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Death and Praxis

I think that we have all seen how wrong Catholic funerals can sometimes go, in all directions. We have seen faithful Catholics denied a funeral mass by their faithless and selfish offspring. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have seen instances where people who had no interest in the Church or even completely rejected it are given Catholic funerals no questions asked.

Perhaps the most common funereal abuse is the Catholic funeral as canonization. Eulogies given by several people, extolling the virtue (real or imagined) of the deceased, all with the assumption that the soul passed by sheol, collected $200, and went straight to heaven. All this goes to show that funerals today are all about us, not about the deceased.

The Rev. Jeffrey Leger, pastor of St. Catherine Church in New Haven in the archdiocese of Louisville has obviously seen all these abuses as well. Apparently, this prompted the pastor to issue guidelines for funerals at St. Catherine's that he sent to all the local funeral homes.

These guidelines, as reported by the Courier-Journal include:

In his letter to funeral homes, he said the purpose of a funeral Mass is to "illumine the mystery of Christian death in light of the risen Christ," and that everything must focus on the Christian hope of resurrection.

Anything that could distract from that should be avoided, he wrote, adding that eulogies, recorded music and nonbiblical readings such as poetry and letters are forbidden except under limited circumstances.

Such personalized features should take place at the vigil service, typically held the evening before the Mass at either the church or the funeral home, he said.
The archdiocese itself distributes a brochure based on Vatican guidelines that mirrors much of what Leger put in the parish policy. "It's not unusual," she said.

The policy distributed by Leger specifies that a funeral Mass is not allowed for "notorious apostates … heretics … schismatics … and other manifest sinners" who did not repent before death.

Also, it says, a deceased person who had long avoided Mass will be denied a funeral Mass but allowed a rite of Christian burial. "Since they chose not to attend Mass in life they should not be compelled to attend Mass in death," the policy said; the restriction doesn't apply to those who couldn't attend for such reasons as a prolonged illness.

Leger also said that while a visiting priest with a past connection to the deceased can attend and even preach, Leger should be the prime celebrant of the funeral Eucharist.

For families who oppose that restriction, "the remedy is clear," Leger wrote, "choose another church."
Now a local funeral director says that funerals are his business, not the Church's and is suing Leger and the Archdiocese.
Ron Rust, owner of the William R. Rust Funeral Home in New Haven, said the policy will interfere with his longstanding business of coordinating funerals that are held at St. Catherine.

The policy marks "an intentional and wrongful interference" in the dealings between the funeral home and its customers and will cost Rust funerals and income, according to his suit filed Aug. 7 in Nelson Circuit Court.

He's seeking a temporary injunction halting implementation of the policy, pending a trial seeking monetary damages from Leger and the archdiocese.

Rust claims a "right to direct funerals in accordance with the wishes of the family of deceased individuals without the constraints" of Leger's policy, it says.
Yeah, who cares if we help the poor soul, as long as we feel better. If the church gets in the way of our funereal feelgood-fest we can now appeal to a higher authority, the funeral director. The hubris of the funeral director in this case is shocking. He claims the right to direct funerals "without constraint." To Rust, the funeral is not about the relationship of the deceased to the almighty, but the survivors access to the almighty buck. Shameful. Catholics in Louisville would do well to avoid this funeral home if they cannot avoid dying altogether.

As for me, when I kick it, I want the cheapest funeral money can buy. I also want everyone to stand up at my wake and tell everyone what a lout I am and that if I am lucky that I barely made it into the worst neighborhood in purgatory. Then I want everyone to go to confession and then follow behind the hearse on their knees doing penance for me. I'll probably need it.

If funeral director Rust sticks to his lawsuit, he will probably need it too.

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matthew archbold said...

We talkin' about praxis!

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Two things I'll say...

1. good for the parish to enforce the rules of the Vatican. (although I do disagree with the Pastor being the primary celebrant, especially if there's a priest that's close to the family)

2. I as well want a cheap funeral done according to the Rite of 62...I want purgatory mentioned and major penance done for me I know I've screwed up bigtime.

