On eulogies, remembrances and Catholic funerals

A priest incenses the casket at the Final Commendation at a funeral Mass. (Image: NJ.com)

These points may be of interest to those following the conversation here on funeral rites and in anticipation of the funeral of Senator Kennedy on Saturday morning.

From the General Instruction of the Roman Missal
At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.
(GIRM, no. 382)

From the Order of Christian Funerals:
• From the Introduction:

A brief homily based on the readings is always given after the gospel reading at the funeral liturgy and may also be given after the readings at the vigil (wake) service; but there is never to be a eulogy. Attentive to the grief of those present, the homilist should dwell on God's compassionate love and on the paschal mystery of the Lord, as proclaimed in the Scripture readings. The homilist should also help the members of the assembly to understand that the mystery of God's love and the mystery of Jesus' victorious death and resurrection were present in the life and death of the deceased and that these mysteries are active in our own lives as well. Through the homily members of the family and community should receive consolation and strength to face the death of one of their members with a hope nourished by the saving Word of God...

(Order of Christian Funerals, no. 27)

• At the Vigil (wake) Service, after the Concluding Prayer:
A member or a friend of the family may speak in rembrance of the deceased.
(Order of Christian Funerals no. 80)

• At the Funeral Mass, at the time for the Final Commendation:

Following the Prayer after Communion, the priest goes to a place near the casket. The assisting ministers carry the censer and holy water if these are to be used.

A member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation begins.
(Order of Christian Funerals, no. 170)

(ConcordPastor notes that the Order of Christian Funerals envisions the remarks of remembrance being delivered while the priest and ministers are standing at the casket.)

From the policy on funeral rites for the Archdiocese of Boston:
Following the prayer after Communion and before the Final Commendation, only one speaker, a member or a friend of the family, may speak for not more than five minutes in remembrance of the deceased.
(RCAB Funeral Policy, no. 18)

-ConcordPastor Kennedy-Shriver Funerals


  1. Thank you for this thought provoking as well as catechetical conversation here.

    At the parish where I work we do allow for a brief, 5 minutes or less, eulogy at the very beginning of the service, after all have processed in. It is not encouraged but allowed when asked for.

    At the parish where I worship and used to do funeral ministry it was more flexible but we still tried to adhere to the Order of Christian Funerals.

    It is always a challenge.

  2. Here's a sample Eulogy that Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) gave for Pope John Paul II. Sort of seems to celebrate his life... http://www.freesampleeulogy.com/joseph_ratzinger_eulogy_for_roman_pontiff_john_paul.html

  3. Perhaps President Obama will be the only one to speak in remembrance of Senator Kennedy at the funeral mass tomorrow at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica. The Celebration of Life ceremonies tonight at the JFK Museum has a long list of speakers who will give remembrances and pay tribute to the Senator.


  4. I had left a comment earlier that has not as yet been posted. I just had an additional thought. I hope that "To Dream the Impossible Dream," which a TV newscaster reported was a favorite of the Senator's, will be sung at the Celebration of Life ceremonies tonight and not at the funeral mass tomorrow. The same TV newscaster said that the Ave Maria, also a favorite, would be sung at the mass.


  5. I'm confused. GIRM says "but never a eulogy of any kind." OCF (#170) says "a member or a friend of the family may speak..."

    What's going on here? Don't the drafters of these documents make sure that they line up with one another? (On a different point: Is there a difference between the "Vigil (wake) Service" and what I watched this morning/afternoon?)

  6. A funeral eulogy is usually a statement of some length which gives at least an overview biography and commentary on the life of the deceased. What the OCF invites is for a family member of friend to speak briefly in remembrance of the deceased. The two directives are not in opposition.

    The service at the wake is what the liturgical book refers to as the Vigil. So yes, that's different than the funeral Mass which was televised today.

    I read a post on another blog that called last Saturday's funeral the canonization of Ted Kennedy! As a left wing liberal tree hugging Catholic with a touch of the anarchist in him, even I found the funeral Mass to be "over the top."

    When I was a young priest many years ago, I attended the funeral of a woman whose brother was an elderly Jesuit priest. He introduced the funeral liturgy with the following words;
    "If my sister is in heaven, she is already in the presence of the Almighty and has achieved her eternal reward. She has no NEED for this Mass. If my sister is in hell, she has lost everything, and there is nothing that anyone can do. She has no NEED for this Mass. But ... if my sister is in purgatory, she is in need of our prayers and sacrifices, and it is for this purpose we offer this Mass."

    I was both amused and kind of shocked when he said this and actually couldn't believe what I was hearing. But this was back in the days when canonizations were reserved to the Pope.

    As I met with a family yesterday to plan their father's funeral they requested 3 eulogists. When I mentioned the "one eulogy" guideline, someone said, "Didn't you see the Kennedy funeral?" I admitted that I did and that I thought it was not good liturgy. But, the horse is out of the barn and there's no getting him back in at this point. So, the funeral tomorrow will have one eulogy and two tributes. Just like the Kennedys!


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