Saturday, August 29, 2009

What ???

OK, we knew that pastoral sensitivity for the grieving and mourning family precluded any stern admonitions of the late Senator Ted Kennedy's inexcusable pro-abortion stance at his funeral. Yet, we did not expect nor deserve the bizarre liturgical aberrations witnessed at the funeral liturgy, either.

The symbols, gestures and prayers of the Catholic funeral rite speak for themselves and do not need extraneous diatribe. The Roman Ritual (Ordinary or Extraordinary) has a very brief prayer before the casket is sprinkled with holy water to remind us of baptism and the placing of the funeral pall, another reminder of baptism and the resurrection of the body on the last day. The priest who said the opening prayer, however, had some extra verbiage which always spurs on the question, why? The Funeral Mass of Christian Burial is the SAME for a Senator or a citizen; a general or a private; an admiral or a sailor. SAY THE BLACK AND DO THE RED is what should have been done across the board.

The homily is NOT to be a eulogy but a theological meditation on the mystery of life, death and resurrection. It almost sounded like a canonization ceremony which is too common as it is already in many parishes. While prudence and pastoral compassion prevented a reading of the spiritual riot act for the Senator's obstinate support of abortion legislation, nevertheless, it was more than mere negligence to completely omit ANY mention of purgatory or the power of intercessory prayer FOR the dead. I pray and hope that Ted died in the state of grace with all his sins forgiven. At the same time, too many Catholics and other Christians overlook the reality that we are all sinners. Ted made mistakes, as did you and I. He sinned, as do you and I. Even if, God willing, he died with true repentance, the horror of millions of unborn babies being killed by abortion thanks to his legislative cooperation requires some purgation.

Even President Obama was more Catholic in his eulogy (which should not take place after Communion or in Church but should be done at the funeral parlor the night before OR at the graveside AFTER the burial services are concluded) where he delicately stated that Senator Kennedy was not perfect and he did make some imprudent decisions as well as some regrettable choices. The priest who preached could have used the golden opportunity to explain WHY we Catholic Christians BURY our dead (doctrine of the resurrection) and WHY we PRAY for the dead (doctrine of purgatory and doctrine of the communion of saints). Many Catholics and Protestants have embraced the heretical notions of reincarnation or that there is no hell let alone a purgatory. He could have briefly mentioned the beautiful theology by which the love we experience on earth does not unravel with death; that the dead in purgatory or heaven still love us and we love them. They pray for us and we pray for them (those in purgatory since those in heaven need nothing.)

Rather, we got a typical travelogue on the accomplishments of a US Senator. Fine, we do that at most funerals since the sad reality is that many of the deceased we bury are not regular church going Catholics who come every weekend or everyweekday to Mass or who go to confession once a month or more. You cannot say Fred or Barney were devout Catholics if they missed Mass on a regular basis. You cannot say Wilma or Betty were pillars of the parish if they were also radical feminists who supported Planned Parenthood. Yes, a few of the authentic devout Catholics do die and the parish is at a great loss when it happens. Sadly, we have more clergy and laity who are just NICE and who live a GOOD and decent life. But Jesus, the Bible and His Holy Church tell us poignantly and bluntly that one must become HOLY to enter heaven.

Gratia non tollit sed perfecit naturam, Aquinas said (grace does not destroy but perfects nature). Hence, we must first cultivate a VIRTUOUS life before we can adequately develop a life of HOLINESS and SANCTITY. Supernature builds upon nature. Holiness begins with goodness. We've lowered the standards, however, over the past 50 years so that people no longer fear hell but presume most if not everyone is going to heaven.

