Friday, March 28, 2014
My eyebrows went up when I saw the February decree by the Archbishop of the Ottawa diocese which prohibits eulogies at funerals. The RC ecclesiastical leaders can just make those decisions in ways we Protestants can't. No more eulogies because I said so. Actually, there is a rationale for this decision. Archbishop Prendergast told the faithful that eulogies are not part of the Roman Catholic liturgy which is designed to pray for the deceased rather than praise them.
This seems draconian to me, and yet...if you speak with a lot of clergy and funeral directors they will express a degree of dismay at the recent trend toward more and lengthier tributes at funerals and memorials. If one is good, four is better, seems to be the rationale. I can't tell you how many times family have assured me that the speakers will be brief, only to have them commandeer half an hour to forty minutes of what is still a worship service. God and faith are certainly not mentioned in the majority of cases and increasingly individuals feel free to make inappropriate comments about the deceased, thinking that what they are saying is humorous. The worst for me if the "open mike" concept where anyone can speak without preparation or forethought.
I should say that I have listened to many tributes and eulogies which have touched me deeply, and the folk who have taken on that role have offered reflections which were absolutely the right words in the midst of loss. Because of this experience I would never want to prohibit speakers. I just believe in moderation in all things, not to mention a sense of the occasion.
I know I have written on this subject before, but it is this recent decree which got me thinking about the subject again. Should clergy as worship leaders at funerals have the right to restrict the number of eulogists? How do we establish guidelines in an increasingly secular society? Should more families have the courage to "go commando" without involving clergy?