Funeral Musings

Last Thursday we buried my mother, and the most positive aspect of the afternoon was seeing the entire family together (my mother’s siblings with spouses and some offspring, and my siblings with spouses and most offspring).

Both the funeral and the mass afterwards were led by my mother’s pastor (from the parish she resided in before her move to an old folks’ home and then a nursing home), with my uncle (also a Catholic priest) and two other priests assisting.

In the death notice we had quoted texts which my mother had written down for us, explaining how she viewed her own death:

“When I die and encounter God I will be amazed and full of joy, because dying to me is a going home, it’s reaching my final goal. What a feast that will be!”

and somewhere else,

“That is why you should not view my death as a tragedy but realize that I have reached the goal I have been striving for all my life.”

What was the priest’s answer to that, in his “sermon” at the funeral?

“As far as I am concerned, Irmtraut was always to quick to talk about resurrection.”

OK, I know he was probably trying to say something along the lines of, “Don’t plaster over the normal mourning process with pious platitudes”, but what a thing to say at a Christian funeral! It was almost as if he wanted to contradict what she had believed and we had quoted.

Then there was the mass. The first thing I noticed was the attempt at political correctness which turned “Jesus’ disciples” into “Jesus’ lady friends and men friends” (because in German there are two words for “friend” — one masculine and one feminine, and of course you have to mention both so both feel included). Since that’s rather a mouthful, the men friends get dropped much of the time, so that one ends up with something straight out of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Even the eucharistic prayer, the core of the Roman Catholic liturgy, was altered to be more “inclusive”.

Then, of course, there were the typically Catholic prayers asking God to receive her into His kingdom, and to have mercy on her. This lacks the confidence expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:8,

“Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

– a confidence which my Catholic mother shared, even if her pastor thought she was “too quick” to put her faith in it.

(Before someone takes this to be an anti-Catholic rant let me disabuse you: when my father died twenty years ago, I found the mass celebrated by this guy’s predecessor encouraging and uplifting, and there are a number of other priests whose masses always encourage and inspire me. I feel sorry for the folks of my mother’s old parish who are stuck with this guy who also has a reputation for using inappropriate language from the pulpit.)

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