Only the good, just and merrciful Lord can and will judge Sen. Ted Kennedy, for all his good deeds and all his bad ones. For the sins of comission and omission; for his spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Even the holiest person wants their surviving family and friends to PRAY FOR THEM after they die. No wonder the number of requests for Mass intentions has fallen dramatically these past 25 years. If everyone goes directly to heaven, why do they need a Mass for their immortal soul? Why bother with a wake service or rosary the night before? Why even have a Funeral Mass? I hate to say it, but all too often, even regular, Sunday church going Catholics do not always have a Funeral Mass before their burial. Some of the adult children who no longer practice or who are in their second or third invalid marriage and cannot receive Holy Communion tell the undertaker to tell the priest, WE DON'T WANT A MASS just a short prayer service at the parlor or at the grave.

The Catholic practice of having Masses offered FOR the souls of the faithful departed goes back to Apostolic times. When some of the lapsi (Christians who denied their faith during the time of Roman persecutions) repented and came back to the Church, they very much wanted prayers and Masses offered for them POST MORTEM (after death). The efficacy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is beyond our feeble understanding.

But, no, Father had to wax eloquently on the private and political life of a US Senator. Everyone in that church knew he supported abortion most if not all his political life and that is formal cooperation in evil. We give him the benefit of the doubt that he had final penitence and made a good confession before receiving the last rites. If God willing he did die repentant, his soul might and most probably would need some cleansing (purgation) for all the children who died in the womb thanks to his legislation. If he is in Purgatory, he WANTS and NEEDS our prayers. Yet, from what we heard at the funeral homily, his good work for the poor outweighed and trumped any sins he may have committed. He most likely did do more good than evil but unless someone is declared a saint by the pope, we HOPE the person is either IN heaven or WILL BE in heaven (since they are preparing themselves in Purgatory).

The Prayers of the Faithful were the next attrocity. It is nice that each member of his family participated, HOWEVER, using Ted Kennedy's own words as substitutes for licit petitions is just WRONG. At least one or two of them were blatant, political and partisan slogans and NOT appropriate as prayers of the faithful, which, by the way, are in the same Funeral Ritual which tells the priest what to say and do IF he says the black and obeys the red.

The cameras conspicuously avoided showing us WHO went and received Holy Communion, unlike previous Papal Masses in the USA where notorious pro-abortion politicians approached and were given the Blessed Sacrament. We hope and pray that did not happen at the funeral Mass. The USCCB statement, while accurate, needs to be EDITED. The first line says 'we welcome everyone to this Eucharistic celebration' and only in the THIRD paragraph does it mention that the Church is unable to offer Communion to those who are not IN communion with the Catholic Church. It should say that in the FIRST paragraph AND in the FIRST line. 'While we regret we cannot give Communion to non-Catholics or Catholics not properly disposed, it is not because we are making an moral or spiritual judgment, rather, the tradition and doctrine of the Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) Churches has been and remains that being IN communion is a prerequisite to RECEIVING Communion. In other words, one must be united with the Catholic Church in ALL of her teachings (doctrine) on faith and morals; be united with the Catholic Church in ALL her laws (discipline); be united with ALL her legitimate authorities, namely, the Pope and Bishops united with him (hierarchy); and be united with ALL seven sacraments and the Church's liturgies (divine worship). We hope and pray for the day when all Christians will be united de facto in word and sacrament under one shepherd at which time we can fully share Holy Communion. In the meantime, we respectfully ask that you respect our traditions and beliefs and if not a Catholic in full communion and in the state of grace and properly disposed, please do not come up to receive Communion BUT pray for greater unity among the churches so that one day all may be one. Thank you for your invaluable assistance and cooperation." or words to that effect.

I do not think Senator Kennedy should have been denied a Funeral or a Funeral Mass but I expected more adherence to the official rubrics of the Roman Ritual which apply to everyone, Senator, Congressman, Governor, President or just any regular citizen, be it Joe the Plumber or Bob the Autoworker. I do not think every jot and tittle of this funeral liturgy were given advance warning to His Emminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston. The priests who were celebrant and homilist and who prepared the liturgy knew what they were doing. Yes, by all means give the man a decent funeral and show the non-Catholic world the sublime beauty of the Catholic funeral rites. But follow the book and realize that next week and next month, pastors all over America are going to get bizarre requests for funerals of their loved ones based on what was seen on television.

