Recently, a family member trying to plan a funeral called to tell me the recently deceased wanted a simple funeral. So they thought that meant no Mass. Maybe just a song or two and a few readings from Scripture. I agreed to the wishes of the deceased and the understanding of the family. Soon afterwards, I got another call; the family now confused and thinking about it saying, “Surely we have to have a funeral Mass. We can’t just not have a Mass.” I agreed and verified the time.
It made me think of how often this issue comes up with people nowadays. People die, and they want something simple and that is somehow interpreted as not a Mass. Did it just mean a graveside service or some sort of vigil at the funeral home? Those have their place. But it begs us to look and see how funerals have been taken over and made into something great and grand and full of pressure and aggravation and frustration in a time of intimate sadness and Christian promise. Far too often in the past and recently, we see funerals that are all about the show. There has to be so many people there and there has to be so many flowers of exorbitant types and songs that make you feel good. The songs that don’t really point towards the dying of our loved ones and the promise of Christ, but to some meaningful moment to the deceased or their relatives. It really tends to make funerals ostentatious and superfluous. No wonder we hear something like, I want a simple funeral or I don’t want all that. We tend, as spiritual people, to see through all that temporal fluff and within ourselves see, whether we may or may not be able to say it, I do not want that but simply need your prayers.
The Church, on the other hand, has always held funerals as a very humble and simple exercise of fraternal charity towards our deceased brothers and sisters. Simple chants and meaningful Scriptures which remind us of our own mortality as we pray for our beloved dead. Nothing extravagant and nothing that gives us a false witness. The fraternal act of burying someone or praying for the repose of the soul is very simple in the eyes of the Church. Aside from the normal white vestments, the color of vestments may instead be purple or black to remind us of mourning and promise. Their presence among us has changed, and their souls have gone on. It’s now the time for humble prayer for those that we love, and even and especially those who’ve caused us suffering. To be prayed for and ask for blessings on them and those who mourn. A funeral done right is simple. It isn’t a burden to those left behind but a boon of support to the living and for the now earthly dead. For our souls are eternally alive.
Fr. Scott and Fr. Mark plan to trade months in offering a weekly reflection or catechesis in our future bulletins. Be sure to check out what they have to share!