The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

From the e-mailbag: “Liturgical comfort food”

posted by deacon greg kandra

A priest friend dropped me an e-mail with his thoughts on the Kennedy funeral:

i. We have a crisis in liturgy in this country. What it comes down to is that we are addicted to “therapeutic religion;” the religion that comforts, but never challenges.

ii. Nowhere is that clearer than at funerals. The purpose of the funeral Mass is to offer the Holy Sacrifice, to apply the merits of Calvary to the departed soul. Does that mean that the comfort of the family isn’t important? No. It means that the Liturgy should be comforting to the family primarily because through the Mass, and prayers, works, sacrifices joys and sufferings they can assist their departed loved one.

iii. That funeral was a canonization ceremony. The homilist explicitly canonized Ted Kennedy. No one left that funeral thinking “I need to pray for Ted,” or, “I need to get back in the habit of praying for my departed loved ones.”

iv. the Liturgy should be allowed to speak for itself. Pound for pound, there HAD to be ten times more commentary in that Mass than there was Mass text. The Funeral rite doesn’t start, “We have gathered here today in this historic Mission Church to remember the life of the great…” Once that verbiage ended and th inept celebrant got to the chair for the opening prayer… well, the first words of that are, “Let us pray.” Not a musing on how the Narragansett bay must be greyer today because one who so loved it is gone. Every time you got to another point of that Mass there was either some ponderous commentary on the liturgy or some portion of the Martyrology entry on Saint Ted.

v. The Prayer of the Faithful was really amazing, a testimony to the colossal ego of the Kennedy clan. The Church’s prayer was hijacked to promote liberal talking points. They prayed “for Uncle Ted’s smile and laughter as he was with his family” (why specifically that smile needed praying for, I do not know), for an end to “strife between white and black, rich and poor, gay and straight.” They left out the Millennium Development Goals and Free Mumia.

vi. Liturgically it was odd. A spoken psalm, sanctus, amen, Lord’s Prayer, Agnus Dei. The Mass itself wasn’t important enough to prepare; the focus was on the memorial service.

vii. And in a nutshell, that’s a problem. In the world, when someone of note dies, they rent a hall, hold a memorial service, look back, celebrate the life that has been lived, its accomplishments. Nothing wrong with that. We do it at the wake, the sharing of memories and all that. But as Christians we do something else as well – looking forward to judgment and eternity. It’s really tragic that the Liturgy has been corrupted to the point where every Funeral Mass is a canonization ceremony. And I do not think it is unreasonable of me to feel strongly that if the Church’s Liturgy is going to be broadcast nationally on television, that what is broadcast is, really, the Church’s Liturgy, a reflection of her faith.

The Kennedy Funeral was liturgical comfort food. It was manufactured to make everyone feel good!

And it was very successful. I can’t deny that.

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posted August 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm

The funeral also made it even more difficult for pastors all over the country who want to abide by the liturgical norms for funeral Masses — and in many cases are directed to do so by their bishops. How does one deal, for example, with a family member who wants to deliver a euology during Mass, saying something like: "Well, if Cardinal O'Malley can do it for the Kennedys, why can't you do it for me?"

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Peter Brown

posted August 30, 2009 at 4:59 pm

The fact that they left out the Millennium Development Goals is actually a sign of restraint. The Episcopalians commonly make a point of leaving those in.Not to say that the funeral was liturgically well-balanced—only that, as others have noted, it could have been worse.Peace,–Peter

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posted August 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm

That says it all. Disgusting.

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Dirty Copper

posted August 30, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Yes, yes! A thousand times yes!

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posted August 30, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Hmmm..and yet oddly it didn't make me feel good.Might I suggest that perhaps Ted now realizes that he is more in need of prayers than false praise.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted August 30, 2009 at 6:33 pm

David…The only thing that was done wrong, eulogy-wise, was that there were too many of them.A eulogy, or brief remarks, is permitted (as noted in the rite itself).But it must come before the final commendation. And it must never take the place of a homily during the Liturgy of the Word. Dcn. G.

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posted August 30, 2009 at 7:12 pm

"Liturgical comfort food" –an absolutely correct assessment. The doctrines of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, sin, contrition, the efficacy of the Mass and repentance are no longer preached! Should we really be so shocked. The senator's funeral was an accurate sampling of the usual confection that is passed off for a Roman Catholic funeral Mass. (Of note, the Jesuits are masters of ad libing liturical texts and propagators of liturgical abuses.) For me, the most authentic moment was Yo Yo Ma playing Bach — at least he understood the music, played it as written, and did so with a measure of passion. It's unfortunate that the Roman Liturgy didn't merit the same level of devotion.

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Ron King

posted August 30, 2009 at 7:13 pm

I thought our faith and the Mass is about love of God and one another in the Eucharist. I loved that President Obama is getting so much exposure to our faith.I love how God works!I wish for everyone to be so loved as Kennedy was loved. I loved the Mass and the eulogies. What is wrong with a little love in this world?

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posted August 30, 2009 at 7:24 pm

Unlike Father, I spent my time watching the Mass in prayer for Senator Kennedy and in Thanksgiving to God for the many good things God did through Senator Kennedy, so I didn't notice the matters he raised in his commentary.

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posted August 30, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Ted Kennedy was still campaigning . He wanted to have us vote him into heaven by citing all his accomplishments and like any politician wanted us to overlook his failures (being pro abortion a major one).He and his family did a pretty good job (including the final semi message to and from the Pope). Unfortunately, whether one attains heaven is not left to a democratic vote. The King decides who will join the feast. We trust that He will decide whether Teddy made his case.