Personally, I would have worn violet or purple or black vestments, to show mourning of Holy Mother Church over the death of one of her children AND to instill some sober thoughts of penance and praying for the dead that their sins be forgiven. The white pall and holy water and Easter (Paschal) Candle all represent the joy of Resurrection. But even Our Blessed Lord WEPT at the grave of Lazarus His dear friend, moments before He raised him from the dead. Often, the white vestments and the near canonization of the deceased at the homily eclipse any thought of praying FOR the deceased. Yet, that is our PRIMARY reason for Funeral Masses and the SECONDARY is the consolation of the grieving and mourning survivors, not vice versa.

Another reason eulogies do not belong at the tailend of a Catholic Funeral Mass is often the family and friends of the deceased who do speak either do so unintelligibly due to grief and cannot be understood OR they espouse totally non-Christian ideas about life after death. I have heard too many eulogies where the person speaking asked the congregation to keep the deceased 'alive in our memories.' The deceased IS alive even if our memories fail us and we forget. The immortal soul NEVER DIES and the body we commend to the earth with burial will be resurrected on the Last Day and reunited with its original soul. I don't get the impression that a lot of 'Christians' still believe that, however. Often, you get the impression from what they say that being a nice guy was the most important thing so that everyone liked you and therefore they will remember you fondly. That is NOT Chritian theology. We believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God; that we are made of a body and soul which is temporarily separated at death but will be reunited at the Resurrection of the Dead when Jesus returns for His Second Coming to Judge the living and the dead at the end of the world. Once created at CONCEPTION, every human being has an immortal soul which never dies and will spend eternity in heaven or hell. Our goal and mission in life is to discern the will of God and then do it so we can be with Him forever. God made us to KNOW, LOVE and SERVE HIM IN THIS LIFE SO AS TO BE HAPPY WITH HIM FOREVER IN THE NEXT LIFE. That is much more and is more profound than a simple fond memory in the brains of our relatives and friends, is it not? I agree that Ted Kennedy's accomplishments and the good he did be told and revealed to the public. We must also admit he was wrong to support abortion and we ought to presume he made peace with God before his death and repent of his past sins. If he made a good confession and was anointed, he still deserves our PRAYERS just in case there was still some temporal punishment due to sin left on his soul. I prayed for the soul of beloved brother Michael today. He would have been 43 years old August 29th had he not died of Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 26. He sufferend immensely from his disease with several painful operations, leg braces, wheelchair and being bedridden at the end. His cross was a million times heavier than anything I have ever been asked to endure my entire life. But I still have a Mass offered for his soul and I pray for his soul, and the soul of my other departed brother Joe, my departed sister Mary and my beloved father, John Trigilio, Sr. All of them were much holier and far better persons than I will ever be but I still pray FOR them and ask that they do likewise and pray FOR ME.


Dan L. said...


All was as you said, Plus the following (unless I missed it, you may have said it)...

The Prayers of the Faithful were also sounding very politics oriented. Like "Equal healthcare for all"..."Lord hear our prayer"...

I, yes I do, understand the call of Christ, to care for all of our neighbors, but...that issue (healthcare, and government healthcare in particular) is not yet resolved. I, for one, fear the enormous tax burden on the common man....who is "supposed" to benefit from a socialistic health system. No place at a funeral mass! No way!


--Dan L.

MemoriaDei said...

Father, This has to be the best I've read on this funeral but also the most informative of our Faith. Thank you ! God bless you.

Dawn said...

Sad, that this happens. Our prayers to the faithful today read like a union play book. Make sure we treat our workers well and such. I actually was taken aback. But then again, our Priest has never been the black and red kind. He does his own thing. For those of us who try to follow the rubrics, we are chuckled at and called ultra pious and told not to push our idiosyncratic liturgies and pious devotions (like the Rosary) on others. Prayer please.

