The necessary pastoral care of Christian funerals opens up to the hope of the resurrection not to the extemporaneous bizarreness of the celebrating priest even when a bishop presides
THE NECESSARY PASTORAL CARE OF THE CHRISTIAN FUNERALS OPENS TO THE HOPE OF THE RESURRECTION NOT TO THE EXTERNAL BIZARRE OF THE CELEBRATING PRIEST EVEN WHEN A BISHOP IS PRESIDENT
[…] in Rome itself we were forced to assist in the 2012 at the funeral of the most famous director of porn films, during which famous porn-actors and porn-actresses anything but repentant, after having received the Most Holy Eucharist in a sacrilegious way, not satisfied, they went up to the ambo during the liturgical action to give a real and proud praise to pornography before the end of the Holy Mass.
- Church news -
Ivano Liguori, Ofm. Capp..
Who like me is a parish priest - even before I was chaplain of a large city hospital - he will be able to understand me when I say that one of the greatest difficulties for a priest is to make the faithful understand - but also to those who are a little less so - that with the Sacraments it's just a joke. The Sacraments are not comparable to a ductile modeling clay, useful to shape according to the times and circumstances, fabulous when it comes to meeting artistic needs, so as to express the inspiration of the creator, but without demanding more than what this humble material really can give outside of what it was created for by the mind of man.
With the Sacraments some think they can do it all, absolutely everything. And if something cannot be done, it is invented from scratch: find your soul mate, fix the economy, mend broken ties or forge new ones, bring together chronic delays and put the thermometer of faith back on par. Or use the Sacramento as a political or musical podium to convey certain messages or amarcord, organize kermesse of various potentates in which profanation invariably escapes us, up to the belated request for forgiveness complete with a fake tear in front of the coffin of the one who until recently did not deign to even look at. For this I repeat: with the Sacraments one cannot and must not joke because through the right understanding and celebration of these sacred signs we publicly reveal our faith and in doing so we express our belief and the greatness of our dignity as Christians within the Catholic Church which is its faithful guardian on behalf of Christ the Lord.
Both liturgical and sacramental theology start from a fundamental axiom that says that the The law of prayer And The law of belief (the law of prayer is the law of believing). This means that my way of praying or celebrating makes my faith manifest. Obviously this axiom is true even if formulated in reverse, the The law of belief And The law of prayer and my faith makes it possible for me to pray and celebrate well. However, I leave this type of insight to our liturgist brother Simone Pifizzi who will be able to explain the matter better than me. I am interested first of all in clarifying the dogmatic and subsequently the pastoral aspect. Because it is from what we believe and what we defend within the Tradition of the Church that a good pastoral care is born that the most perfectines would call Practical Theology.
The practical aspect of our pastoral care reflects the most intimate aspect of the relationship with God, what the Catechism of the Catholic Church [cf.. NN. 2095-ss] calls the virtue of religion and which disposes us to adoring recognition of the Lord, first reality and commandment sanctioned by the Decalogue and messianic truth that Jesus strongly rejects before the devil in the desert when he says: «It is written: "The Sir, Your God, will love: him alone shall you serve"" [Mt 4,10]. Therefore, if in my practical faith there is no recognition of having to worship and adore the living Lord, in Spirit and Truth [cf.. GV 4,24], I will also do beautiful things but they will always remain limited to the glorification of man and transient realities that do not save and do not help for eternal life.
He is with the Lord in his Church that we intend to compromise our lives, till death, event in which most of the screens of mortals fall apart to leave uncovered the true sore nerve of our creatures sick from sin: we are afraid to die because we do not believe in a living and resurrected God!
