On Tributes and Eulogies

My wife says the best EWTN programming is broadcast in the wee hours. She leans to saints and spirituality. She finds a lot of rich material there. Our cable provider doesn’t include EWTN in its package, at least on the level we can afford, so she watches the streaming content online. I think there’s an EWTN feed on local Catholic radio she listens to when in the car.

A facebook friend reported that a few people asked her why she didn’t do a Mother Angelica tribute on her page or blog this week. Ten years ago, I would have been tempted to put up something about her commentary on liberals, liturgy, or bishops or something. My sense today is that such a thing would be fruitless and self-serving. Imprudent too. Like I wrote earlier last week: De mortuis, etc..

As I was reading through a few more tributes on social media, I’ve been struck by the two categories. One group are fans because they admire what she said or did. Another group, a bit smaller, cite that her ministry changed their lives, brought them closer to God, and bore fruit on that front.

We had a huge funeral last Friday in my parish, so I didn’t catch any of the big one in Alabama. As I was reflecting on the parish funeral, I wondered about my own mortality. Would people have bad things to say because they disagreed with me? Would the good things be about my actions? Or about the actions of God in my life? More concretely, would people say they liked singing my music because I composed it or played it? Or would they have found a connection with God through it? Would people appreciate me because I lacked prudence, charity, or courtesy as I poked those ol’ conservatives one more time? Or would they have found more fruit by their experiences with the Scriptures, liturgy, or church teaching here?

Turning back to Mother Angelica and her tributes, which reveal true spiritual fruits? And which reveal mere celebrity?

Speaking more generally, I was thinking about the difference between eulogies and homilies. I don’t know which was given for the funeral of Mother Angelica. Nor do I really want to fact-check it. It strikes me that it’s okay to speak of the deceased at her or his funeral. The best way to do this seems to be how the person brought us closer to God. Maybe a funny story from the person’s life can illustrate it, or set the tone for a real Christ-centered preaching.

I would submit to you readers the idea that if a person’s life is described in that person’s actions–composing music, founding a media empire, or civic goodness–then perhaps we can look a little more deeply. Where is God’s hand in these experiences?

What do you think?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Liturgy, Order of Christian Funerals. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to On Tributes and Eulogies

  1. Liam says:

    Not every funeral Mass involves remarks as such about the deceased. When my mother died a year and a half ago, the family reflected on her life with a parish priest and a lay member of the so-called bereavement committee, and our choice of readings and music very emphatically related to her life and faith for reasons we explained in detail for each choice, but no family members acted as liturgical ministers nor gave remarks. It was a small funeral in a large church – the immediate family, plus 2 cousins plus spouses, and a single handful of friends of the adult children; we were outnumbered by parish staff for whom this was their daily Mass, it seemed. (This kind of happens when people live into their 90s and survive most of their peers.) The pastor who celebrated eventually included some remarks that appeared to draw from what the other priest had gleaned from our earlier conversation – I think he used a perfectly usable stock homily for a frame around such remarks.

  2. Devin says:

    I never watched EWTN. Nothing for or against it. My current housemate told me that he arrived into the church in large part because of EWTN so that will be added to her merit.

    To answer your question, perhaps the best homily vs homily. One focuses more the Gospel and the other more on the deceased. See the homily of Fr. Scalia for his father, one of the best I have heard. Though perhaps it contained a little too much Catholic insider baseball for a national event or the typical parish.

  3. Devin says:

    I never watched EWTN. Nothing for or against it. My current housemate told me that he arrived into the church in large part because of EWTN so that will be added to her merit.

    To answer your question, one focuses more on the Gospel and the other more on the deceased. See the homily of Fr. Scalia for his father, one of the best I have heard. Though perhaps it contained a little too much Catholic insider baseball for a national event or the typical parish.

  4. Jim McCrea says:

    EWTN reminds me of Fulton Sheen, Patrick Peyton’s Rosary Crusade, the Legion of Decency. All things have their time and said time for all mentioned above has come and gone.

    God is good.

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