Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Will for my Funeral

I've seen at least a couple dozen funerals since summer of last year. Most of them were for old folks, but every now and then we would send off the soul of a young kid or young adult, more than one of them my own age. Now, funerals are always troublesome for a priest to control, because how is a priest going to tell a mourning public that it wouldn't be appropriate to play Joey's favorite ACDC tune for the exit procession?

Well, I am going to save people the trouble of trying to guess what sort of ceremonial would honor my memory the best; I'll write it down. Violations of the following principles may lead to hauntings from beyond the grave.

  1. Some friends, family, or clergy might ask themselves whether the funeral is a mourning of my death or a celebration of my life. First, there really is no reason to believe that the latter honors me more than the former. If people want to mourn, for God's sake do not denigrate their mourning by telling them they are supposed to be celebrating. The anti-mourners usually carry the day, with their chummy cliches about celebration and such. I am dead! Kindly do not cheapen the whole business by white-washing it. Some will cry, and others will not, and that is that; what people will do naturally is healthiest.

    Second, allow me to answer the question directly: the funeral is neither a mourning of my death nor a celebration of my life. It will be, after all, a Mass. God alone is the Lord of the Mass. The Mass is a celebration--but not a sentimentalist celebration of my life. Rather, it is a solemn ritual celebration of God, his gift of life, and his mercy which we implore--not only for me, but for all of us. This leads me to the next point:

  2. For the sake of my immortal soul, please, please let no one say in public that they are sure I am in Heaven with God. It does not praise me, and it does not help me. For if, as is likely, I am in fact burning in Purgatory for my sins, then I am begging your prayers, not your praises. Honestly, it would honor me more if my pallbearers spit on my casket, than if priest or eulogy proclaimed falsely my presence in Heaven. So take whatever energy you would have spent extolling my virtues, and turn it instead into a plea to God for mercy for my vices. If I am, in fact, in Heaven, your prayers cannot hurt me, and I will return the favor by praying for you, if you also go to Purgatory.

  3. Please, I beg of you, let no fake plants near the funeral, nor my grave. Plants die, and so do we. A dead plant is more alive than a plastic thing that was never alive to begin with. In a similar vein, if the church uses gas or (God forbid!) electric candles, kindly remove them all and use wax ones instead, even if you have to borrow them from another church or somebody's home. I do not want the intelligence of my friends and family insulted by cheap substitutes, and I do not want our presence before God to mask the mortality and messiness of our everyday lives, like illegitimate technology does. Finally, for similar reasons, no electric keyboards. They sound horrible. I would prefer an organ, or failing that, a choir without instruments, or even just a single cantor, or failing that, silence.

  4. Please use traditional music. Nothing out of OCP. Instead, consider the music out of the hymnal called Adoremus (if it is still in publication), or else, what would be much better, Gregorian chant. And under no circumstances will there be recorded music; if that happens, and I am in Heaven, I will ask God to let me temporarily enter my body again, so that I can get out of the casket, kick the stereo system, and go back inside.

  5. Ask the priest to strictly obey the Magisterium's norms for the liturgy, if he is not already in the habit of doing so.

  6. No cremation, unless absolutely necessary; I find it faddish. But get a cheap casket. God is the focus of the funeral; not me.

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