deceased were more important to me, and I was very grateful to those who sent them.

In any case, I think mourning is a slightly different question. The display of grief is, of course, natural and, properly channelled, is good for the bereaved. But we all have our own ways of coping with bereavement.

I'm glad you see the difference, too.