holy painting

Dear Father: what I don’t want at my funeral

Dear Father,

About that funeral I attended at your parish: I know you were trying to be nice and consoling and reassuring but can we talk? One day, maybe soon, I’m going to die. If you happen to be the priest celebrating my funeral Mass, then I’m worried.

You know how you let the family deliver a eulogy right after the entrance hymn? I’m not an expert but isn’t that kind of strange and wrong? By allowing the eulogy at that time, it seemed like it was part of the Mass when, of course, it wasn’t. What really concerns me is that the eulogist said things about heaven and about the soul that just weren’t true. If that were my funeral Mass, the eulogist wouldn’t have done me any favours because most of the people in that church would now believe that I’m a canonized saint sitting right there beside Jesus. So they won’t pray for my sorry soul and I’ll be in purgatory for a very long time. Who wants that? I don’t. So if you’re the priest at my funeral some day, tell my family to give the eulogy anywhere but in the church and remind them that I still need prayers because I’m not in heaven yet.

Which brings me to my next point. Father, you said the deceased’s soul is in heaven now. How did you know that? It seems to me that you didn’t help that poor soul either. There was a captive audience in the church and not once was the need for prayers for the soul of the deceased mentioned. They were wrongly reassured that the soul is now in heaven. Really? Do you need a primer on purgatory, Father? Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven… The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned… This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: ‘Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.’ (St. Gregory the Great) From the beginning the Church has honoured the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.”

At my funeral, Father, please don’t tell them I’m in heaven with all the angels and saints. God willing, I hope to be there one day but first my imperfect soul needs to be refined in the purifying fires of Purgatory so that I can receive and give back perfect love in Heaven. I could be in Purgatory a long time. If you really want to help me, tell everyone to pray for me every day. Most importantly, have them request Masses for me. Trust me, Father, I’m going to need them.

One more thing: Maybe you were just trying to be welcoming and ecumenical but there was no reason to let everyone receive Holy Communion. There was no announcement about how only baptized practicing Catholics in a state of grace (i.e. not in mortal sin) can receive the Holy Eucharist. Communion became a free-for-all. I was sitting at the back of the church so I had a great view. I watched as confused people who obviously didn’t know what was happening go and receive Communion. Did they know they were receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of my Lord, your Lord? I’ll bet they thought they were just receiving a piece of bread. At my funeral, tell them not to come up to receive Jesus in Holy Communion unless they meet the criteria for worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist. I don’t want Jesus abused.

For most of my adult life, I have tried to live from one Holy Mass to the next, looking eagerly to the next time I can receive Jesus in Holy Communion. For me, and I’m sure for you too, the Eucharist is central to our life and the Real Presence of Jesus is what sustains us and helps our faith to grow. Being able to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament here on Earth is a foretaste of what Heaven will be like.

When I die, maybe people will miss me enough that they will come to the Mass and some of them will cry. That’s good. That means I touched lives. But what’s most important is that my funeral will be truly Catholic.

Do that for me, Father. Tell them I tried to love God with all my heart but I wasn’t perfect so I need to spend time in Purgatory to have my soul purified. Tell them they can help me by praying for me. And tell them about Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and why they can’t all come up to receive Him. Be kind but tell them the Truth. One day, God willing, if I’m in Heaven on the day of your funeral Mass, I’ll pray for you and I’ll keep praying for you until we are together in Heaven.

Signed, concerned but hopeful.

Painting: An Angel Frees the Souls of Purgatory by Ludovico Carracci. Source: Wikimedia Commons

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