Saturday, 18 June 2011

Funeral rites?

I recently attended a cremation service conducted by a 'Humanist Celebrant' she was rather spikey both in hairstyle and in manner I thought. Her oblique references to 'personal faith' dripped with distaste and the family had none the less chosen a real hymn. 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' is a litany of thankfulness to God. The Celebrant  pointed out that it meant a great deal to the family of the deceased, as if that excused the distasefull realigous sentiments!

humanist funeral logo

So if they find great meaning in singing 'How Great is God Almighty who has made all things well', why did they choose a service that rejected faith in God? I don't think they did intentionally deny God rather as non church or chapel goers or fumble in the darkness of not knowing they ;opted for a practitioner who would not go on about God ,this is Wales and fire and brimstone Chapel ministers are still very common and one such as that would have been uncomfortable listening for a generation that turned its back on the chapels of their parents and grandparents,which stand derelict or converted into shops and flats in every Welsh comunity. I don't know the bereaved family well enough to have discussed this with them though,but it was noticeable how many of the people who eulogised the departed said things that showed a belief in an after life which is an anathema to Humanists. I presume the undertakers have her number for people with no connection to organised religion.
It was quite obvious from the messages left online that most people are assuming an afterlife and mentioning Angels and looking down from heaven, they imagine what I have seen described as the automatic canonisation of the dead, in other words from sentiment, a pleasant ordinary person beloved by family and friends is expected to be allowed into heaven. We Catholics know this may not be so,for most of us Purgatory will be necessary for us to face God, what comfort the bereaved are missing when as believers they could pray and have masses said for the loved ones.Sure that all believers will one day be united at the Beatific Vision.
The person who gave me a lift was obviously uncomfortable with my faith and embarrassed when I mentioned it,she spouted the polite 'shut up' phrases about 'respecting my right 'and 'hoping I found it comforting' and 'not knowing herself ,if God was real' and so 'not personally believing in my rites and prayers'.I hope I said the right things to help her on a journey to God but without upsetting her on an emotional day she knew the deceased better than I. At our parting I asked her to let the family know if she thought it of any comfort that I and my blogger friends were praying for him and them. I wished I had been able to say and do more but it was what it was.An occasion of laughter applause and tears with blind hope that this was not the end.

I pray they are comforted and I pray for all the souls of the people who died without the comfort of faith.


  1. ...a matter, like so many matters, that challenge us.

    I have found thinking such as this below, to be reorienting: What are we to do with challenges? With no superiority of our own we are to depend on and demonstrate, not explain, our share of our Lord's superiority: goodness. Also, insult is more offensive to goodness than error.

  2. Good post. I fully understand your sentiments on this subject. It is sad to see so many missed opportunities to 'really pray' for forgiveness and for the mercy of God for the deceased at funerals. What a shame!

  3. To the author,

    it was, I think, very good of you to have the gut to witness your faith. In the end, there's no substitute for truth, nor is there any better help we can give.

    It is important that the faithful do not renounce to proceed to a (prudent, and intelligently made) administration of the medicine merely because the patient will find it distasteful on the moment. The gravity of the illness is of more moment than the unpleasantness of the medicine.

    This matter is, I believe, one of the many reasons why the daily recitation of the rosary is so important: through the Fatima Prayer, we are repeatedly reminded every day of our intimate bond and duty of help and solidarity with those in need of our prayers.



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