Today is my birthday. And I’m going to discuss funerals. I’ve been to a number of funerals, as we all. One thing I’ve noticed, and this has been commented upon quite often in the Catholic blogosphere and social media: the deceased are canonized. It’s understandable, but it its also uncharitable. If you are attending a funeral, it is quite likely that you are doing so because you’ve had a relationship with the one deceased, whether they were a loved one, such as parent or spouse, or just a friend or coworker. Therefore we do not like to think of that person as having descended to Hell, or is even in Purgatory. We prefer to think of them as having gone straight to Heaven.
There is no reason to assume that the deceased is already in Heaven. While that may be comforting to us, it may also be cruel to the deceased if they are in Purgatory, being there as a result of being insufficiently detached from Earthly desires and pleasures at the time of death. We as a culture dislike talking about sin, as if that makes us “judgmental” about other people’s behavior. We seek to avoid offending them. And in doing so, behavior stands uncorrected, and people perhaps wind up paying for it in the afterlife.
I have little idea what was said or done at funerals before, say, 1970. I do know that priests wore black vestments. Perhaps they focused less on Jesus’ Resurrection than is common today and more on the suffering and death of Jesus. I would imagine that Purgatory was referred to in a respectful and prayerful manner, so as to provide an awareness to the living about the reality of it, and some comfort to the loved ones of the deceased that people would be praying for their soul. I don’t know.
At my funeral, I want the priest to wear black, and go on and on about Purgatory. Maybe the funeral home can have selected literature on Purgatory available and stapled to my Holy Cards.
But don’t assume I’m in Heaven.
NOTE: This is a “retropost,” a post from an old blog I wrote on “The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven (& Purgatory) and Hell” that I shuttered a few years ago. Individual posts are very slowly being transferred to either In Exile or Sober Catholic, whichever seems appropriate. Some are backdated, others postdated, in case you’re confused as to why you never saw a particular post if you’re a diligent reader. The process should be completed by early 2022.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)