Dilemmas and the Priesthood
I have had two occasions to work with priests closely, and get to know them on that level. The first was in the early 1990s, when I was a paid sacristan at a Jesuit parish in Georgetown which shall remain nameless. The second is my current apostolate, as a Master of Ceremonies for a Traditional Latin Mass at a parish in the Virginia suburbs of DC. I have been with the latter for three and a half years.
Some of the priests in my diocese come from other parts of the country. When they go home, even to the parish where they were "bread and buttered," they are reluctant to celebrate Mass, never mind CONcelebrate. With the former, they can't predict the level of aggressiveness on the part of "communion ministers" approaching the altar, or they are reluctant to use female servers. With the latter, they cannot predict how the main celebrant -- usually the pastor, and often one drowning in narcissism -- will behave at any given point. Sometimes it puts them in an awkward position. So they resign themselves to saying a private Mass for their parents and/or family members.
Another delicate area concerns funerals. People expect to be able to give a "eulogy" after Communion, a form of remembrance of the deceased. There are good intentions to bring comfort to those who grieve, but often it occurs at the expense of the true nature of Christian burial, which is the occasion to pray for the repose of the soul of the departed, not assume they are already in Heaven. To paraphrase The Bard, you have come to bury them, not to praise them. (Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2.)
It is a fact that . No kidding, they really are not. The instruction in this area is quite specific. The most that can be permitted is for a person close to the deceased to make some sort of brief remark, but “never a eulogy of any kind.” In the interest of full disclosure, I have done two of them. The first was for a friend, and I regret that occasion (although I was quite good at it). The second was for my very saintly paternal grandmother, who lived to be one hundred. I read a transcript composed by a cousin who could not be present, then added a postscript of my own. I regret that occasion as well, but only a little.
Of course, the bishops themselves make matters worse, probably more so than even Mr Voris suggests in his latest video. Even "conservative" bishops are not above practically canonizing a departed priest, even as the latter's confreres in concelebration will go back to their parishes, and tell Mr and Mrs Dick and Jane McGillicuddy, that their dear sweet Aunt Minnie McGillicuddy will NOT have her praises sung while HE'S in charge. (Yes, Diocese of Arlington, that means you!)
I have already written something for Dad. It is very brief, includes an appeal to pray for his soul as he would wish, and is most assuredly not a eulogy. Alas, I will probably be outvoted by my brother and sisters, who will naturally assume I'm being Mister Big Shot From Washington coming home to show off. (It could happen.) I will have a Requiem Mass said for him at a privileged altar downtown, which will release him from Purgatory. But if there's a eulogy, I'll get up and walk out. As the Irish love to say: “Their friends already know, and their enemies wouldn't believe you anyway.”
I know the Old Man all too well. He'd walk out too.