Tag Archives: eulogy

Asked to speak at a funeral?

October 13, 2014

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Her9780879465322Ae’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.


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Are American Catholic funerals ‘off the track’?

November 17, 2011

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Funerals aren’t what they used to be.

That’s the gist of the foreword to a book I’ve just gotten into.

The title is “Great American Catholic Eulogies” (Acta Publications out of Chicago), and it’s just that — a collection of eulogies of folks who are Catholic and whose names many of us will recognize: Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Flannery O’Connor, Joyce Kilmer, Dorothy Day.

There’s 50 in all, and the eulogizers are often just as well known as the person be eulogized: Grantland Rice (on Babe Ruth); Maria Schriver (on Tim Russert), Ronald Reagan (on John F. Kennedy).

I can’t wait to read these, but I was stopped by the following excerpt in the foreword and had to share it with somebody. It’s written by Thomas Lynch, an undertaker. Needless to say he attends a lot of funerals. I wondered how many of us would disagree with him, or like me find themselves nodding in agreement.

Here goes:

“…the ritual wheel that worked the space between the living and the dead still got us where we needed to go. It made room for the good laugh, the good cry, and the power of faith brought to bear on the mystery of mortality….

“For many Americans, however, that wheel has gotten off track or needs to be reinvented. The loosened ties of faith and family, of religious and ethnic identity, have left them ritually adrift, bereft of custom, symbol, metaphor, and meaningful liturgy or language. Many Americans are now spiritual tourists without home places or core beliefs to return to.  Rather than dead Mormons or Muslims, Catholics or Buddhists, we are now dead golfers or gardeners, bikers or bowlers. The bereaved are not so much family and friends or fellow believers as like-minded hobbyists or enthusiasts. And I have become less the funeral director and more the memorial caddy of sorts, getting the dead out of the way and the living assembled for a memorial ‘event’ that is neither sacred nor secular but increasingly absurd — a triumph of accessories over essentials, stuff over substance, theme over theology.

“The genuine dead are downsized or disappeared and we are left with memorial services where the finger food is good, the music transcendent, the talk determinedly ‘life affirming,’ the accouterments all purposefully cheering and inclusive, and where someone can be counted on to declare ‘closure’ just before the merlot runs out.”

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