|Shouldn't we get back to this kind of solemnity for funerals?|
"In some of our parishes in the diocese priests are being asked to celebrate over 120 funerals each year," Archbishop Kelly wrote.I can see the difficulty, and as a priest I know how much stress celebrating a number of funerals a week can be. One is dealing with people at a very emotional time and situation. The fact that the Church has so many options in the liturgy adds to the stress as people ask for their favourite songs, and eulogies, and other strange things to be inserted into the liturgy. Sometimes they don't like Scripture readings that refer to judgement, etc. etc.
"That does not neatly work out at two or three times a week," he wrote. "Some weeks there can be six or seven."
But to celebrate a funeral is a unique opportunity for the priestly office to be exercised in providing pastoral care for the bereaved but, more importantly to enable the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice for the repose of the souls of those who have died.
I have consulted the archdiocesan website and have counted roughly 310 priests. Now, some of these priests are retired, some will be abroad studying, etc. The news item from CNS News quoted above states the number of priests as 170 (with a projected reduction to 100 by 2015). So I don't know what the situation with the other 140 priests is. I wonder if any of the retired clergy or others from those 140 could be called upon to celebrate funeral Masses.
I also tried to find a list of deacons but couldn't locate it on the diocesan website. Could (and should) they not be called upon in preference to lay people?
We also read:
The move was announced through a brochure, "Planning a Catholic Funeral," published recently by the archdiocese. The brochure described a funeral as the "community's main celebration and prayer for the deceased."I have often wondered about the community aspect of a funeral. What about having a funeral Mass for more than one person? I know this would be a huge cultural shift for many people and perhaps it would be something of an innovation. But I'm not sure what the significance of emphasising the funeral as the "community's main celebration and prayer for the deceased" is about. It is the prayer of Christ and His Sacrifice offered through the ministry of the priest that is of the utmost importance, not the "community's ... celebration and prayer".
One must trust the fact that the Archbishop has consulted his Council of Priests and taken their advice, but I can't help thinking this is a retrograde step and will do little to promote vocations to the priesthood.
What I'll be doing is praying for an increase in vocations to the priesthood for Liverpool so that the beloved departed might have the funeral Mass that the Church foresees as the norm.
I realise now that I am very much behind the curve. See A Reluctant Sinner for his take on it. I am certainly in agreement with him that the main pastoral consideration at a funeral is not the mourners but the deceased. It is for him/her that the rites are being celebrated. The advantage with the more traditional (extraordinary) form of the Church's liturgy is that the participation or otherwise of those present was of no consequence to the effective celebration of the liturgy and the application to the departed of the merits of the Holy Sacrifice. And with a good choir and servers, it had/has a dignity that cannot be matched.
I celebrated the Requiem Mass for a Catholic in a beautiful medieval Anglican church in Kent. Most of the mourners were not Catholic but the local choral society got together to rehearse the chant, and added a few lovely motets, and did a beautiful job. This was probably the first time the Traditional Mass had been celebrated in this church since the reformation. All commented on the beauty of the ceremonies. (And no homily was given, at the request of the widow who was not a Catholic. And the older form anyway does not allow for a homily during the funeral Mass, only the possibility of an address before the final commendation. At first I felt put out at the request for no homily but then realised that there was nothing that needed to be said. The Liturgy spoke for itself!)