There seems to be a growing trend amongst families that, when a loved one dies, they don’t have a funeral. Why is this? Is a funeral an old outdated tradition that isn’t necessary anymore? Is it too expensive? Maybe it’s too ostentatious for a humble person who never wanted to be the centre of attention.
I would like to address these questions and explain the importance of a funeral ceremony, for emotional, psychological, religious, and spiritual reasons.
1. We don’t go to church anymore so it would be hypocritical to have a church funeral.
Many families have disconnected from the church, either on purpose, or it just happened. When a death happens then, families rarely think of church. The funeral home is contacted, and then when the decision of some type of service is brought up, the family is at a loss. I cannot say this too many times: It doesn’t matter how distant you have been from the church, you are always welcome.
Now I’m not trying to force you to have a church funeral, merely to get you thinking of what you are going to do when your loved one passes on. I know this is an uncomfortable topic because when we think of funerals, it necessarily means that someone we love has died. Unfortunately, death, no matter how we try, is unavoidable, so why not prepare for the inevitable and #mementomori? In fact, preparing for the inevitable helps us in many ways. A. We appreciate every day with them as if it could be the last. B. We say I love you more often. C. We allow ourselves to prepare someday for a life without them. I’m not talking morbidly, but honestly.
A funeral service then allows us to celebrate the life of our loved one, it allows us to accept that they have died, to say the final farewell, and to commend their soul to God.
2. Funerals are too expensive and too long!
It’s true that funerals are expensive. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into them, and a great effort to not skimp, in order to make them dignified. A typical objection is, why spend money on a dead person. Setting aside the argument that a funeral is an efficacious commendation of their soul to God, it also brings the family together, it allows them to pool collectively their memories of their loved one, and it allows friends and the community to come together, to mourn together, and to comfort and care for one another. I find it hard to put a price on this.
And yes, funerals can be long. To agonize in a hot church for 30mins to an hour is too much for anyone to bear. I mean, surely your loved one has never agonized more than 5 minutes in a boring and uncomfortable situation, for you, ever, right? Funeral prayers are long and important for a good reason. They are incredibly meaningful and powerful, if you take the time to listen.
3. I don’t even want a birthday party, why would I want a death party?
Again, it’s not about you. We celebrate a birthday, not for you, but for us, because we love you. It’s a type of selfishness actually to deny others the opportunity to show their love for you.
4. I want my ashes scattered in a pig pen, because that was my life.
Ok, gross. And I’ll be honest, I may be exaggerating this request a bit. The point I’m trying to make is, even if you have a funeral service, the final resting place is something to be considered. There is a choice between a traditional casket service, and a cremation service with an urn. While the Catholic Church now acknowledges the validity and dignity of both, she still insists on a final resting place, in blessed ground. There are many obstacles we encounter when wanting to scatter ashes: do we have permission? Will we own the land in 100 years or will someone come later and dig up the ashes? If it’s in a body of water, wouldn’t it just get washed away?
A final dignified resting place is necessary for family to gather, weeks, months, and years after the funeral, to pray and to remember. Sure the lake may seem a romantic idea, but why not gather at the cemetery with family to pray, and then make a day trip to your loved ones favourite spot in memory of them.
I hope this has helped you think about some questions that you may not have even knew you had. May God grant you many years and, when your time has come, may he bring peace and comfort to your family as you enter safely into eternal rest.
Fr. Travis Myrheim
It’s that time of year again! School is beginning and you are trying to remember all that you have to register your children for. Is your child in grade 2 or older and hasn’t received First Communion or Confirmation yet? Now is your chance! Classes will begin after harvest. The celebration with the Bishop will be in Carrot River this year, May 2018.
To register call me at the rectory 306-767-2458 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
See you soon!
Fr. Travis Myrheim
Homily September 3, 2017 22nd Sunday of Ordinary time: A labour of love.
Disclaimer: the Liam I refer to is a 18 month old baby, the only child in this particular parish haha.
The source of the life of the Christian is prayer. Prayer connects us to our God, allows us to listen to his voice, and opens our hearts to the needs of our neighbour. Although we all may pray slightly different and our different christian traditions worship a bit different, the necessity of prayer is at least something we can agree on.
In the catholic tradition, however, there is a type of prayer that is unique to us: praying for the dead, and more specifically, the Mass intention. Although it is a millennia old tradition, there is still much confusion over how this “works.” And so I thought I would take a few moments to talk about the practical and spiritual aspects of Mass intentions.
