Motherwell: Bishop Joseph Toal Seeks to Restore Some Order to Funerals…

Motherwell, Scotland, Apr 3, 2019 / 05:43 pm (CNA).- The funeral Mass is an important moment of prayer and faith after the death of a loved one – but it is not the appropriate time for eulogies, which are better suited for the funeral reception, said Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell, Scotland.
“The funeral liturgy in the Catholic Church brings great consolation and hope to those who have lost a loved one because we proclaim the Resurrection of the Lord and our hope of eternal life,” Toal said in a letter to priests and deacons.

“Its strength is in the faith of the Church and the words of the liturgy that express that faith. We need to accept therefore that it is what the Church offers us that counts most of all, rather than our own words.”

His April 3 letter on the celebration of funeral liturgies aimed to help clergy and lay faithful in arranging funerals.

“Since the liturgy has its own structure and rhythm, especially the Requiem Mass, it should not be interrupted to add in our extras,” he said. The homily during the funeral Mass is “not a time therefore for anyone else to be getting up to talk about the deceased, whoever they may be.”

The bishop suggested “a few words of tribute could be offered” before a funeral Mass or service begins. “These words though should be written down and shown to the celebrant beforehand and should not be prolonged,” he added.

“Often what families want to hear and share can be offered in a more appropriate and less formal manner at the reception afterwards,” Toal continued. “Those closest to the deceased gather for this part of the funeral and it may well be better to share there their happy memories about the deceased in this setting.”

The Motherwell diocese has 66 parishes in Lanarkshire and parts of Glasgow. As of 2015, it served an estimated 162,000 Catholics, the diocese website reports.

“The important point though is the full celebration of the Catholic funeral rites and our intercession that the deceased’s sins may be forgiven and that they will be worthy to share in eternal life with God,” he said. The homily is just one part of the Mass or funeral service, and its role is “reflecting on the Word of God which has been proclaimed and leading into the celebration of the mysteries in which we place our faith.”

The bishop said that Church instruction for funerals clearly state that the priest or deacon who celebrates the funeral should “preach a homily as on other occasions on the Word of God, emphasizing at a funeral the hope of resurrection in Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“The instruction specifically says the homily should not be a eulogy,” he added. “It is a homily therefore spoken by the priest or deacon.”
It is also not appropriate to add a final tribute to the deceased before or during the close of the funeral Mass, known as the Final Commendation.

Bishop Toal said it is fitting for the preacher to integrate some details about the deceased person’s life into the homily “so that it is personal and recognizes the family’s wish to recall their loved one in a sensitive way.” This requires some skill and “an effort to find out something about the deceased from their family.”

“Clearly the homilist is not there to give a blow-by-blow account of the deceased’s life but rather to use some of what he knows in a fitting manner through the course of the homily,” he said, adding “whatever is said about the deceased should be accurate and prepared.”

The bishop said the faithful should keep in mind that not all celebrants have the same ability to integrate the personal and the spiritual. He also offered guidance for family participation in the funeral liturgy.

While families sometimes want to do particular tasks during funerals, “it may be better to leave liturgical tasks to those who do them normally in the parish,” Toal said.

Discussing in particular lectors and those who say the prayers of the faithful, the bishop noted, “It is an ordeal for people to come forward to read if they are not used to doing so, or perhaps are not even regular attenders in church.”

He encouraged family members of the deceased person to look to the priest or deacon for guidance, given their responsibility to decide on these roles.  Source – Catholic News Agency

Bishop Joseph Toal

Comment: 

The Bishops of Ireland tried this a few years back and I was reliably informed then that it failed. Miserably.  The bad habits had become too deeply ingrained to the extent that things, such as poems, secular music and eulogies, which had at first appeared as a “good idea” or “a nice touch”, were now regarded as a right.

Is this the fate which awaits Bishop Toal’s instruction?  And why are ALL the Bishops not clamping down on these liturgical abuses at funerals? Are they using Motherwell as a testing ground, so to speak, and will only act to correct the circuses that pass for funerals these days if the Bishop of Motherwell is obeyed?  

11 responses

  1. This is certainly something to be welcomed, but I can’t see how the priests of the Diocese will obey this. I agree with the editor that things have been so bad for so long that many priests will simply ignore this.

    • Petrus,

      Not only will the majority of priests probably not obey the bishop but that leaves the few who do, likely to be put under pressure by parishioners who will say that Father So & So allows eulogies or poems or whatever, so why can’t they have this, as well. There’s been a complete breakdown in discipline in the Church.

      At least Bishop Toal has made an effort to sort this out, and I hope it makes a difference. I wonder what made him think of it?

      • Laura,

        I wonder that, too. Maybe he’s had some complaints from Catholics with a tad more Catholicity in their souls than appears to be the norm in novus-ordo-land. Let’s hope and pray…

    • That’s unbelievable about the dog! I suppose nothing should surprise me any more but things do!

      I agree about the unbelief – that’s a dead cert. If Catholics actually believed that the soul was before God and being judged, they would be in a more sombre mood and want to pray for the soul, not be concentrating on making it fun for the congregation.

  2. I think it is almost certain that not everyone will listen to Bishop Toal, but some will, both priests and laity, and I applaud the bishop for trying. Part of the issue here is that many laity simply don’t know what is and what is not appropriate at a requiem Mass. The first step towards changing behaviour is always education – explaining to people what is wrong and why. It seems to me that’s what the Bishop is doing here. I hope he is successful.

    • Chris,

      Well, good luck to the Bishop. We’ve been trying to explain to people what is wrong [in the Church, liturgy, schools, morality, you name it) for a very long time now, and why (abandonment of Catholic Tradition) with very little apparent success.

      So, here’s hoping that Bishop Toal succeeds in stamping out these dreadful liturgical abuses at funerals. He has our full support to that end.

      He might then turn his attention to removing his LGBT+/TIE activist priest from Cambuslang, as we’ve been asking for quite a while, and at the same time explaining to our readers (quite a few of whom are from the Diocese of Motherwell) that it is wrong to allow such an activist free rein to run a parish and thus influence an entire congregation/schools etc – and why; because, er, to allow such influence, with the blessing of the Bishop, is contrary not only to canon law, but to the entirety of aforementioned Catholic Tradition…

      I hope Bishop Toal is successful, therefore, on both fronts; stamping out liturgical abuses at funerals and removing, with minimum fuss, but whatever fuss is necessary, the LGBT+/TIE activist priest from Cambuslang.

  3. I agree that it’s a good thing that the bishop is trying to sort this out, and also that part of the issue is that many laity don’t know what is and is not appropriate at a Requiem Mass.

    The question has to be asked – why is that?

    • Well, since they changed the Mass, it’s been a case of “anything goes” – and it’s been changed again and again, so it’s no wonder people think it’s a flexible event and for weddings and funerals they can put their own “stamp” on it. Maybe that is the reason most people don’t know what is/isn’t appropriate at a Requiem (or any other, really) Mass.

      • MM,

        Nail on head. That was a very bad idea to give us a new Mass.

        Like the EU project, it’s turned out to be a failed experiment… big time.

  4. Well, that good news didn’t last long. This week’s SCO has the front page heading and report that the Bishop isn’t “banning” eulogies. When are these bishops going to grow a collective spine?
    http://www.sconews.co.uk/latest-edition/57894/funeral-eulogy-ban-claims-are-misleading-bishop-says/

    I used to find it hard to believe that only one bishop stood up for the faith at the Reformation, John Fisher, now I’m just amazed that there was even one. They really don’t like criticism from the press, a real weakness.

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