In the hypothetical ranking of the most scrambled Sacraments, you don't even have to ask, in the first place that of the Eucharist stands out, meaning both the sacrifice of the Holy Mass, Eucharistic Communion, Holy Viaticum and Eucharistic Adoration. Thanks to the fact that if the majority of the faithful and priests no longer believe in the living and real presence of the Lord present in his true body, blood, soul and divinity of that consecrated unleavened bread, everything else follows accordingly. And I say this not because I want to launch defamatory accusations against the People of God or some confrere - something that would immediately attract the ire of those beautiful devout souls with scandalized virgin hearts whose only priestly sin consists in the bad word or in that area geographical below the waistband of the pants ― but I say this because today with the Smartphone e i social network everything is taken up, all recorded and documented and reproduced in real time as it happened for the Cycling Mass Kobram cup, the Put on the mat in the sea and still others of which traces can easily be found in the boundless archive of the web.
At this point it is only a matter of viewing the video documents and to draw the necessary conclusions ... in this regard someone would have to say «the argument against the fact is not valid». But we, here from The Island of Patmos, we want to add the arguments to the facts, not so much to defend such desolates Mexican butchers of liturgical and sacramental indecorousness but those believers of Christ who have the right to have good antibodies to resist in faith these oddities that now seem to constitute the objective normality in many communities.
Before moving on to present the facts I would like to recall that in Rome itself we were forced to assist in the 2012 at the funeral of the most famous director of porn films, during which famous porn-actors and porn-actresses anything but repentant, after having received the Most Holy Eucharist in a sacrilegious way, not satisfied, they went up to the ambo during the liturgical action to give a real and proud praise to pornography before the end of the Holy Mass. Episode reported in detail by our Father Ariel in an article of 2017 to which I refer you [see article WHO].
Holy Mass is the heart of the Church and it often happens that some Eucharistic celebrations become the framework for expressing something else or the complete opposite of what a Catholic Holy Mass should be. Often this happens in delicate circumstances, such as for example at religious funerals in which the rule now in vogue seems to be only that of the search for human respect which is thought to be superior and more urgent than that attitude of toilets which is due and pertains only to the Lord really present in the Sacred Species. And incidentally it is good to remember that in the Catholic faith we usually indicate with toilets the cult reserved to God and to the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, which is a cult of worship; with hyperdulia the one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary which is not a cult of adoration but of veneration, likewise that of the Angels and Saints indicated with the term of dulia.
The fact that the Eucharistic celebration is used to “say or do anything else” is wrong in itself, precisely because the celebration of the Holy Mass is used. The flaw of inappropriateness of a deformed faith is evident, because already the Holy Mass with its redemptive mystery says something infinitely more powerful and definitive: "We announce your death, man, we proclaim your resurrection in anticipation of your coming!» (acclamation of the assembly after the Eucharistic Prayer). Which we can also express in this way: “Death and life faced each other in a prodigious duel: the Lord of life was dead; but now, vivo, triumphs!» [from the hymn of praise Gregorian].
What could we possibly add more and better before this announcement that characterizes the blessed hope to which all men are called by the risen Christ? but yet, the case of funeral masses revisited it is very common and the confrere parish priests will understand me very well, some of whom will have already resigned themselves to passing the time of the funeral living it as a penitential moment to avoid finding the relatives of the deceased who list all the most offensive and poisonous litanies about priests and the "rigid Church".
Still others resist stoically and they try to make people understand that a funeral Eucharistic celebration, like the one recently celebrated in the church of Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in the presence of the Venezuelan prelate H.E. Monsignor Riccardo Lamba auxiliary bishop of Rome [you see WHO], it can be quite another thing, prophetic announcement of hope and consolation in the face of the nullification of death.
We have to state decisively that the concept of Christian death is different from that of pagan death. Here we do not wish to examine the very serious tragedy of the news story of Martina Scialdone killed in Rome by her ex-partner. We are more interested in bringing into this event of absurd death a Christian response of faith that goes beyond the sentiment highlighted by the entire national press and to which the celebrating Bishop seems to have implicitly consented by allowing a song by the singer Irama to be performed: «Wherever you are: the farewell to Martina Scialdone and those words that break the silence of the church at the funeral» [cf.. WHO].
