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?


Judy Mcknight said...

I think if the deceased was not a member or adherent of a faith group of any sort, the secular .... or "commando" ... version of a "farewell' is entirely appropriate. If words of, and commitment to, a faith stance were never part of the person's life, they would be out of place at a memorial or funeral service. Being Protestant, I have always felt that the funeral/memorial is for the living, those left behind, and whatever brings them comfort and closure is appropriate - I would hate to be part of any ceremony, however, that showed a flippant disrespect for the deceased (after all, he/she cannot speak up any more to defend him/herself!)

Laura said...

I agree with Judy..."commando" seems appropriate if they chose to live their life without organized religion. Seems today though, so many live on the edge of religious life,looking in, still believeing but not participating until momentous occassions in their lives...dying being one of those...and then often the family members are even one step further away from religious tradition so what is appropriate for a funeral just isn't in their realm of awareness.

I agree there can be too many eulogies but I would hate to see them banned. Having attended funerals in churches where eulogies dont happen, I leave missing them...but not as much as I miss the comfort of scripture and liturgy,prayer and words of committal whem I attend a "funeral" that is all eulogies.

Judy Mcknight said...

I think loved ones need the opportunity to express their feelings (hopefully their finest ones) when a person close to them dies - but, yes, there is a limit.

David Mundy said...

Two thoughtful, loving tributes by family members during last Friday's funeral. That was the way it should and can be.