It seems to stand to reason that, when one passes on, there are two eternal destinations: heaven or hell. If they are in hell, they are beyond prayer, and if they are in heaven, they are so totally at peace that they don’t need prayer. So, why?
a. Since no human can judge the eternal destination of another, there is a long standing practice of commending the soul of the deceased to the mercy of God. If we would pray for blessings upon people who are alive and in need of our prayers, how much more so should we pray for those on their journey to eternal life! This is done in many ways: prayers in the presence of the dying, the Sacrament of the sick, viaticum, the funeral Mass, graveside prayers, and finally, the subject of this post, Mass intentions. Even St. Paul prays thus: “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day”(II Timothy 1:18).
b. If we are not in a state of total grace, we pass through a period of purification before entering before the face of our Father. This is the doctrine of purgatory. Most of us have not so totally rejected the love of God that we have merited for ourselves eternity in hell, and most of us neither will pass away in such a state of grace and peace that we will be entirely ready to immediately stand before the radiant face of God (as I write this I pray actually that we will be able to. God grant us a peaceful death!) Many of us therefore, after death, will enter into purgatory on our journey towards heaven. This is a time of cleansing, of the final letting go of our earthly sinfulness, the time when our eyes will truly be opened and we will finally see our lives as Christ can. Just as when we were alive on earth we needed helped and prayers to overcome our sinfulness, so to after death do we need the prayerful support of our brothers and sisters in Christ to enter into our final rest. Though the word purgatory is not found in scripture, there are many instances of the necessity of praying for the dead, and it wouldn’t be insisted on if it wasn’t important! St. Paul refers to God “who is to judge the living and the dead” (II Timothy 4:1). If God continues to judge us, even after our death, it is certain that we need prayers!
2. Ok but what kind of prayers?
a. All prayers work, and are good. Just pray. Always. For everything and everyone. But be specific. Pray for God’s will and mercy, and then pray that your heart may be open to hear his voice, his answer, and then trust. For a further discussion on prayer, many great spiritual books have been written, and sorry that I do not have the time to discuss it here.
b. The Mass is the greatest catholic prayer because:
3. So how does the Mass work?
a. Every time we go to Mass we have the opportunity to do many things: It is a time to be with and pray with fellow Christians, to delve deeper into the mystery of Christ as revealed through the scripture of the day and the sacraments, and – most importantly for the purpose of this article – we can bring with us a prayer intention (or several) for which we offer our sacrifice of time and the sacrifice of the Mass at the altar. This can help us prepare for Mass, focus our attention and prayers, and allow us to be better able to hear God’s voice throughout the Mass.
b. Most priests celebrate or concelebrate Mass every day. Each Mass is offered then for a specific intention either from his own choosing, or given to him by the people. That particular Mass then is offered specially in the name of that intention and it is often, and most properly, announced publicly, in the bulletin and/or by the priest himself. There is immense spiritual efficacy here in much the same way as praying publicly for anyone has, except that, if we reflect back again on the beauty and power of the Mass, it is the greatest prayer intention one can offer.
4. Can I only pray for the deceased at Mass?
No. you can pray for anything. Prayers of thanksgiving, prayers for discernment, for health, blessings, etc. Just please forget not our dearly departed.
5. Can’t I just pray “for everything” and hope that covers it all?
a. Sure. Prayer, all prayer, is good. Again, just pray. But when we pray, it is often good to focus our prayer and pray for specific people and intentions. It shows to God and others that we care specifically and are not just “covering our bases” so to speak.
b. Same with Mass intentions. It is ok to have a Mass offered from time to time “for all the deceased members of the ____ family.” This is beautiful. But again, specific intentions show specific concern and focus our prayer. Is someone on your heart? Have a Mass prayed for them.
6. I asked to have a Mass for ___ but I can’t make it. What do I do?
a. It is nice that when you have requested a Mass, that you are able to be physically in attendance for when it is offered, but it is not necessary. If you can’t make it, it is easier to join yourself to the intention spiritually, than worry about rescheduling the Mass or your life.
b. Some parishes have so many Mass intentions that yours goes on a list. If you are looking for a specific date, eg. the anniversary of the death of a loved one, book early!
