do eulogies belong in a catholic mass?

Do eulogies belong in a catholic mass? I posed this question in a recent NCR Today blog post. Ottawa Archbishop Terrance Prendergast has decreed that eulogies will no longer be allowed during the mass in his diocese, though a few words of remembrance may be given before the mass begins. Eulogies, according to this decree, should be limited to wakes, receptions and grave-sites.

The eulogy was an important part of the funeral for my father-in-law. We were blessed to have an understanding and supportive pastor. The eulogy was presented before the mass, according to liturgical guidelines, but it was done in such a way that the personal reflections flowed seamlessly into the Eucharistic celebration.

For some, liturgical rightness is non-negotiable and trumps pastoral considerations. Their argument goes something like this. Eulogies are secular and focus too much on the person. The Mass is sacred so the focus must be only on Jesus. Therefore, eulogizing the person detracts from Jesus and somehow sullies the Divine beauty and purpose of the Mass.

For others (and I’m in this camp), rules and regulations are made to be creatively bent towards pastoral needs and sensitivities. Catholicism is an incarnational faith. We believe that God took on the lowliness of human form so we may be united with God for all eternity. Our sacramentality believes that God works in the earthiness of our lives, making sacred the earthiness of God’s creation. We are flesh and blood, created in God’s image. Our lives were lived within that same flesh and blood and it is these lives that need to be remembered as we pray that our souls will be welcomed into eternal glory. How can our focus NOT be on the loved one we have lost?

The NCR blog post garnered more discussion responses than any other post I’ve written. The discussion, sadly, sometimes degenerated into left and right wing arguments over liturgical correctness. But, I was heartened with the many personal stories shared about the importance of eulogies. For many, as it was for us, the eulogy becomes a moment of love filled memories and healing. When we remember our loved ones, it is a chance to weave their life story into the mystery of salvation that we celebrate in the Eucharist. Being thankful for the past helps us transition into hopes for future eternities.

a more inclusive pulpit

Do you have a pastor who’s a gifted homilist, or do you struggle to stay awake during a weekly ramble? Do you wish for more diverse voices to be heard? Have you ever had the urge to stand up in the middle of a homily and say, “Yes….but…”?

Here’s my latest for the Prairie Messenger, To promote dialogue, preaching should be inclusive

the simple beauty of palm sunday

palm sunday 1

Today is Palm Sunday. With the early Easter this year, we are still in the midst of winter. Each wee hint of spring mocks us. The grocery stores are well stocked with tulips, but we know another snow storm or two are probably around the corner. It´s been a long and brutal winter, and spring yearnings are deeper than usual.

Stepping into church this morning, we were welcomed by the most subtle of smells. The piles of fresh, green palms awaited us. I happily took the frond that was offered to me, and immediately lifted it up to my face, breathing in the greenness with delight.

There is a simplicity and beauty in the symbolism of Palm Sunday. After the sombre purples and bare branches of Lent, the red cloths and green palms are a welcomed burst of colour. Perhaps we appreciate them more because of their simplicity. They gently nudge the senses, without over-powering them.

Simplicity surrounded Our Lord as he made his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. His ride was a donkey. Waving palm branches welcomed him – green fronds plucked from nearby trees, nothing ornate or expensive.

What followed was a journey of accusations, humiliations, denials, torture, agony and death. The Hosanna moment was quickly forgotten, and the crowds turned on him. A crown of thorns and a cross for a throne became the ultimate paradox of glory, of true kingship fulfilled.

Pope leads Palm Sunday Mass, BBC