For a funeral’s first reading during the Easter season, between the Triduum and Pentecost, it would be most appropriate to choose one of the three Revelation readings, or the one from Acts. Other times of the liturgical year, these passages would be proclaimed as the New Testament selection–after the Psalm. Some clergy are less strict about this. Given that votive Masses may be celebrated during the Easter season with Old Testament readings, and some pastors tend to permit a family’s choice in Scriptures, there doesn’t seem to be a hard line about it. I would tend to offer the acts and Revelation readings as first choices. But if a funeral liturgy were pre-planned, or there were otherwise good reasons, I’d be generous with allowing that first text to be from the Hebrew Scriptures.
That said, you have to have guts to proclaim and preach the Last Judgment at a funeral. If there’s any doubt about the deceased, John’s testimony may not be all that comforting:
Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death.) Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
That last verse gives a hopeful conclusion (Rev 21:1), and leads into the passage describing New Heaven and New Earth (Rev 21:1-8). But that’s another post on another day.
The dead here in verse 12 refer to 20:5, “the rest of the dead,” in other words, the non-faithful who have yet to pass muster in the coming Reign. If the deceased is considered to be a strong disciple, this reading wouldn’t really apply, would it?
As for this “pool of fire,” the Witness reports here that death and hell (in personified form) are cast into this pool. What does this mean? It would seem that utter destruction is in store not only for these aspects of the universe, but for human beings whose names were not written in the book of life. This seems contrary to the more common understanding of hell as a place of eternal punishment. Is it true that evil will simply be erased from existence at the end? Including people who have consciously chosen evil?
Fascinating and intriguing material, to be sure. Great discussion to have with theologians over a beer or something. Fitting for a funeral? Tread with care, I would say. What about you?
Up till now I haven’t had anything to say about Sean Harris, that evangelical pastor who favored/favors beating sons who seem effeminate or gay. David Gibson RNS summed up his rant, his retraction, and his mystification.
Even my apology is being judged by those who are supposed to be the most tolerant as insincere. At this point nothing seems sufficient.
I don’t know the man. I can’t judge his apology as sincere or otherwise. There seemed to be some disconnect between his original speech and what he later claimed he would never do or say. So perhaps his critics are pointing to obvious gaps in the truth–in one place or the other. The issue seems to be less one of sincerity and more one of veracity. Pastor Harris regrets the criticism against him: that’s easy to get. I believe that 100%.
As for his original notion that parents exist (in part) to toughen up their children, this strikes me as the Gregg Williams approach to parenting. Except that instead of offering bounties on the players of opposing teams, the program involves cutting the knees out from under one’s own. That’s teamwork for you. Should one imitate the non-Christian attitudes of the secular culture: violence, domination, anger, radical surgery–in order to prepare one’s daughters and sons for what awaits them in the wide world? That’s not the way I would do it.
We have relatives who spank. My wife and I once had two nieces in our charge for a day. One misbehaved–not drastic, but significant. Will your dad spank me, she asked the young miss.
Oh no, you’ll go to timeout.
Timeout? What’s that?
They put you in a corner and don’t talk to you for five minutes.
The girl started crying, really bawling, as if we had just pulled out a horse whip or something.
I think that in some ways, I am a tough parent. The first night she came to live with us, I fixed macaroni and cheese from scratch–no box mixes for my child. Supervised tv-watching only. She had to learn to read to take her turn to read to us. No more sugar cereal. (“Apple Jacks are good, Dad. There’s more apple than sugar in them, right?”) I’m sure this poor little girl must have thought those social workers placed her with the Stepford Parents.
I don’t mind admitting I share with Pastor Harris grave concerns about living a Christian life in the big wide world. We part company on what makes for effective and virtuous parenting. He wants to be a good dad and guide other people to be good parents: I get that. I wouldn’t mind having a conversation based on that.
I just found this site, giving a daily recap of the legal proceedings against Msgr William J. Lynn and Father James Brennan. Warning: this is very difficult reading.
It’s a curious thing to be reading about the Vatican crackdown on Caritas International, presumably for reasons of forging a stronger Catholic identity. (Smells like teen spirit a bit of misogyny to me.) I wonder how much longer before organizations will sever ties with the institutional Church for the same reason: strenthening their Catholic identity. Remember that Kansas City deacon candidate, Jim McConnell?
Catholic identity is most strongly found in one’s fidelity to Christ, and less by one’s institutional loyalties.
There is a fairly ample selection of readings in the Lectionary for Mass for the Dedication of a Church. “One or more relevant passages” are proclaimed. (I, 18) Some might be more appropriate for the laying of a foundation stone than others. Number 19 gives these suggestions:
1 Kings 5:2-18 (watch the variations in numeration between the Hebrew and Vulgate; the actual passage on Solomon’s construction of the Temple starts here.)
Today’s section offers some interesting and practical ideas for the parish. We start with the responsibility of the pastor or parish priests to bring lay catechists to an adult spiritual and religious maturity:
246. Among the ways of forming catechists, those of their own Christian community are all important. It is in this community that catechists test their own vocation and continually nourish their own apostolic awareness. The figure of the priest is fundamental in the task of assuring their progressive maturation as believers and witnesses.*
* “Priests and religious ought to assist the lay faithful in their formation. In this regard the Synod Fathers have invited priests and candidates for Orders “to be prepared carefully so they are ready to foster the vocation and mission of the lay faithful’”. Christifedeles Laici 61.
John Paul II was rather explicit on this point, it would seem.
Four types of formation follow:
247. A Christian community can develop various types of formative activities for their own catechists:
a) One of these is the constant fostering of the ecclesial vocation of catechists by keeping alive in them an awareness of being sent by the Church;
b) It is also important to ensure catechists have a mature faith, through the usual means by which the Christian community educates in the faith its own pastoral workers and its more committed lay members. (Cf. Christifedeles Laici 61) When the faith of catechists is not yet mature it is advisable that they should participate in a catechumenal programme designed for young people and adults. This can be organized by the community itself, or one specifically created for them.
c) Immediate preparation for catechesis, done with a group of catechists, is an excellent means of formation especially when accompanied with an evaluation of all that has been experienced in the sessions of catechesis.
d) Within the community other formative activities can also be realized: courses in awareness of catechesis, for example, at the beginning of the pastoral year; retreats and living in community at the important liturgical times of the year;* dissertations on more pressing and necessary themes; systematic doctrinal formation, for example, studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These are activities of continuing formation, which together with the personal work of the catechist, would appear very useful. (Cf. General Catechetical Directory 110)
* ”Also to be recommended are those parochial initiatives that promote the interior formation of catechists, such as prayer groups, the fraternal life, spiritual sharing and spiritual retreats. These initiatives do not isolate catechists but they help them to grow in their own spirituality and in communion with one another” (Guide for Catechists 22).
The best settings for each of these? Perhaps a faith formation director or DRE might weigh in here.
Regarding b), I knew a colleague who, the year her parish lacked any catechumens for initiation, spent several months rejuvenating her RCIA team with a process designed on the catechumenate stages.
Regarding c), it seems that publishers provide a lot of lesson plan material already, but group preparation of catechetical prep? What do you think?
The importance of both spirituality and community life: like that a lot.
My favorite instruments to play these days. Using the one on the bottom to tune the one on top.
about Todd Flowerday
A Roman Catholic lay person, married (since 1996), with one adopted child (since 2001). I serve in worship and spiritual life in a midwestern university parish.
Neil has been a blogging collaborator for the past several years on Catholic Sensibility. He brings his unique experiences from theology, spirituality, and the ecumenical sphere. Pay special attention to each one of his posts.