Ashes on the Go

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  • Many years ago I read a book - actually a diary - written by a Forces' Padre (Congregational, I think) who had been interned at Colditz. Also there were two High Anglicans, and they shared a common chaplaincy to their fellow prisoners. I remember his annoyance at his colleagues who felt that it was vital to celebrate every Feast or High Day with a celebration of the Eucharist.

    Hence: I think that folk like EM and myself, while obviously respecting the Catholic tradition, find it hard to relate to the idea of celebrating a Mass as part of a funeral when so many present will not be members of the community of faith. I hear what Forthview is saying, but I do feel that this can give the impression - however unintentionally - of excluding such folk from a major segment of the service and thus causing pain at the very moment when they are seeking solace.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Not to have a Eucharist may exclude many - perhaps of the immediate family - from the support and consolation of communion.
  • True - which shows how tricky these things are. In my tradition one would never dream of having Communion at a wedding or a funeral, it would be regarded as very strange.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I'm not RC, and this isn't part of my tradition. But I would have thought the RC position would be that the important person at the funeral is the deceased. Isn't a Requiem Mass being offered on behalf of the deceased, for his or her benefit? Isn't its primary purpose to speed his or her way heavenwards, or at least to reduce time spent in Purgatory? With that understanding, us down here would be incidental, invited along to add our prayers to that offering.

    Or is my understanding of what is likely to be the Catholic theology on funerals frozen in the 1520s?


    CofE funerals haven't usually included Holy Communion, but when they do, the congregation receives and expects to. In a Catholic Requiem, are the congregation always invited to receive, and if they do, has this always been the practice or is it a recent innovation, since 1965 or later?
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    I am glad that Baptist Trainfan sees the difficulties of reconciling different traditions at moments which can be emotionally sensitive.
    Enoch is,of course,correct that a funeral Mass is in the first place to PRAY for the soul of the deceased. There has never been in my lifetime anyway any ban on people communicating at a Requiem Mass,though,in the olden days many of the faithful would not receive Communion regularly (due to fasting laws !)
    The Mass is traditionally divided into two main sections a) the Mass of the Catechumens now called the Liturgy of the Word and b) the Mass of the Faithful,now called the liturgy of the eucharist. The Liturgy of the Word is the part of the liturgy which communicates God's love to those who are seeking while the Liturgy of the Eucharist is basically for those of the Household of the Faith.Until the fourth century those 'seekers' were excluding from the celebration of the Mysteries but that has long ago disappeared.


    One must remember that it is equally a tricky moment at a funeral as to how one introduces a Liturgy of the Word to those who do not in any way share the faith of the deceased or the close relatives. I'm sure that Baptist Trainfan will have had some experience of those moments at a funeral.


    In my own parish we now frequently have funerals which are not held with a Mass,nor even in church.

    In recent months one deceased parishioner , a regular communicant,asked for the service to be held at a crematorium,so as not to embarrass her non-believing son.

    Another regular communicant had her next of kin deny her a Requiem Mass and even the presence of a Catholic minister at the funeral service. The duty minister at the crematorium was really embarrassed at having to conduct the funeral and indeed her brief from the next of kin was not to offer any prayer.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited March 19
    Forthview wrote: »
    Another regular communicant had her next of kin deny her a Requiem Mass and even the presence of a Catholic minister at the funeral service. The duty minister at the crematorium was really embarrassed at having to conduct the funeral and indeed her brief from the next of kin was not to offer any prayer.
    In my view what the next of kin did was disgraceful, whatever their personal beliefs.

  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    Exclamation mark what Nonconformist use instead is "the invitation" which is part of the service. This is usually longer than the short phrase given by Nick Tamen and I suspect many churches use it as well as the
    True - which shows how tricky these things are. In my tradition one would never dream of having Communion at a wedding or a funeral, it would be regarded as very strange.

    Do not be so sure. I had a Methodist friend who had communion for just the bride and groom at her wedding.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    Forthview wrote: »
    There can be times at funerals when many of the people present will have little or no church connection.

