Long Live the Church

The church giveth:

Catholics are not “Bible only” Christians. We believe the Sacred Scriptures are the inspired record of the acts of God in Christ as lived by his Church. The Scriptures come from the Church and are interpreted by the Church. Therefore it is to the Church’s magisterium that we turn for the final interpretation.

The church taketh away:

Very strictly speaking, your priest was breaking the rules by allowing even one eulogizer, your brother, to speak at your father’s funeral.

The Order of Christian Funerals could not be more clear: “A brief homily based on the readings is always given after the gospel reading at the funeral liturgy and may also be given after the readings at a vigil service; but there is never to be a eulogy.” Note the word “never.”

The Catholic funeral Mass is intended to focus the grieving family’s attention on the resurrection of Jesus and God’s victory over death and to pray for the soul of the deceased. It is not, as funerals so often are these days, a “celebration” of a person’s life, marked by a parade of make-you-laugh, make-you-cry intimate stories. The strictest observance requires such eulogizing to take place outside of church, perhaps at the wake or at the luncheon after the funeral.

Long live a mixed bag.

If only Protestants would hear Rome on funerals (though Protestants used to be silent on them because Protestants didn’t believe in funerals — just a burial service). And if only Roman Catholics would show a little deference to the work of the Holy Spirit in giving (writing and forming the canon) us Scripture. It’s like Yankees’ fans thinking that the Yankees invented baseball (when all they did was spend more money than any other franchise).


47 thoughts on “Long Live the Church

  1. Reminded me of

    The second section of the Heidelberg Catechism continues with ecclesiology, including the sacraments (65–68), baptism (69–74), and the Lord’s Supper (75–82). Here we have the first catechetical expression of a rich Reformed ecclesiology. It affirms the real presence of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the sacraments, while avoiding all the errors of Roman Catholicism, which views the sacraments not as means of grace but, idolatrously, as ends. The Roman Church commits such an error because, historically, it neglected the doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit. Calvin is, as Warfield said, the “theologian of the Holy Spirit,” but Aquinas and the other medievalists were not, jumping over the Spirit in their theologies and proceeding directly from Christology to ecclesiology. When ecclesiology is not based on a proper doctrine of the Holy Spirit, it yields sacerdotalism—a theory of priestly intermediation in which, practically, the church replaces the Holy Spirit. The Heidelberg Catechism, on the other hand, has an ecclesiology that flows from its doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

    Would you like to read more?

    The way my SF Giants are rolling of late, maybe the Giants will be public enemy #1 in 50 years instead of TKNY. You never know, you know.


  2. Darryl, I’ve heard RC funerals can be spooky (I’ve only ever been to one RC wedding, which had some strangeness too, and thus my limited exposure to RCism, well, that and Bryan). But maybe you are right, Machen did after all attend RC church in France or some other when his other options were worse. Long live a mixed bag, yo.


  3. “(because Protestants didn’t believe in funerals — just a burial service)”

    And neither does the Mudster, which stands to reason given that he’s a Protestant. No one’s coming by to see me propped up & looking all spiffy and, if I may say, sans my John Lee Hooker t-shirt. And, whoa, I can’t have my blues friends standing up to tell stories from back in the day with Ms. Gravel and the little Gravels listening. We’re talking matter and anti-matter in the same place, which never goes well or so I’m told.

    Death needs a little more dignity than doing an open-mic night. Heck, why don’t you just do some karaoke while you’re at it? No, read from a script that’s been approved for a longer than I’ve been around and put my closed casket in the ground. Thank you, and someone take the trash out for Ms. Gravel.


  4. They sure talked a lot in “The Wire.” If there’s one thing I can’t stand, is those that go on, and on, and on (especially about themselves)..

    But I’ll give it another try, the devoted fanbase is not accident, I’m sure (thanks to whomever posted that link here at OL before, it’s not your fault I read so many of these darn comboxxes..).


  5. Now that I’m in my seventh decade, I’ve been thinking of how I don’t want a funeral with people eulogizing me. Could you guys with theological training point me to good resources about planning funeral and [?] burial services??

    Any good recommendations for a list of appropriate metric psalms with tunes “singable” a Capella by a congregation?

    I figure this will be the only service about whose order I might have some influence!


  6. We recently buried my wifes grandmother, who passed away due to a stroke just a few months ago. It was a Catholic funeral. My first one. I thought the liturgy was beautiful and really zoomed in on Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and (believe it or not) election. It was nice. The pass the mic schtik is not bad either I guess…. But it comes off a little cheap at times


  7. loser ken, you mean that 1.2 billion number is inflated?

    If you want to argue for an orthodox remnant, by all means, have at it. But then don’t get all huffy about Protestant disunity.

    You can’t have it both ways. The liberals don’t matter and gee golly look how big we are.


  8. DGHART,

    Of course the liberals matter. Dissent always matters. It just has nothing to do with the RC apologetic to reformed protestants. In any case im not interested in beating that dead horse again. I just knew Erik would find the link interesting.


  9. “Of course the liberals matter. Dissent always matters.”

    This is why I can’t get over the idea that most of you Romanists here are just simply disingenuous (Susan is an exception). Hart makes a simple point, and you go and lawyer against it.