We are aware or not what does it mean to propose such a song in memory of a deceased who, making a clear reference to reincarnation, literally says: «Wherever you are / if you will come back here / if more / you know that I will wait for you»? [cf.. WHO]. A Christian shouldn't already know what eschatological destiny his deceased brothers are destined for? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in n. 1013:
“Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, it is the end of the time of grace and mercy that God offers him to carry out his earthly life according to the divine plan and to decide his ultimate destiny. When is “the one course of our earthly life over”, we will never return to live other earthly lives. “It is appointed for men to die once” [EB 9,27]. There is no "reincarnation" after death.".
Understand this first we are also accompanied to see the definitive condition in which our dead are destined to stay, the Christian vision of death is expressed in an incomparable way in the liturgy of the Church that says:
«To your faithful, man, life is not taken away, but transformed; and while the home of this earthly exile is being destroyed, an eternal habitation is prepared in heaven" [See. Preface of the dead I: Roman Missal].
This new home in which life is transformed after death leads directly into the glory of Paradise with God, in that mystery called the Communion of Saints which constitutes us as a triumphant Church, purgative and militant. It is therefore not sensible and useful to ask ourselves, from the point of view of a mature faith, the "physical place inhabited" by the deceased: rather the deceased must be found alive in God awaiting the final resurrection and in that communion of love that we mortals must seek with God and which allows us to be close to them every time we pray, we participate in the Holy Mass, we perform works of mercy in their memory, we strive to live a life of conversion and union with the Lord in the expectation that we too will be united with theirs in Heaven.
In conclusion, I pause to briefly comment on the liturgical indications of the funeral ritual in use in the Catholic Church that a priest in the care of souls, and much more a bishop, should know and apply not out of a sense of cold formalism but to preserve the strength of faith in the Church and nourish the hope that does not disappoint in the people of God.
From the clarifications to the General Premises the Funeral Ritual [cf.. pp. 29-30] we read in the paragraph 6:
«after the introductory remarks to the last recommendation and farewell, according to local customs approved by the diocesan bishop, short words of Christian remembrance regarding the deceased can be added. The text is previously agreed and is not pronounced from the ambo. Avoid using recorded text or images, as well as the performance of songs or music extraneous to the liturgy».
Above all at the end of the funeral Mass, after celebrating the sacrifice of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ who rises victorious before death and the coffin in the church, there would be little to add, if not a solemn: I believe. But the Church, in her maternal care, still wishes to be a balm of tenderness and to recommend the deceased to God and to say goodbye to him in the hope of a new encounter in Paradise. For this reason, he allows an affectionate and familiar farewell as long as it is in a Christian spirit, reverberating that mystery that has just concluded in the Eucharist celebrated.
This greeting is to be agreed with the priest which verifies its suitability and the opportunity of an undue spectacularization, so that values that clash with the Christian faith are not expressed, just as the pagan expression is abundantly fashionable today: "may the earth be light on you". All this is done not from the ambo, which is the place where the Word of God alone must resound, but from a suitable place.
As explicit as necessary is the clarification to avoid singing, music or anything else that is extraneous to the liturgy and that could create confusion even if in some way a connection can be found with the history of the deceased or his family. We repeat that the sacraments are not modeling clay that I can adapt or modify according to my wishes.
If we really have to look for suitable words or songs that may have the strength to break the silence of a church funeral, let us make use of what the treasure of the Church already places in our hands, in that Easter hymn ofExulte
“This is the night when Christ, destroying the bonds of death, He rose as victor from the tomb. No advantage for us to be born, if he hadn't redeemed us".
We forget too often that we have been called into existence to be redeemed and ransomed by Christ and this is what allows us to see death as a passage and not an end. In every funeral Christ is there to remind us that he has broken death and with it the absurd pain of a life that can be violated or insulted in the eyes of the most, just believe it. And the first to believe it should be the sacred pastors as celebrators and zealous custodians of the sacred mysteries.
Laconi, 27 January 2023
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