John Francis Borra said...

Padre Giovanni--

God bless you and your departed family members.

I admit I have great trouble praying for EMK and his ilk, so deeply have they wounded the Body of Christ. It does not help that the Archdiocese of Boston has permitted such abuses at EMK's funeral. The One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic faith thus appears no more substantive than a tent-toting protestant revivalist.

Dolorosa said...

Did Ted Kennedy receive the last rites? Also, according to the Hidden Ireland Blog, Ted's public sins caused great scandal and as listed were numerous and I pray he did repent before he died.

Dolorosa said...

When should a person be denied a Catholic funeral? Is it written somewhere as to what guidelines should be followed? I would think that someone such as Ted Kennedy should have been excommunicated and even denied a Catholic funeral after his numerous public sins but if he did repent and made a good confession then he does need our prayers in purgatory. I hope for his sake that he did so but it seems to me he continued to live in scandal til the very end.

Just another mad Catholic said...

Excellent post Father, just want to dispute one point. Senetor Kennedy should not have been given a funeral Mass, He was one of the many heretics that were given the run of the Church whilst good Othordox Catholics such as Mgsr Lefevbre were hit with every eccelesial penelty in the book for trying (admitidly sometimes using questionable actions) to stop such madness.

Dolorosa said...

Judie Brown gets it right on Ted Kennedy:

St Ann's Parish said...

I agree with every word you have written. I very much like your blog and have added you to my sidebar.

Sandy said...

Amen, Father, Amen. You said it all better than any of us could have. I consider this an attack on the Church, just as the debacle at Notre Dame was. It makes me so sad, because those who don't know any better are hearing lies about what is taught and believed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Another Father said...

Utterly amazing how much arrogance and judgment can be squeezed (or crammed) into one post! Yes, there were some perversions to the liturgy. I can only imagine that someone had to answer for them after the fact. Interesting that you failed to comment on the lack of congregational singing, the lack of a sung psalm of gospel acclamation, and the lack of sung eucharistic acclamations. There is no denying the the late senator maintained some stands that were at odds with the Church. From what was read at the committal service of the letter that he wrote to the pope, one would (or could) be left with the impression that Kennedy recognized the error or his ways, and was repentant of them. Since God will be his judge, there is no need for anyone here to usurp the role. Watching the telecast of the funeral, I was rather impressed that the Kennedy children, all adults now, "knew their prayers" and participated "well" in the celebration of the liturgy. They had to have learned that somewhere, no doubt at home. All of the above said, I fully agree that the General Intercessions were an absolute abuse.

Black Biretta said...

Excuse me but the General Instructions do not mandate that the Psalm be sung, it merely says that it is preferred. The Gospel acclamation is either sung or omitted, which it was. The acclamations are either sung or recited.

The other abberations like the politcally infected General Intercessions and he eulogy-homily are not licit options, however.

No one is judging Senator Kennedy's soul and we give him the benefit of the doubt that he made a good confession, was anointed before his deathand and repented of all his sins, especially his support and formal cooperation in the evil of abortion.

What was not necessary was the hybridization of the Funeral Liturgy since what is seen on TV is inevitably brought back into the local parish when families say "if it was OK for the Kennedy's, then why isn't OK for our family?" Remember when JFK, Jr. died and it was made known that his ashes were scattered over the water? The Cardinal Archbishop had to issue a clarification that no permission was granted and the policy of the Church that all cremains be buried in the ground or at sea but intact in a proper container and never scattered to the wind or water.

Anonymous said...

Another Father,

I wish to comment on your response which indicated the Kennedy children "[knowing] their prayers" and participating"well" in the celebration of the liturgy. We must remember that active participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is rooted in our interior disposition. Furthermore, what is displayed externally is a manifestation of our interior piety. However, when our external participation is not rooted in an interior disposition conformed to the very nature of the Mass, then we have something banal, a mere formalism if you will. Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy entitled "Mediator Dei," emphasizes this point, among many others.