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted August 30, 2009 at 8:50 pm

The priest's comments were right on the mark. It used to be that eulogies weren't allowed for the very reason people turn eulogies into canonizations. The only way this will stop is to require that all eulogies should be given at the wake–and that should apply to even the highest level of clerics.Parts of the Mass became so political in thrust that it bordered on an abomination

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posted August 30, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Ted Kennedy was always campaigning …even after death the politician who is trying to convince us he deserves our vote to get into the heavenly club. But democracy ends at death. the King will decide whether Teddy should come into the Kingdom. No matter what last minute campaign tricks presented to us (a half read letter from the Pope for example) RIP Ted Kennedy but the Lord will decide on whether and when you will come into the Kingdom…not your constituents.

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posted August 30, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Some comments here show the division in the church. That division obviously gets right down to even what mass is supposed to be about. Mass is about love of God and one another in the Eucharist. Not"I spent my time watching the Mass in prayer for Senator Kennedy and in Thanksgiving to God for the many good things God did through Senator Kennedy, so I didn't notice the matters he raised in his commentary." Gee, I thought the purpose of the liberal form of the mass was to have people engaged in the mass, not off praying the rosary???? And it is interesting to learn that the killing the woman in the car and 50 million infants that Ted borked us into was actually God simply using Ted to make these things happen. None negotiable issues of the Catholic Church were failures by Ted and many other Catholic dems and they start with abortion (ted had 100% NARAL rating and 0% pro life rating) and the protection of marriage between a man and woman and Ted was wrong on this. Had God did been going through Ted Kennedy, he would have stayed pro life as he stated in letters as late as 1971 and not sold his soul to abortion mills and he would have defended marriage. He would also have made Ted the lion of the Senate in teaching the real Catholic faith and that the democratic party must change to pro life or he would leave it forever and that no Catholic can support a party who is at odds with teachings so completely compatible with almost every religion and nature law. How many democrats would have followed like Biden, Kerry, Pelosi, and others and how solid would we have seen the supreme court in supporting issues so important to our country. We are worse off by far for having Ted in the Senate and to say that God was doing anything thru Ted is an insult to God.

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posted August 30, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Also, Deacon you have a wise friend who sent you this email. He seems to really know his faith and the teaching of the Church.

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posted August 31, 2009 at 1:19 am

Well, what can we expect from a church full of sinners?I hadn't intended to watch it at all, so when I lazily tuned into cable news Saturday morning to watch the usual financial TV show "fooles", I began to watch. At first I was actually looking for things to be irritated about, but then I gave up. I appreciated the beauty of the mass, expressed by astonishment that it was actually on every channel, and then did two more things. I said a prayer for Ted Kennedy's soul, and then prayed that all those influential and powerful people be touched by the Holy Spirit while within the four walls of one of the Church's basilicas. I think to be at the mass is to receive Grace. God be praised if hearts are turned!

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posted August 31, 2009 at 1:49 am

Can't argue with it. This was a feel-good, 1970's Church funeral. When the coming schism arrives, the people at that mass who loved it (and those watching who also loved it) will end up in the American Catholic Church, not the Roman one. The Oprah-ized church.Cardinal Sean, whom I usually admire, seemed kind of lacking in authority, and intimidated. Not reassuring.

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Ron King

posted August 31, 2009 at 8:07 am

Greta,If the Mass is not about love of God and one another in the Eucharist then what is the Mass about? Isn't our faith for the sinners? Which is all of us. What better place to have everyone you want converted than to have them at Mass?

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posted August 31, 2009 at 8:38 am

Thought provoking but sometimes we think too much. We are all on a mission in this life and Ted accomplished his. It was time to go. His family loved him no less than we all love our deceased rich or poor.

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posted August 31, 2009 at 9:11 am

Dear patm,I guess I'll be in Cardinal Sean's church.

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posted August 31, 2009 at 9:55 am

Patm, "…coming schism…?" Holy apocalyptic view of the Church, Batman!Deacon Greg, I agree with your assessment about the eulogies.And, quite honestly, I'm STILL wondering."What? No Deacons?"

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posted August 31, 2009 at 1:20 pm

What good is a televised Mass, if so potentially scandalous I couldn't even let my children watch it? The TV was off in our Massachusetts home. No one is saying Sen. Kennedy was entitled to a Mass. The problem was, while sure enough the components of the Mass were there for the Eucharist, that wasn't in their hearts was it? The problem was they didn't seem to care about Ted Kennedy's salvation, it was about preserving his personal political aspirations. Isn't it a sin to exploit God's graces. Shouldn't we say something? Saints are created because they were silent, and hope God would do all the work. We have to bring them to God, and a televised Mass that confused many uncatechized Catholics should be address. It's not been fun being Catholic. I prayed for Ted Kennedy while he was alive that he may received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and repent. I prayed enough for him. While uncharitable, Ted Kennedy is God's problem now, in fact giving it up to God because I can't deal with it.I'm just trying to know how to clean up this mess. So now what, what do I do.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted August 31, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Renee…We can't know what was in "their hearts." I think we should all refrain from trying to discern that. What is done is done. I take solace not in the scattered thousands who watched the Kennedy funeral, but in the countless millions — billions? — whose lives were transformed by watching the funeral of John Paul the Great. In the wake of that event, church attendance soared, conversions climbed. We move on, in joy and in hope. We pray that the Father of Mercies will be merciful toward Kennedy, toward his family, and toward us, as we continue our pilgrimage on earth. Trust in God. He knows what He is doing. Now matter how hard we try to screw up His Church, He keeps fixing it anyway. Further proof, if any were needed, that the Holy Spirit is in charge, not us…Blessings,Deacon G.

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