20 August 2010

Lord, I am not worthy

If happens often enough at funerals in every parish; it may be more noticeable at one funeral or another or in one parish or another, but still it happens, this great tragedy.

The first hint of it comes as the family and friends of the deceased move into the pews and take their seats, as though some show were about to begin.

The second hint comes when a simple motion for the congregation goes unheeded, necessitating a distracting and interruptive verbal instruction.

The third hint comes when the congregation makes no response to the opening prayer, or to the readings.

I celebrated such a funeral for a man yesterday - may he rest in preace - and my heart was deeply pained as I wondered how many sacriligous Communions would be made at that funeral by those who call themselves Catholic but who seemingly have not darkened the doors of a church in many years nor made a sacramental confession.

Simply consider how very often this happens in our parishes! Both at funerals and at weddings, and perhaps even First Communions and Confirmations and graduations. We should all be moved to tears at such a deplorable situation. Where is the fear of God? Where the love of the Eucharistic Lord?

The responses do not change, nor do the postures. Catholics who regularly attend the Holy Mass and who enter into it's prayer should not be dumbfounded at funerals or weddings.

I cannot help now but wonder if when next I meet with a family prior to a funeral if I should not bluntly - and humbly - ask when the last time was that the family went to Mass. This would give me the opportunity to encourage them - and to ask them to encourage others among their family and friends - to make a sacramental confession prior to the funeral that they might worthily receive the Eucharist and not eat and drink condemnation upon themselves (cf. I Corinthians 11:27-32).


  1. I have often wondered how these masses must burden the heart of a priest who must face them time and time again. I think your thoughts about what to do before a funeral are so good. Chances are you won't see them again anyway...and if you do, it's likely because of something you said. If just one soul can be prevented from approaching the altar in such a fashion, it is worth the risk of offending the other.

    I attend funeral masses with my children when my son serves them. It is a wonderful way to have them participate in an act of mercy...but lately we have also taken to praying in reparation for sacrilegious communions received at those masses. Even the littler children notice that no one seems to know what they're doing. No one is praying. Father always gently reminds non-practicing people to stay seated or come up for a blessing only. But people don't want to appear different....especially when they know Aunt Lucille will surely notice and tell mom.

    God bless your efforts and your vocation, Father! We are praying for you.

  2. I was at such a funeral a few years ago where the deceased was Catholic, but neither of the children had been a practicing Catholic in many decades. The priest, who perhaps had some sense of this by the lack of responses, invited those who were not in a state of grace to cross their arms over their chest and receive a blessing at communion. I know that is a whole 'nother discussion, but I know my friend (the daughter of the deceased) was very touched by this.

    At another funeral (same parish, same priest) no instructions were given. The deceased was a teenager and there were teens as pall bearers. Sitting on the front row, some of them received with no clue as to what was going on. They were not Catholic, so they couldn't have been expected to know.

    I witnessed an unintentional "First Communion" at a Cub Scout Mass, by a Cub on the first row, who was just following what he saw others do. A little instruction would have probably prevented this, but all involved assumed that all were Catholic, I suppose.

    I say that there's no harm in asking and providing options on what the family might do at Communion. I think many receive, because they think that it is "expected".