Black Biretta said...

Spot on. Interior participation in the Divine Liturgy is sadly something many have neglected over the past forty years. Pope B16 is showing us, however, that both elements are part of the same divine worship.

While the grandchildren seemed to know how to genuflect, I saw none of the adults genuflect or even bow when they approached the ambo to read the Scripture readings for the Liturgy of the Word. Making the proper gestures is one very important way we physically participate in the Sacred Liturgy. Standing, sitting, kneeling, etc. as well as making the proper verbal responses, listening to what is being said, singing, etc. all constitute our external participation and then we engage our intellect and will to give further full, active and conscious participation. Hence, it is not the amount or length of the hymns sung, nor the language spoken which defines 'participation', rather, it is the internal assimilation of the divine graces offered by these sacred mysteries.

Pablo the Mexican said...



I appreciate the article about Mr. Kennedy’s funeral Mass.

In the article you mention Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. He wept because man chooses sin. It was a demonstration by Christ of the nature of sin. In the context of Mr. Kennedy’s situation upon death, it might be appropriate to look at sin as it applies to the moment of death.

Jairus’s daughter, the Son of the Widow of Naim, Lazarus, and Saint Joseph.

Jairus’s daughter represents venial sin; “She is only sleeping” our souls are not quite in Hell.

The widow’s son was being carried to the grave by his friends, who also helped ‘carry’ him into mortal sin by their cumulative actions and behavior. Christ intercepted this child and raised him, sending him to his mother. The mother was not the widow, it was Holy Mother Church He was sending the young man to.

Lazarus, who laid for days in the tomb to the point of stench. Christ wept before this example of mortal sin, knowing full well He would raise Lazarus. This is the mortal sin we fall into and are dead though we live.

And Saint Joseph. An example of how man can do God’s will and come to the fulfillment of the promises of Christ.

A man that sins and expects God’s mercy at the time of his death is a fool to presume. Asking for grace at the time of death after rejecting graces during a lifetime is not highly recommended. A last minute repentance could turn out to be a sacrilegious repentance, and not valid.

Where does Mr. Kennedy fit into these examples? Where do we fit?

Is this argument about Mr. Kennedy? Or is it about where the hierarchy of Holy Mother Church has brought us?

Were I Mr. Kennedy I would have written to the Holy Father telling him “ I have died where you have brought me to; I shall forever be fixed in Hell in the position in which I died. Or I shall be granted God’s mercy, to one day enter Heaven. If I sinned and you did not correct me, if I was ignorant and you did not teach me, I forgive you, and may God do likewise”.

How many ‘Ted Kennedy’s’ need to die in a precarious state before we work harder to extend the Kingdom of Christ?

Why aren’t we being martyred for our Faith?

It is because we have become the Apostle running away naked. We are comfortable.

If Mr. Kennedy’s funeral Mass brings us to anger, it is because our souls realize our shortcomings that caused this tragedy.

I stayed with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that I was Baptized and Confirmed in as a child, because that Mass took me to Calvary. The Mass promulgated in modern times has taken many faithful elsewhere, as in the case of Mr. Kennedy. Where are you during the Mass?

May God our Lord in his infinite and supreme goodness be pleased to give us his abundant grace, that we may know his most holy will, and entirely fulfill it.

Padres, with the assurance of my Holy Rosary prayers for all your good work in the vineyard of the Divine Master, I remain yours truly in Jesus and Mary Immaculate.

Pray for the Holy Father and all his Priests and Nuns.

Santa MarĂ­a de Guadalupe Esperanza nuestra, salva nuestra patria y conserva nuestra Fe.

Dawn said...

Father John,

My mom and I really enjoyed your commentary on this. Do you agree with those who say that Ted Kennedy should have been given a Funeral Mass, but one that was PRIVATE and not on TV, so as to avoid scandal to some of the faithful, particularly those who do not know their faith as well as they should?

God Bless,

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