Thursday, September 11, 2008


The conventions. To quote Fr. Blake:

Nowadays mourning seems to have dissappeared, the funeral happens and life returns to normal and the dead are rarely spoken of again. The bereaved are expected to pull themselves together and get on with life.
As a priest it is pretty obvious this can have pretty serious effects on people's psychological health, if there is no public outlet for grieving it tends to have a greater internal effect, it gets bottled up. I can't help but think a bit of black crepe might save a great deal on counselling fees.
Traditionally the Church gave a lead. Some places on the continent the catafalque was rarely taken down and black rather than green was the default colour of vestments.
I have been told that the current vesting options for funerals: black, purple and white were introduced to mark the gradation of different stages of mouning.
 Black the traditional colour for the actual Requiem, purple for the months-mind, first anniversary etc.white as was traditional for a child, and if appropriate to mark the end of formal mourning.


    Marianna Bartold said...

    Dear Elena:

    Thank you for the ever-timely reminder!

    How very true that the modern lack of mourning within the Church has become all too common. In addition to the interior effects that lacuna impresses on those still on earth, it is a terrible disservice to the deceased in the after-life. That is, allusions to the need for prayers for the soul of the faithful departed either do not exist or they are opaque; thus, the Funeral Rite becomes a celebration of the temporal life instead of the Sacrifice offered for the needs of the individual soul for whom the Mass is said. There is nary a reminder for the absolute need for continued prayers for the loved one who has passed into the next life.

    How many departed souls must languish in purgatory because there are no continual Masses and private prayers (like the Rosary) offered for their eternal rest. Too, those prayerful actions possess a 'double-effect,' as it were, in that they offer spiritual consolation to mourning family and friends.

    Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!
    Marianna Bartold

    Catherine Delors said...

    Beautiful post, Elena! Thank you for reminding us of the need to mourn.

    Miss Kelly said...

    Elena, astute observations there. My elderly father died recently, only 3 weeks ago, and there was a family disagreement (thankfully a minor one) on what to call the program and what songs to sing. My two sisters wanted to entitle the program "A Celebration of Life," they wanted to feel good about his life instead of saddedened by his death. I gently said that a requiem mass is for praying for the repose of the soul of the departed. There will be a time to celebrate his life later, but for now, please let's allow ourselves to grieve the loss of our father. Remember Ecclesiastes! Where in our modern society is open grieving acceptable anymore? Not many places! I was able to sway them.

    I was also able to persuade them to select beautiful, traditional Catholic hymns. We had a choir and we sang "How Great Thou Art", "Ave Maria", "Panis Angelicus" and "In Paradisum" from the Faure requiem). The music was so beautiful that many people were openly weeping. We needed that!

    Yes, many Catholics have truly forgotten what a funeral is for.

    elena maria vidal said...

    Thanks to you all for your thoughts! I sometimes wonder if many of our modern neuroses are due to a lack of the tangible symbols of grief, all of which were/are present in the classic Roman liturgy. And even in the secular realm, people no longer wear mourning or have public expressions of sorrow. We are a very repressed society, for all of our license. Not to mention the spiritual benefits for the dead of praying for them, since through the sacred liturgy we have a connection with those who have gone before. May all the faithful departed rest in peace.