7. How come the priest gets paid for Mass when he already gets paid?
Because we’re greedy, money hungry pharisees. Sorry, this has been too long of an article not to throw in a bit of humour.
a. Mass intentions are free. What? Mass intentions are free. No priest gets paid for the sacraments. Diocesan priests receive a salary (a living wage?) and the sacraments fall under their duty of responsibility. However, most dioceses have a suggested donation (here in the Prince Albert diocese it is $10) attached to Mass intentions which yes, go directly to the priest. There is a great distinction here however; you do not buy or purchase a Mass, rather, you offer a monetary sum attached to your spiritual offering as a sacrifice to God in thanksgiving for all he has blessed you with and as a physical sign of your dedication to offering this Mass. (This can open up a whole other discussion of why we donate to our church. It is a spiritual offering! It is not just so that we can pay the power bills! But that is a discussion for another time)
b. If you cannot afford the suggested donation, you can give less, or nothing, and the priest is obligated to accept. On that note, you can also give more 🙂
8. I wanted a Mass prayed during my daughters surgery but it wasn’t scheduled until two weeks later. Does it still work?
This is probably the weirdest question I get, but I suppose it makes sense. With prayer we leave the realm of this world of time and enter that of our timeless Eternal God. In other words, I will say it again, pray. Just pray. Pray always. There is no such thing as a “late” prayer. We can pray for things in the past and in the future because there is no time with God, he just hears our prayers.
9. How do I know when to stop praying for my deceased loved one? How do I know when they are in heaven?
a. Someone once told me that they were glad when so-and-so got a job so that they could “finally start praying for someone else.” This caught me quite a back at first but I am at least impressed with their dedication to intercessory prayer. We need never quit praying for a deceased loved one even if we are absolutely certain that they are at rest and peace in eternity with God. Why? Because praying for them reminds us of our love for them and of their love for us.
b. As catholics, we believe that the saints, those who have entered into the blessed rest, do not cease to care about us who still remain. Just as God cares for us and walks with us, so to do the saints, who daily see the face of God and live forever in his presence. This is why we ask the saints to pray for us to God, because they are closest to the Source of Life, the Fount of Love. When we offer a Mass then in memory of a saint, we allow them to pray to Christ for us.
Last things (pun intended. did you laugh?)
You may or may not have noticed, when you look at the bulletin and see the Mass intentions for the week that one says “For the people.” All pastors – note that not all priests are pastors – are canonically obligated to celebrate one Mass each week, preferably on Sundays, for all the people under his pastoral charge. This is a great and beautiful thing that unites us, but it means one less personal intention on the weekend. And the weekend is when most people want their Masses prayed. Sorry.
I hope you have found this useful! When considering your monthly donations (church, food bank, etc.), consider offering some Masses as well! They make great birthday and Christmas gifts ;-p
Fr. Travis Myrheim
Homily 21st Sunday Ordinary Time year A August 26/27 2017
The question that Jesus asks Peter in the Gospel today is a good question for us to answer as well. Who do you say that Jesus is? Do you call Him a friend, or a brother, or Lord? Do you call Him the Child Jesus and love Christmas most of all? Is he a peacemaker, a healer, a wise man? The answer of course is He is all of the above. But the way we answer that question on a personal level, reveals more about who we are, than who God is. If, for us, Jesus is a peacemaker, then chances are we are people who believe that peace is desperately needed in our lives, our families, and in this world.
Jesus asks Peter this question to reveal to Peter, to all the disciples, and to us, what exactly Peter believes. And what we believe affects how we live! Our beliefs about Christ affect our thoughts, actions, and decisions as we go about our day. Our beliefs mold us into the person that God wants us to be and reveal our purpose and mission in the church and in the world.
After Peter answered the question, Jesus entrusted him with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus gave Peter a mission, to be the leader of the 12 disciples, the first Pope, the leader of the church throughout the world. Peter was not chosen because he answered the question perfectly or because he was perfect, but because his belief showed Jesus that, despite his imperfections, he would do what it takes to lead the church towards God.
Jesus has given each of us keys as well. He has entrusted us with a mission and purpose, great or small, both in the church and in the world.
In prayer, God asks each of us, who do we say that He is? When we learn how to answer, we learn how to listen and to obey His will in our lives. Then, we ask for the courage to accept this mission, to take the keys entrusted to us, and in our own unique way, to bring the love of God into the church, and to everyone we meet throughout our days.
Canadian Martyrs Parish has started a prayer group to pray for the needs of our parishioners and the world. We meet the 4th Thursday of each month, at 7:30, after Mass and adoration. Come and pray with us!
If you cannot make it but you would like an intention prayed for, let us know! Or drop the written prayer in our prayer box after Mass.
God bless and hope to see you there!