    I find it hard to believe that Jesus would be uncomfortable entering into the bodies of such people under the circumstances.
    I rarely hear of fellow 'Western' Christians complaining about being excluded from Communion in Orthodox churches.Probably that is because they have little contact with Orthodox rites or would feel strange if present at them.

    That is the case with me. I find the Orthodox liturgy so exclusive (closed doors, drawn curtains, etc.) that I would not be comfortable receiving communion at one even if I were permitted to do so.
  • Forthview wrote: »
    As I said ,I was not present at the funeral Mass,so can make no comment on the manner in which the rules of the Catholic Church were explained. For those who are involved in church circles,the general teachings of the Church on the sanctity of the eucharist are fairly well known and that whether one agrees with them or not.

    As you know ,there can be times at funerals when many of the people present will have little or no church connection. Such people can sometimes feel uncomfortable within a church setting, be that church a Catholic church, an Anglican church or any other Christian church or indeed any other house of worship of any faith community.

    One can ask why indeed are they there ? The answer would normally be - I think - to honour the deceased, to show solidarity with the deceased's relatives and share in their grief..

    Is it ,in general ,pastorally sensitive to ask such people to enter fully and intimately into the very heart of Catholic worship,if they have no understanding of what they are doing ?

    Now I am aware that there are some fellow Christians who for various reasons are separated from the Apostolic See and who feel keenly that separation when they are present at a Catholic Mass which may be very similar to their own forms of worship. The pain of that separation is felt also by their Catholic brothers and sisters and we have to try to work together.

    For myself I try to look upon this in as positive a light as possible.I rarely hear of fellow 'Western' Christians complaining about being excluded from Communion in Orthodox churches.Probably that is because they have little contact with Orthodox rites or would feel strange if present at them. 50 years ago few non-Catholics would have attended or indeed understood Catholic rites and that has now changed. Catholics also attend the rites of other Christian communities and that is good.
    To go to the OP I cannot imagine 'Ashes on the go' being done in Scotland as most people would have little idea of what was on offer. There are some Presbyterian churches which mark 'Ash Wednesday' and Lent in some way, but it is not generally on the radar.

    Clearly we see this from very different perspectives. In the incident in question - everything else aside - is there more comfort and more Christ in pastoral sensitivity or in sticking rigidly and pointedly to the strictest doctrines of the RCC?

    As for B's soul finding comfort in it - well again we depart in understanding. 3 weeks after his death his destination and comfort are already decided. We have no say in the matter - if we claim otherwise we subvert the power and grace of God.

    There is no positive light you can possible spin on that encounter with so called grace in the RCC. Not even any compassion
  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Exclamation mark what Nonconformist use instead is "the invitation" which is part of the service. This is usually longer than the short phrase given by Nick Tamen and I suspect many churches use it …
    Just so. Being a non conformist (even to my own non conformist denomination) I use it every time I preside.

  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited March 19
    In reply to EM, I think:

    Well, the practice at Our Place (Anglo-Catholic C of E) is to go with the wishes of the deceased and his/her family.

    If a full Funeral Mass is celebrated, all are invited to come for Communion or a Blessing, as they wish. No restrictions are made.

    If it's a 'simple' non-Eucharistic Funeral Service, the question of Communion doesn't arise, but, at Our Place, it's customary (at least for a member of our own congregation) to sprinkle Holy Water (as a reminder of our common Baptism) , and to swing Incense at the coffin!

    Father NewPriest, at such a service planned for the end of this month, intends to invite family members, others from the regular congregation, and whoever else feels so moved, to light candles at the Shrine of Our Blessed Lady ('Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death') before we all go off to the crematorium for the Committal.

    This is, in our context, being pastorally sensitive, I think. No pressure at all, but the opportunities are offered.
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Or maybe across The Pond. I can't speak for what does or doesn't get said (or printed in bulletins) in the UK. What I described is common in my experience in the US.

    It's worth pointing out that the rules on who may be admitted to communion are not quite the same in the C of E and TEC.