    If the liberals matter in a bad way, which you imply but won’t be frank about, then that obviously has some effect on bragging about 1.2 billion Romanists. That’s not even slightly complicated, which points to you being disingenuous. What a waste of time.


  10. “Dissent always matters. It just has nothing to do with the RC apologetic to reformed protestants.”

    If you say anything often enough it becomes true.

    DGH, do you have anything more on the old Protestant burial service practice?


  11. Eulogizing is best at the after-funeral lunch or dinner. That way 1) there can be lots of toasting of the deceased and 2) the eulogizer doesn’t feel compelled to make his eulogy overly pious or serious or respectful, to fit with the funeral service and dead body nearby. People LOVE to tell family stories at these events. It’s more natural and comfortable (and honoring of the dead, I think) over a spaghetti and merlot or French dip sandwich and beer than at a lectern.

    The LAW, the wages of sin in its fullness is right there (a dead body, no matter how gussied up). There’s a certain morbidness and mocking of God’s wrath joking about Uncle Joe’s golf record, or even his lifelong dedication to the Knights of Columbus, while death itself is present. Better to speak of the Resurrection and eternal life found in Christ.

    Think if the wedding toasts/roasts happened right in the middle of the marriage ceremony, instead of at the reception (maybe they do these days….)! ?


  12. Ken and Bryan remind me of a friend…

    He has satellite gray market TV and says it has NEVER let him down

    so i say:

    1) Remember it went out and we missed the whole final round of a Tiger Woods US Open win?
    2) Remember it went out and we missed game 7 of the 1995 World Series?
    3) Remember it went out and we missed game 7 of the Leafs/Islanders playoff series

    each time we had to go to a sports bar.

    and he said “yeah”

    and then he comes back 2 minutes later and says it has never let him down.


  13. Kent, I could have gone to the game where the 2014 g-men won the pennant. I had more important duties at home tho, some things trump sports. But not much.

    Kenneth, thanks always for keeping it real. Don’t neglect your young ones, that’s all I have.



  14. Kenneth,

    Dissent always matters. It just has nothing to do with the RC apologetic to reformed protestants.

    CTC seems to think so, which is why they have a lengthy article “refuting” the tu quoque via Bryan choosing those aspects of RCism that agree with his personal interpretation of the Magisterium and why we see you choosing to follow your own personal interpretation of the Magisterium and arguing that it is the right one.


  15. AB, 20 years ago the Jays/Leafs/Bills were at worst all in the semi finals for their sports

    that was good times for late high school, under and post-grad years


  16. Going to Sharks games is always a treat, especially when your employer owns a box at HP Pavillion and says bring your sig. other. But when I get to take my brood to AT&T park next year and go so the WS trophy, I’ll count my blessings. I kept trying to tell my daughters to enjoy the W.S. as we watched, since it only took a drought of 54 years or so for my guys to claim it all. Building memories and all that. Ciao.


  17. Mud, check out the old directory for worship from the Westminster Divines. I’m pretty sure you’ll find one there. Chances are, you’d also find one in the Book of Common Prayer. If the Anglicans work for marriage, why not death.


  18. I’m hurrying, but this seems to be what the Directory For Public Worship says:

    Concerning Burial of the Dead.

    WHEN any person departeth this life, let the dead body, upon the day of burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for publick burial, and there immediately interred, without any ceremony.

    And because the custom of kneeling down, and praying by or towards the dead corpse, and other such usages, in the place where it lies before it be carried to burial, are superstitious; and for that praying, reading, and singing, both in going to and at the grave, have been grossly abused, are no way beneficial to the dead, and have proved many ways hurtful to the living; therefore let all such things be laid aside.

    Howbeit, we judge it very convenient, that the Christian friends, which accompany the dead body to the place appointed for publick burial, do apply themselves to meditations and conferences suitable to the occasion and that the minister, as upon other occasions, so at this time, if he be present, may put them in remembrance of their duty.

    That this shall not extend to deny any civil respects or deferences at the burial, suitable to the rank and condition of the party deceased, while he was living.


  19. I Corinthians 7: 30 those who mourn as though they did not mourn, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, 31 and those who use this world as though not using it. For the form of this world is passing away.

    Matthew 8: 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”


  20. Back in the day i agreed to go to the funeral of a friend of my roommate

    they did a Buddhist chant thing for at least an hour before it got going

    no better way to spend a Saturday off than getting up at 7 am for someone i didn’t even know…


  21. Roman-style idolatry is the natural religion of mankind. As the fumes of protestant doctrine dissipate to the exosphere in the a-confessional but still deeply-religious rural South death burial customs come more and more to resemble syncretistic South America. Things like roadside shrines at accident sites with crosses and trinkets, motorcycles next to caskets at “Christian” funerals, etc. are increasingly popular. An austere service and burial would probably be considered unloving in the current environment.


  22. Erik, by “free-will” do you mean spontaneous stream of conscious, or they passed the plate around to support the poor sap?

    I once went to a funeral Mass put on by the Augustinians. The liturgy was fine, the music awful, the homily awful, the eulogy by the deceased’s son was pretty good (it was more of a short sermon than a eulogy), but I was shocked at the communion hymn (On Eagle’s Wings).

