Here’s a valuable little booklet to have on hand should you or someone you know be asked to speak about a friend or loved one at a funeral.
“To Say a Few Words: Guidelines for Those offering Words of Remembrance at a Catholic Funeral” won’t take you more than 15-20 minutes to breeze through the 36 pages, and the final third are sample talks, so author Michael A. Cymbala makes his points concisely.
Those points are clear. The first is that your remarks should reflect the sacredness of the Christian message, and anyone who has been present when an inappropriate comment or anecdote has been told at a funeral can attest to what crosses the line. Cymbala gives the example of a young man who, while speaking about his father, “opened a beer can to demonstrate his departed father’s ‘favorite sound.’ ”
A veteran Catholic music director, Cymbala helpfully notes that dioceses and parishes differ about when a remembrance of the deceased may be delivered, so finding out the local rules and the order of the service is important. Even more important is the content of the remembrance and knowing that it isn’t to be a eulogy. There is never to be a eulogy at the funeral Mass, he writes, pointing out that the rubric for the funeral rite allows for someone to speak “in remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation.”
While a eulogy is a tribute or high praise, a remembrance at a Catholic funeral is to “support the celebration’s focus on the Christian message.”
While you want to mention the background, accomplishments, family life and other aspects of the deceased’s life, “try placing these stories within the context of the faith life, generosity, spirituality and good-heartedness of the deceased. Offer thanks and praise to God for blessing the departed with the gift of life an those who know and loved him or her.” He adds: “The moment calls for words that link the person to the good things God provides to all of us.”
The three sample talks offer great ways to work faith and spirituality into a remembrance. You’ll find them touching even though you don’t know those about whom they were written.
And a final point: “The words you fashion and offer will serve to console a hurting world and honor a beloved friend. Those same words may well be remembered and referenced for many days to come.”
“To Say a Few Words: Guidelines for Those offering Words of Remembrance at a Catholic Funeral” is available for $4.95 through the publisher at http://www.actapublications.com.