    The TEC rule is "all Baptized Christians". C of E is "members of the C of E who have been confirmed or admitted to Holy Communion, plus members of other churches who are regular communicants in their own churches".


  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited March 19
    O dear. On re-visiting this thread, I appear to have missed reading at least one page. Sorry about that - a Senior Moment, obviously....

    ...but AIUI @Leorning Cniht is correct, though sometimes 'in good standing' is substituted for 'regular communicants'......
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    As Miss Amanda tells us it is doubtful if Jesus would be uncomfortable entering into the bodies of these mourners. Is not the Word of God ,as proclaimed ,the time when God's message and God's love can be shown to the mourners and indeed enter into their bodies ? Why the necessity to receive a piece of bread - as some people would see it ?
    Miss Amanda is only too aware that the Church (in its widest sense) has rules and regulations and indicates when things are not seemly or even correct according to her understanding. God distributes his grace just as he wishes but the Church which is the custodian on earth of the holy sacraments has responsibilities which should not lightly be tossed aside.
    EM tells us that we have no say in the matter of B's soul and that is quite right. We have no say actually in anything. All is God's grace, but Jesus tells us to pray. 'Ask and it will be given to you.' If we do not pray for others, as well as for ourselves, there is actually no point in going to church ,no point in reading the Gospels, no point in trying to follow the way marked out for us by Jesus. The fact that we pray for someone is to me at least a positive light on that encounter with 'so-called' grace in the RCC.
  • Forthview wrote: »

    1. As Miss Amanda tells us it is doubtful if Jesus would be uncomfortable entering into the bodies of these mourners. Is not the Word of God ,as proclaimed ,the time when God's message and God's love can be shown to the mourners and indeed enter into their bodies ? Why the necessity to receive a piece of bread - as some people would see it ?

    2. Miss Amanda is only too aware that the Church (in its widest sense) has rules and regulations and indicates when things are not seemly or even correct according to her understanding. God distributes his grace just as he wishes but the Church which is the custodian on earth of the holy sacraments has responsibilities which should not lightly be tossed aside.

    3. EM tells us that we have no say in the matter of B's soul and that is quite right. We have no say actually in anything. All is God's grace, but Jesus tells us to pray. 'Ask and it will be given to you.' If we do not pray for others, as well as for ourselves, there is actually no point in going to church ,no point in reading the Gospels, no point in trying to follow the way marked out for us by Jesus. The fact that we pray for someone is to me at least a positive light on that encounter with 'so-called' grace in the RCC.

    1. Why indeed. Why offer it then and create division when we are seeking peace and harmony?

    2. Our responsibilities are, as you rightly say, those which God asks of us in accordance with Grace. One of those is bringing calm to troubled souls. See answer 1. above.

    3. Praying for the Dead is a discussion we've had before on SoF. Some of us will see it as pointless, others as necessary. No harm in it from my pov but we are not going to change God's mind retrospectively nor will our asking for something subvert God's will. If asking were the only determinant to get God to act then we have power over Him not vice versa: we don't - unlike him - see everything. We see now as in a gals darkly and our requests will only reflect that.

  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    I really do have a problem with "Sorry, Jesus, you can't go into X's body because X isn't a Catholic/isn't properly predisposed/is in impaired communion with Rome. Yours, Father Y" vs. "Sorry, Father Y, I'm going to go into X's body whether you like it or not. Yours, Jesus."
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I get that people are expressing ways they feel excluded, but is it beneficial to use disagreement about each others' funeral theology and rules as to eucharistic hospitality as a cover for what is underneath refighting our respective positions on the Reformation?

    It puts me in mind of a slogan that was said to have been painted on a wall in Belfast,
    "No Pope here",
    and underneath, somebody else had scrawled,
    "Lucky old Pope".

