Monday, November 29, 2010

Death Comes for the Layman

November is a bleak month. Trees have lost their leaves, darkness comes earlier and earlier, the liturgical year comes to a close and the secular calendar isn't far behind.

I think about death fairly regularly, especially in November, when this feast of St. Andrew is the fourth anniversary of my brush with death.

Reflection upon mortality isn't a morbid thing to do, but rather the most practical thing to do. In the industrial world, many of us plan for retirement (though inadequately, financial experts tell us); fewer still probably plan for eternity. So meditation on and preparation for death—which the Catechism calls “the Christian's last Passover”—is one of the most important things to do in life. It is, after all, the one event I can be certain of happening to me (unless, of course, Christ comes in glory before I'm buried, but I'm not holding my breath).

In college, my friend Tonia made a will in order to execute the transfer of her vast estate, planned a luau in lieu of finger sandwiches in a church basement and informed all her family and friends of her wishes. In the same vein, there are a few things regarding my own death and funeral that I'd like to be public knowledge. So I'm posting them here.

First of all, when I'm dead, please don't refer to me as having "passed on," or say that I am "no longer with us." I hate these colloquial phrases. Don't mince words; I will be dead, period. And whatever you do, do not say that I'm "in a better place" or “with God in heaven.” Do not canonize me. Whether I behold God in His glory face to face following my death is something you cannot know, unless the Church formally declares me a saint.

Besides, if I do make it to Heaven, it will only be after a long period in Purgatory. I'm in the midst of Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages and Warnings from Purgatory, which has helped impress upon me the reality of Purgatory, where God's justice and mercy meet to purge the effects of sin from a soul before it enters Heaven. So please offer Masses and pray for me often when I am dead.

You may have an “Irish wake” for me; that is, following the viewing and vigil service, you may sing my praises, curse my failings and generally reminisce over drinks and conviviality.

My funeral Mass should be used as an evangelization tool. The homily at my funeral Mass should hardly mention me. Rather, I'd prefer that the priest exhort those in attendance to more closely follow Christ, receive His Sacraments, especially Eucharist and Confession, and regularly pray and read Scripture.

Some other things I'd like to see happen at the funeral Mass (fair warning: I haven't ruled out an Extraordinary Form requiem Mass):
  • Use lots of incense
  • Sing the whole Mass
  • All ordinary choral Mass parts in Greek or Latin (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, etc.)
  • Use the Roman Canon (First Eucharistic Prayer) and invoke all the saints in brackets
  • A beautiful Eucharistic hymn such as Adoro te Devote at communion would be nice
  • Sing Salve Regina

Under no circumstances should Be Not Afraid or On Eagle's Wings be sung. And if, like at my aunt Jean's funeral, one of the altar servers should wear pink Crocs, so help me, I will leap out of that casket.