The problem of “instant canonizations” at Catholic funerals

Laura’s funeral Mass was beautiful—that is, up until the homily. It was then that things took a turn for the weird. After speaking a few words about God’s love, the priest slowly stepped away from the lectern, spread his arms wide, and said, “We are gathered here to celebrate the life of Laura.”

As a former Evangelical Christian, I was used to hearing the “let’s celebrate the life of so-and-so” openings at funerals. It was what happened next that immediately snapped me to attention.

Instead of remaining near the lectern, Father stepped down into the aisle, walked over to the front pew, leaned into the bereaving parents, and (with his microphone on) began to tell them in soft tones that this is not a time to be sad, but instead to rejoice that Laura is now free from suffering and is enjoying her new life in heaven. He then rose from his half-bent position and spoke directly to the assembly using a Pentecostal-preacher-style voice, saying, “Yes, she is in heaven looking down on all of us gathered here.”

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Thanks to Deacon Greg Kandra for the tip



  1. Its a very peculiar article? From this side of the pond, I cannot see anything in particular wrong with the actions of the priest.
    We have such homilies in Europe for decades and here it is never about denying Purgatory or the validity of praying for Souls of the dead.

    Firstly, a funeral is as much about the mourner as the mourned. It is about Closure on a life. It is a social event and draws inspiration from many sources, and these are not just religious ones. In the Catholic Church we recognise for example the psychological healing of a public recognition of a life and if it has been a public good/well lived life then it is worth rejoicing in.
    So a priest must deal with the family/friends etc and offer his tribute to and about the deceased person in public.
    The idea of Purgatory does not imply the modern horror of something that is inflicted upon souls after death. Purgatory is a final cleaning of anything that God might perceive holds a soul away from his welcome of divine love. It does in no way mean that we have failed to live a holy life nor does it mean that we are only just allowed to get in Heaven as if we would be some kind of second class redeemed person. It is about our eternal ability to be beside Our Lord in his Glory in Heaven.
    So Purgatory does exist and it may involve some suffering but the Holy Souls therein are Saved and essentially at Peace. They are able to Pray for us. They do help us and they are able to assist us in ways we may or may not perceive.
    We Help them by our Prayers and acts of Charity or sacrifice. We can be united by Gods Justice to these holy souls and may quicken their passage through their grey prison by such.
    The mass is always about the Sacrifice of Christ and The Eucharist is about the Love of Christ for sinners because he gives himself again to us therein. It does not imply however that he whom is Almighty is remote or unfeeling or Strong but tyrannical. Rather if we understand anything about the Mass it should be that God is gentle and Loving of his children. We do not know what happened to the soul of the deceased, damned, passed to purgatory or risen with the saviour at once into Paradise, but we should know what he expects of us. To this end the kind words of the priest were probably comforting and generous to the point of folly but I suspect that they made Our Lord smile.

    So the Priest in the article may have technically been over zealous in his kind words to the family of the deceased. But quite frankly as a shepherd he did not deny Purgatory but offered kind words to a broken and bewildered family in high emotional state at the loss of a loved one. The critique (from the new catholic author) that he was forgetful of Church Teaching and thus even cruel is not attractive or noted in humility.
    One hopes that the author will soon understand that: any Good Catholic writing for a media press etc the most important thing is always CHARITY. This over rides absolutely everything else including faith or doctrinal pursuit of the truth. One is writing this to highlight what seems therefore a rather unsatisfactory article because it appears to be almost Phariseen in crudity. The word of Law is about technical and theological debate and has its place in the Church. But a funeral and the conduct of a cleric should be about the Spirit of the Law and this must be loving, mild and charitable. Kindness and humility please Our God more than anything else and draw down his mercy upon the giver and the receiver.

    • Jesus Christ is the only judge of souls. Anything to the contrary is sinful presumption, heresy and scandal.


  2. The worst thing about the Novus Ordorequiem mass is the absence of the Dies Irae sequence. It says all that needs to be said about death and the afterlife, at the very occasion wherein these things need to be said to all attending.

    Alas, it has been displaced by the kind or nonsense reported in linked anecdote. Spiritually toxic nonsense, I might add.

  3. I hope that if you have a dear one die every comfort is given to help you.
    I agree with you Doug that Jesus Christ is the only Judge of souls eternal salvation or otherwise but our frail humanity requires more than spiritual dimension at times of great stress? It does not revoke the notion of Sovereignty in Christ rather it shows that he is first and foremost (and even more than Justice Demands) a God of Mercy. Hence the Heart of the Law and the Heart of Jesus.
    Thank you Mark, I am uncertain what is Toxic Nonsense but I expect you may know more about that kind of thing eh?

    • “…Sovereignty in Christ rather it shows that he is first and foremost (and even more than Justice Demands) a God of Mercy…”

      God is infinitely just and infinitely merciful. There is no “first and foremost,” except via wishful thinking.

      • Mark, You are correct that God is perfectly Just and perfectly Merciful. I was however pointing to the wider notion of how we see God? In Islam for example he is primarily Just and in Judaism he is a God of People in time, an I am God. To Christians he has been almighty but in a fatherly sense, or Abba which we note is more like Dad or Daddy! The Church view of God has developed down the ages and with the Sacred heart and the Divine Mercy Jesus presents himself foremost as a Deity of great Mercy that desires our salvation even before his Justice. It does not mean that we escape justice it simply means that he shows us mercy and forgives and forgets our sins rather than deal with us according to them or what we truly deserve.
        I therefore am correct in the notion that whilst God is Just (the final attribute of Goodness means he must be Just as this is the one virtue that goodness must have always) he desires poor sinners to come to him because he is merciful and this is the very Heart of Divinity. So yes whilst he is perfectly just and perfectly merciful we hope to receive his mercy First and before his Justice must act.

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