The eulogy phenomenon

The eulogy phenomenon

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required) talks about the increasing frequency of eulogies at funerals. One disturbing aspect is that people just don’t seem to understand that a funeral, and especially a Catholic funeral Mass, is not about despair, but about the Resurrection and the salvific work of Christ. It’s a profound work of hope and worship of God for the whole community and not just a time for maudlin. I know that’s hard to hear when you’ve just lost someone you love and who you’ll miss the rest of your life, but isn’t hope and eternal life a message you’d rather hear at that time.

Another problem with euologies is that most people just aren’t good public speakers. Whether it’s inappropriate material in the eulogy itself or a halting, droning, weepy speaking style that makes even the best-written speech come out as inchoherent mumbling, such eulogies become a tribute for no one.

Anyway, euologies are supposed to be verboten in the Mass anyway. Sure you hear them all the time, and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between a homily that talks all about the deceased (especially if the deceased was a priest or the homilist was a family member) and a euology given by a friend or family. And of course, there’s the phenomenon of celebrities being given all the exemptions in the world which makes it more difficult for the pastor down the street to refuse, giving the impression that the rich and famous get special treatment (which they do!)

  • I don’t know the history of it, but note that priests are not banned from speaking of the life of the deceased during the homily. It is the talks given by laypeople in place of the priest at other times that is banned.

    It is expected that the homilist will use his comments about the deceased to evoke the theology of the Resurrection, the four last things, personal holiness, and similar themes, which are appropriate to Mass and a homily.

    Eulogies generally don’t do this and even if they do, it is not for laypeople to preach at Mass, but only the ordained.

  • C’mon, Dom, fix the typos:  “Euology”? 
    I thought that was a medical specialty that we middle-aged guys have to deal with.

  • Sorry to bug you, Dom.  I don’t usually draw attention to typos, even if they’re repeated this many times.  But the opportunity to crack wise about “euology” was too much for me to pass up.