    And, even though a lot of people may see it that way, the point about who can receive and who shouldn't isn't about protecting Jesus. It's about the possible danger to us of receiving unworthily and without discernment.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    ...I think that folk like EM and myself, while obviously respecting the Catholic tradition, find it hard to relate to the idea of celebrating a Mass as part of a funeral when so many present will not be members of the community of faith. I hear what Forthview is saying, but I do feel that this can give the impression - however unintentionally - of excluding such folk from a major segment of the service and thus causing pain at the very moment when they are seeking solace.
    I disagree. The Eucharist will be celebrated at my funeral. All baptized Christians will be invited to the altar rail; those who don't partake for whatever reason can still enjoy the music from our excellent choir. Communion is too important to some of the people dearest to me to let it go.


  • Yes, but you are inviting "all baptised Christians" to receive. While this is not as broad as "everyone who wishes", it is still far more inclusive than "only our brand of Christians and no-one else". And those who don't consider them Christians probably won't want to receive anyway. Only problem: what would a Salvationist do, they don't do baptism (which, you might say, is their problem not yours!)
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    This discussion about people who may feel excluded at certain moments of religious rites should be considered in a much wider context than who may or may not receive the consecrated wafer at a Catholic requiem Mass.
    If we say 'well we'll not have a Requiem Mass in case those who are not invited to communicate might feel excluded, then we have to say, 'Well ,should we have a Christian funeral at all, in case those who are not believers will feel excluded by talk about Christian ideas which they may know very little about ?. While it may be embarrassing for some people not to be invited to communicate at a Catholic Mass, it can be equally embarrassing for some people, if they go to a funeral where there is a lot of Gospel preaching and language which they feel uncomfortable with.

    It's clear to me that EM has issues with Catholic ideas and that is of course his prerogative but as Enoch indicates ,is that why one goes to a funeral ? Would EM complain if the young man had been Jewish if he had gone to the funeral and there was no mention of Christ ? Would EM have been disgusted if the young man had been a Muslim and he had been buried with Muslim rites ?

    I simply cannot believe that the young people attending the funeral were all anxious to receive Communion. Were that to have been the case then there is no bar to them investigating the teachings of the Church and if they accept them then they would come into full communion with the Church and they would know what Communion means for Catholic sas well as for many other Christians. Were EM able to tell me that the young people in question were all in agreement with the Catholic teaching on the eucharist then my sorrow at their separation from the Apostolic See would be great. If they have other ideas or indeed no specifically Christian faith then I ask again, why go to Communion ?

    A liturgical act, such as a Requiem Mass is a liturgical act involving the whole Church. It is a formal community prayer which concerns directly or indirectly the whole Christian community. As such it follows the formalities - in this case the norms of the Church.
    Yes, I know that some Christians have their own individual ideas and beliefs ,but the Catholic Church is a community and follows, in public prayer at least ,the community rules. The individual priest may have expressed awkwardly or perhaps even uncharitably what are the clear rules of the Church which he has no authority to change. Just as individual priests sometime interpret the rules of the Church in different ways,so too will the listeners to the explanations interpret the words in different ways. I repeat that if EM really felt himself to be in full communion with the Catholic Church then he should have approached the altar rail with a clear conscience.
  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    Our theological college did a joint study module with a local Roman Catholic college. When it came to communion, we all, of course, knew the rules about who should and shouldn't receive. Some of us were upset at knowing we couldn't receive, some of us weren't because we knew that - right or wrong - table hospitality stood for something significant for that particular ecclesial community.

    There is a 'spiritual communion' which indicates the reception of Christ - though not physically through bread and wine. And at such moments when I know that it would be discourteous of me to present myself at an altar where we all know I'm not a 'valid' communicant, according to the rules, this suffices for me. Christ has always been the one who stands in the nether land of man's failure to find unity, and love enough to embrace those 'outside'. He won't exclude himself from the hearts of the ones who can't or won't for whatever reason receive him, should they really wish to.
  • Forthview wrote: »

    1. This discussion about people who may feel excluded at certain moments of religious rites should be considered in a much wider context than who may or may not receive the consecrated wafer at a Catholic requiem Mass.
    If we say 'well we'll not have a Requiem Mass in case those who are not invited to communicate might feel excluded, then we have to say, 'Well ,should we have a Christian funeral at all, in case those who are not believers will feel excluded by talk about Christian ideas which they may know very little about ?. While it may be embarrassing for some people not to be invited to communicate at a Catholic Mass, it can be equally embarrassing for some people, if they go to a funeral where there is a lot of Gospel preaching and language which they feel uncomfortable with.