Christopher Michael said...

It is an increasingly common but very unfortunate practice among modern Catholics to wish that they "make it to Purgatory." While perhaps motivated by a sincere spirit of humility, this is wrong. It is always wrong for a Catholic to wish Purgatory upon themselves and to resign themselves to it as inevitable. Every single Catholic without exception should aspire and hope to directly enter Heaven at the moment of their death. To do anything else is to treat with contempt the mercy and grace of God. He places at our disposal here on Earth all the means necessary to do salutary and sufficient penance to avoid Purgatory altogether, not to mention to tremendous gift of the Apostolic Pardon, which is far too often neglected, and the Sabbatine Privilege. While in the end very few will achieve this, and of course to assume it at a funeral is a grave abuse and the sin of presumption, Catholics should nevertheless know that it is very possible and they should aspire to it. Whenever a Catholic is asked where they hope to go after dying, the answer should never be Purgatory, but always Heaven.


Patrick Archbold said...

"It is an increasingly common but very unfortunate practice among modern Catholics to wish that they "make it to Purgatory."

Somehow, I doubt this. I think it is increasingly common among modern catholics that they assume they will go straight to heaven. Purgatory being akin to Arkanasas. They may have heard of it, but they certainly have no intentions of going there.

As for me, I aspire to heaven. You will note in my piece that I said I want people to assume that I barely made it to purgatory. Not that it is where I aspire to. Thanks for confirming the number 1 rule of Catholic blogging.

Charles said...

Topic-near and dear to my heart.
I join you in aspiring to heaven upon leaving this vale of tears. I will rejoice if, at that moment, I realize that I'm in purgatory, worst neighborhood or not, untangling hopelessly tangled cords while accordians and banjos play Kanon in D 24/?...
"For who has known the mind of God..."
The really difficult thing of all this is how deep do each of us want to enter the depths of our own hearts that long for God, to be willing to get passed our reluctance to accept His forgiveness once asked for (both sacramentally and otherwise) and then trust in His Grace and Promises.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Joe of St. Therese. How could I not want Purgation for my sins? Shall I appear before Our Father still stained? I dunno about the subtleties of theology, but I know how flawed I am.

-- Mack

Christopher Michael said...

"Somehow, I doubt this. I think it is increasingly common among modern catholics that they assume they will go straight to heaven."

I apologize. I should have said, "It is an increasingly common practice among devout and pious Catholics..." You see, what I am trying to illustrate is that, out of a wayward spirit of humility, many such Catholics commonly say that they "just want to make it to Purgatory" or some such akin sentiment, whereas all Catholics ought to recognize the possibility of avoiding Purgatory altogether and actively seek to do so, rather than resigning themselves to Purgatory. One of the primary reasons for this is that if one is shooting for Purgatory, one may well end up reaching Hell. God does not antecendently will Purgatory for any soul, but rather that the temporal punishment due to any sin should be remitted upon Earth. I hope this clarifies the Theology I am attempting to impose upon this discussion. It is certainly not the most pressing theological point in the Church today, but it can easily be an obstacle to the propagation of the Faith when Catholics go about saying that the incomprehensible agony and flames of Purgatory are the goal of their mortal probation.


David said...

"In shooting for purgatory one may end up in hell".

That's right. We need to aim for sainthood. We recognize our sinfulness, but try to get into Heaven nonetheless.

Incidentally, Cardinal Pell released "Eulogy Guidelines" a while ago. IMHO they don't go far enough.


I'm asking for a Requiem Mass in accordance with the '62 Missal. Dies Irae, and all. Lucky I've got a few local priests and a schola who'll be happy to do it.

Anonymous said...

The funeral directors (That is pleural)in New Haven tried to work with Father Leger. He wouldn't return their phone calls or come to the door to work with them. They went around him and had other priest come in to do funerals. The other priest tried to work out details with him too, no response. Leger writes letters to the funeral homes telling them they go through him or they can't have funerals at the church. You see the problem? You have to go through me but I'm not going to talk to you.

