Saturday, June 23, 2012

This is what it sounds like, when Boomers die...

Disco coffin: Ah, ah, ah, ah staying alive...oh..wait.
 Of the things that skeeve me, this is one of them.
More families turning funerals into FUN-erals
But as an increasing number of Americans describe themselves as "more spiritual than religious," funeral services are beginning to follow suit. They may include Psalms or hymns, but increasingly they are less liturgical, less focused on the eternal destiny of the deceased, and less likely to be led by clergy.
Instead, the services have become more focused on the mourners and their memories, often with storytelling, videos and slide shows.
"A lot of that is being driven by the baby boomer spirit," said Chris Hammon, executive director of the the Louisville-based Wayne Oates Institute, which trains ministers in integrating spirituality, health and ethics.
"We seek to embrace life a lot more than death - even in death," he said.|newswell|text|Home|s
The more I do this priest thing, the more I tend to think that traditions are good. Very good. Of course, I was brought through the seminary during the "customize your own liturgy" days and I think I've participated in funeral services that have included everything from a nun preaching about inequality in the church to a clown-themed wake service to a non-practicing Catholic daughter belting out a karaoke styled hillbilly song about trains and going home at her mother's...her sweet demure, faithful mother...funeral. None of it good.
The funeral spray will actually spray you

One of the first things I learned to do is to "set up a funeral". When someone dies, the priest reviews the liturgy with the survivors, solidifies ministries and music, and creates the service. Some of us even have a guide, "Through Death to Life", to help with this process.

I don't think it helps. I don't believe that a family, at the time of grief, truly wants to customize a funeral. In the old days, the Church just had a liturgy for the soul of the departed. It was done for you.

And so should it be today.

Pfft. This burial is totally not fun.
I've come to trust the simplicity...oh, what's that word that VATICAN II used...yes, GRAVITAS. I've come to trust the gravitas of the liturgy. The prayers, the ancient gestures of incensation and spinklings. The focus on resurrection. The silences.

However, the consequential relationship between boomers and the supposed VATICAN II church, has pushed everything to being a reflection of the person. Everyone is special and unique. As the article intimated, even dead, you gotta be somebody! It's the boomer way.
"We wanted to put Pawpaw's fishing hat on the coffin because we're non-traditional and sentimental that way."
"Earle loved Budweiser, so we're all going to wear Bud shirts and he'll hold a Bud in his coffin."
And non-traditional has become it's own tradition.

It has sucked the meaning out of the funeral liturgy. There is nothing more sobering than a funeral Mass done well and done by the book. You realize that a soul is being honored, not a person. That an immense God is being spoken to, not a friend spoken about. And you realize death is an ancient enemy to be regarded with the promise of eternal life, not a retirement party for life.

Some time back, someone I knew died and I told the family not to worry about the liturgy. They were ok with it (as MOST people are). On the day of the funeral, another priest, older priest, had gotten a liturgy together, pulled together ministers, a eulogy written by the family and as he said, "I got some funny stories from them last night to share". Also a couple of songs, a country song about heaven and of course, "Amazing Grace".

The senior priest was a bit outdone that he had to do all of that. I told him it wasn't necessary but he had already been trained in the non-traditional tradition and would hear nothing of it. He took the podium and emceed the service by reading the obituary from the paper and then sharing funny stories from the evening before. He then read a poem written by a teenage relative and welcomed everyone to the reception after. The CD then played "Amazing Grace".

From my estimation, fun was not put in funeral, despite the effort.

Nor should it be.