Funerals and Community

Today was the Feast of All Saints. I slept a little late this morning, and went to Mass across town at St Linus (as I not infrequently do on Saturdays). I was surprised to see a Hearse in front of the church when I pulled up. It’s not unusual for the Saturday morning Mass at St Linus to be a funeral Mass, but with today being a Solemnity, I thought it was peculiar.

But this funeral turned out to be quite different from the other Saturday morning funerals I’ve attended at St Linus. The difference? In this case, Msgr Giggi knew the deceased, who was an active parishioner. The homily was sprinkled with his remembrances of her, and his real love and care for her was very evident. The whole rite was carried out in a most dignified manner, with none of the typical involvements of laypersons who obviously haven’t darkened a church door in some time, and who too often don’t seem to have a clue what Catholic eschatology professes.

I often feel sorry for Msgr Giggi when I end up at these funerals, because he clearly struggles at times to find something appropriate to say in his homilies. I mean, he can certainly speak in general terms about death and dying and the Catholic faith – Lord knows he’s been doing this long enough – but he needs to try to connect with the grieving family on a personal level as well, and when he has no idea whom it is that he is preparing to bury, he’s reduced to repeating platitudes that friends or family memebers have shared with him during the funeral preparations – many of whom apparently do not share from out of a faith-based framework of understanding. I recall Frances, of whom all he could say was that she was a happy person. And I recall Rick the “ash” pile, who was friendly (on that morning, I though I’d walked into a funeral for a newborn, but that’s a story for another day).

Once upon a time, I thought that the local parish daily Mass was the best setting for funerals in general, as it facilitates the participation of the parish community in an important event that has become too remote from the community, too private and clannish. But I was wrong. Too many funerals are spiritual train wrecks that expose a poverty of community, one that needs to be nurtured and nourished long before the final trumpet sounds.