Funerals are about the dead, not the living

In reading the article titled “What Every Catholic need to know about funerals” (In Focus, Oct. 9), I noticed a number of errors, the most glaring of which is the claim that “in the past, the priest wore black. … Now we use white vestments.” In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Church allows the option of three colors for vestments at a funeral: black, violet, and white. All three are perfectly acceptable. In fact, as a priest and liturgist, I have chosen to wear black because it more accurately reflects the emotions of those present for the funeral rites. It is also the color most rooted in the Catholic liturgical tradition. In addition, it provides a vivid reminder that funerals are not a celebration of the entrance of our loved one into heaven, but rather is a time mourn and pray for the deceased. 

In the end it comes down to this: The funeral Mass is not primarily for us; it is for the deceased. As Catholics we believe in purgatory and the necessity to pray for the dead. The funeral Mass is when we gather as the Body of Christ to pray for our beloved dead by offering the supreme prayer of the Church. 

Father Dana R. Christensen, Ethan, S.D.

Seize the death

What Every Catholic Needs to Know about Funerals” (Oct. 9) illustrates only a portion of the Order of Christian Funerals. In its full implementation, it offers a profoundly robust and deeply pastoral celebration within the Vigil for the Deceased, the Church’s rite that may occur within the “wake” in a funeral home or more potently celebrated within the church that will celebrate the funeral Mass on the following day. 

Hearts open and become very vulnerable when death makes itself present; seize the day. Pastoral staffs need to attend not only the dead, but to the living who experience death that may “bring about in the mourners possible needs for reconciliation.” The entire Order of Christian Funerals is something that every Catholic needs to know about, prepare for and be involved in, not just the funeral Mass. 

Denise Morency Gannon, via email

Chesterton defense

I cannot believe Russell Shaw’s assessment that G.K. Chesterton is somehow irrelevant to today’s readers (“Viewing G.K. Chesterton through a modern lens,” Oct. 2). If anything he is essential. No one better presents the case for the Church against secularist and atheists attacks than he does. His work is timeless, as can be judged by the number of people who continue to be brought to the Church after reading his works. If Shaw finds Chesterton’s use of paradox distracting, it is probably because he does not have the time to savor their exquisite view of the inner truths. You cannot speed read his work. Nobody has ever given better insight into St. Francis or St. Thomas. Nor has true heroism been better portrayed than in his “Ballad Of The White Horse.” 

Richard Giovanoni, Hagerstown, Md.

No laughing matter

The article with Father James Martin about humor in church is disturbing (“Having fun with faith,” Sept. 25). There is no place for humor and laughter in the Mass. Statements like this is what is killing the belief of Jesus being truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. Mass attendance is down and a survey conducted a couple of years ago said that only 30 percent of Catholics truly believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. We have built church halls for fellowship and humor and we should all have humor in our lives but not before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We must be an example to our young people who continue to leave the Church. 

John C. Preiss, Hanceville, Ala.

Dissed brothers

In the Oct. 2 “Vocation Special Section,” a front cover feature article was highlighted as follows: “What is the process for becoming a priest or a woman religious? Follow along the steps in the formation journey.” I was rather disappointed that no mention of religious brothers was included. The vowed life of religious brothers is distinctly different from that of ordained clergy, and is one of the Catholic Church’s best kept secrets and one of its greatest gifts. I hope that OSV includes an article specifically on religious brothers in a future issue. 

Brother Joseph Jozwiak, FSC, Syracuse, N.Y.

Father, submit

In “Pro-life priest ‘baffled’ by bishop’s shutdown” (Oct. 2), Father Frank Pavone was quoted, “Saving lives is more important than obeying orders.” 

I believe the pro-life cause is the greatest cause on earth. I have been and wish to continue to support Priests for Life. I admire and respect Father Pavone. However, at this point in time, I think his comment on preserving life is outside of its proper context. “Saving lives over obedience” would obviously be morally right and possible if a child in danger of losing his or her life were physically in someone’s reach. But one person cannot save the 3,000 babies who will die in abortion clinics everyday. 

Abortion should be illegal, no doubt about it. But pro life advocates must maintain a perspective of our selves as individuals who are working against spiritual principalities in dark places. In other words, we cannot think more of ourselves than we ought. 

Father Frank, I am praying for you. Please submit to your bishop. 

Kasandra Barker, Hot Springs, Ark.