    2. It's clear to me that EM has issues with Catholic ideas and that is of course his prerogative but as Enoch indicates ,is that why one goes to a funeral ? Would EM complain if the young man had been Jewish if he had gone to the funeral and there was no mention of Christ ? Would EM have been disgusted if the young man had been a Muslim and he had been buried with Muslim rites ?

    3. I simply cannot believe that the young people attending the funeral were all anxious to receive Communion. Were that to have been the case then there is no bar to them investigating the teachings of the Church and if they accept them then they would come into full communion with the Church and they would know what Communion means for Catholic sas well as for many other Christians. Were EM able to tell me that the young people in question were all in agreement with the Catholic teaching on the eucharist then my sorrow at their separation from the Apostolic See would be great. If they have other ideas or indeed no specifically Christian faith then I ask again, why go to Communion ?

    4. A liturgical act, such as a Requiem Mass is a liturgical act involving the whole Church. It is a formal community prayer which concerns directly or indirectly the whole Christian community. As such it follows the formalities - in this case the norms of the Church.
    Yes, I know that some Christians have their own individual ideas and beliefs ,but the Catholic Church is a community and follows, in public prayer at least ,the community rules. The individual priest may have expressed awkwardly or perhaps even uncharitably what are the clear rules of the Church which he has no authority to change. Just as individual priests sometime interpret the rules of the Church in different ways,so too will the listeners to the explanations interpret the words in different ways. I repeat that if EM really felt himself to be in full communion with the Catholic Church then he should have approached the altar rail with a clear conscience.

    Delayed response as I have been away.

    1. Mass takes the event to a whole new place. There's visible exclusion

    2. I have issues with any ideas or practices that divide when one would expect them to unite. I have no problems with Jewish or Muslim funerals and have never felt left out there. Christians do expect an inclusive service which is why in the case I mention, it was particularly striking as it played on rather than spoke into a shared, communal act of grief at the loss of 3 young lives.

    3. We all attended out of grief and found it thrown back at us. I did not want to receive nor did I expect to: I know it would be a requiem mass and have no issue in one sense. What we didn't count on was a near rant at a funeral service about the glory of the RCC.

    4. It is not a liturgical act involving the whole church. It is a liturgical act performed in the RCC building, by a RCC priest, according to the rites and ceremonies of the RCC. Other approaches are available and few, if any, make claim to uniqueness.

    Yes the priest was wrong to act as he did. But he didn't need to say it …. I haven' heard it said at any other RCC funeral mass I've attended. Perhaps, charitably, he was being honest and saying what others are afraid to say. Hardly grounds for ecumenical endeavour is it?

  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    EM it is a case here of people using the same words to mean different things. When I say the 'Church' I mean the whole of the Catholic Church (including those who are outside of visible communion with what it generally recognised as the Catholic Church). Prayer is at one and the same time both general and particular.It can and should commit into God's hands the whole of humanity. In the sense of the particular a Requiem Mass commits trustingly the soul of a departed person or persons into God's hands.

    Again I have to assume that the next of kin of the departed chose this form of funeral service instead of another option apparently making less or indeed no claim to uniqueness.

    I am truly sorry that your experience at this particular Requiem Mass was so negative.

    My thoughts and prayers are equally with the young people who were not comforted by the prayers or actions of the Mass.


    Ecumenical endeavour does not necessarily consist in forgetting about the difficulties in understanding that different Christians have but confronting them openly and wherever possible with charity. I'll leave it at that.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    EM: Do you mean the Roman Catholic Church, or the Church Catholic, which includes many other traditions (including Anglicanism)?

    I would much rather err on the side of tolerance than the opposite.

  • The Roman Catholic Church
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