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.