    Once went to a baptist funeral where the pastor said, “Mrs. S. requested nothing be spoken of her in her funeral sermon, but all about Jesus and his salvation.” The pastor proceeded to do the exact opposite, although I don’t think he realized it.

    I don’t think there is much we can do to control how our funerals go. We’re at the mercy of the officiating pastor and our relatives. I just want a green burial in a pine box into some family land, and 7-8 choice hymns at the service, but who knows? Maybe someone will cremate me, scatter me all over an interstate, and sing “Kumbaya,” “How Great Thou Art” (or whatever the Millennial version will be, if I make it to old age).


  23. Katy, yes you can if you get everything set up properly in advance. That’s what we did in preparation of my 93-year old mother’s funeral (that took place in 2008). As a result, the Lutheran pastor conducted the service with a proper liturgy using hymns she’d requested to be sung (from the Lutheran Hymnal) and preached a short sermon focusing on what Jesus had done for her, not what great things she had done to “receive him” or works accomplished during her life.

    BTW: Regarding CW’s post, while we were dong the pre-planning at the funeral home’s facility, I noticed ceramic urns designed to accept cremated ashes that were shaped like Harley Davison gas tanks. Go figure.


  24. George,
    Thanks for the link. Any ideas of what to do when the ground is frozen solid for months? A wake in Feb and burial service in May? A burial service in Feb followed by actual “planting” in


  25. George, I understand you can preplan, but I have also heard stories about relatives coming out of the woodwork and causing a lot of trouble for the pastor, against the deceased’s own requests, to the point of even refusing a service at the deceased’s church if they don’t get their way, and just doing it at the funeral home. I think it would be easier if I die an old lady, since my children would be familiar with my desires. If Christ calls me while I am still young, I’m sure certain female relatives would put up a fight trying to insert what they think should be in a “proper” funeral, or the songs they associate with funerals.

    I used to care a lot, but it’s out of my hands. My responsibility is toward our parents, if they die before we do, to do what I can to make their funerals not a circus. If my own funeral is a circus, well, I won’t be embarrassed by it, anyway.


  26. Katy, but buried like Calvin, as in unmarked. Or is that only for religious celebrity? But walking regularly through the graveyard and reading the garish tombstones of those who wore their faith on the sleeve even into eternity, one would hope the religious ordinary could so emulate.


  27. Zrim, I like cemeteries, garish headstones and all (even little oval pictures which were popular in the 70s and those modern weird laser etchings) . I grew up in a house across the street from one. I do visit my sister-in-law’s grave with my children, and intend to visit my parents’, when the time comes. We miss our loved ones’ whole selves, body and soul. It’s nice to visit where their bodies are now dust, both to remind us of our own fate, and remind us of our hope in the resurrection. Actually, every time we pass a cemetery I point it out to my children, and say “those who died in Christ and are buried there, will rise with new bodies at the Last Day”


  28. Katy, all good. The garish tombstone I never tire of reading is the Pelagian fellow’s: “Ships don’t come in, they’re built!”


  29. Coincidence?

    Cremation, though, has become more and more popular over the last fifty years. According to the Huffington Post, in 2012, cremation was how 43.5% of all bodies were handled, up 1118.5% from 1958 in which only 3.6% of American bodies were cremated. But this trend intersects with another, the decline in participation with organized religion, and the increase of the spiritual but not religious (SBNR). What do the SBNR do with their bodies after death? It turns out there have been many responses, but most deal with remembering the person while forgetting the body.


  30. I’ve seen a cremation bill of $3800 – not as cheap as you might think. But I wonder if the increased popularity in cremation has brought down the price on traditional burials.

    A connected topic: a reluctance to have tombstones. Cremate, spread the ashes, and you’re done. When families no longer stay in the same area there’s no family graveyard and less incentive to have a graveyard marker. Practically, what’s the point in spending big bucks to bury a little box?


  31. Muddy, thanks for the info. I’m telling the uber-practical and frugal Mrs. Z who, contrary to my stated wishes, insists I be burned beyond all recognition, mainly for that reason, though it always feels like there’s more to it than that.


  32. More proof of the church’s wisdom on funerals (if you’re going to have them):

    Stop me if you’ve heard this before. If not, here’s the all-to-familiar deal: The Church doesn’t like lengthy farewells to the deceased from the family at the funeral Mass. They don’t like farewells from the family at all. Catholic guidelines actually spell this out: Only one person should speak on behalf of the family, and the remembrance should be written out and limited to, in most cases, three minutes in length. Three minutes!

    Unfortunately, the Church prefers a starring role for the priest, even if he does not know the dead person. Too often, he makes little or no effort to find out about him or her. So the priest gives a long, boilerplate homily about Jane or Joe’s hoped-for salvation. The family member, whose words mean much, is relegated to, as I said, three minutes — though I’ve seen them sneak in five, even 10 or more. But here’s a true story: A few years back I went to a funeral in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. During the son’s eulogy for his dead father, the priest actually interrupted and told him to wrap it up. There was another funeral waiting.


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