If the Father wants to go hard line with the rules no one will complain. It's his right and everyone understands that.
That's not what this suit is about. They will play by Father Leger Rules if they are allowed. Don't be surprised if this suit is lost based on the pattern. Rust is not the unreasonable man he is being made out to be, he just wants fair and respectful treatment. This suit without the other details makes him look like a idiot with no chance of success.
The only other option would be to never have services across the street from his funeral home which in this small town means closing the doors and going out of business.
As Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know the rest of the story"
at least my understanding of it. Guess we will all have to wait and see.

You have to say one thing about this suit though, it sure has made for good conversation though mostly one sided.

Anonymous said...

As a parishioner here for over 30 years I would like to tell what a lot of this is about.....POWER. Or should I say lack of. Father Lager is the first priest we have had here in years that has not allowed himself or the church to be bullied by a small group of parishioners that have controlled things here to their own benefit for far too long.Over the past 3 years I have heard the vilest of rumors and gossip against this man of the church. While I have never before based my own judgement on rumors, I have actually taken the time to get to know this priest. I thank God daily for sending such a devout Catholic priest here to our parish. There are a number of people who actually hate this man because of the lies and rumors that have been spread about him.These people actually got up in church at a school meeting yelling we want our parish back. Well ,what about the 99% of us that have finally got our parish back! Father Lager welcomes all to St. Catherines unlike the so called elders of the church who would like to control everything and are often heard asking around town who are those people sitting over there in church.I don't understand why some of them think that only the families who can trace their relatives back to actually building St. Catherines should ever walk through the doors. As I said I have been a member here for over 30 years and it has been only in the past 2-3 years that I feel as though I truly belong.
As for the lawsuit,We have one other funeral home in New Haven and the owner says he has never had any problems with Father Lager.

Anonymous said...

I am also a parishioner of St. Catherine's parish for 50 years. When Father Leger first came to our parish we were delighted to have him. He started making changes right away. The "elders" as you put it stood behind him. When I would say how old fashion something was my mother would say that it was the way they were taught and the "elders" liked it. But, Father started making changes like, no women on the alter(unless you were cleaning it), he put our communion rail back up, as I recall it was taken down so that the people would be more involved in the mass. He would no long announce who the mass was offered, he asked our deacon to leave so that he could replace him with one from his old parish. If you questioned him, he made it very clear you were no longer welcomed at his church. He has his followers and I know they love him dearly, but if you are not part of his followers, he has no time for you. He speaks during mass about how bad the people of New Haven are. He does not make our parish an inviting place. He is very judgemental, prejudice (against woment and the elderly) and he is not forgiving. He has alienated at least half of the parish and it is very clear that he doesn't care. As far as thinking if your family can trace their relatives back to actually building St. Catherine's are the only people that should ever walk through the doors, that's just a crock. Do those people feel like St. Catherine's is their parish, you damn right. St. Catherine's has always been a giving parish, the whole community has always worked hard for the parish and the school and if you have been a part of the parish for 30 years, you know that.

David said...


Good of you to have the courage to sign your name when tipping a bucket of the brown stuff on your pastor.

All his changes seem to me to be absolutely wonderful, and in line with the Holy Father's suggested liturgical changes.

If you want to know why so many no loner believe in transubstantiation - I suggest you consider Communion in the hand and removal of altar rails as a prime cause.

Altar girls ("serviettes") actually wound the mystical body of Christ by discouraging priestly vocations.

It seems that Father is preaching on sin, judgment and hell - which many priests are to effeminate and gutless to do. I say, kudos to him for trying to save souls rather than pandering to the heterodox who just want touchy-feely stuff that makes them feel good about themselves, while they co-habitate and contracept, and sodomize and abort themselves to hell.

Typically, you yap on about being "giving" and "welcoming" while ignoring other, fundamental, teachings of Holy Mother Church.

For shame.

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