Some while ago (reflecting on the proposed Methodist 'Ordinations' in Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral) I was lamenting what I saw as a lack of Catholic Instincts in the Archbishop and (presumably) his advisors.
I have been brooding on the recent report in the Catholic Herald about proposals to have lay-led services for the dead in lieu of Funeral Masses.
His Grace Kelly (how I love writing that, btw) has apparently 'formally commissioned 22 lay ministers to celebrate funeral ceremonies.'
It may be that this is a pastoral necessity, as he clearly believes; though I find it hard to imagine anything more important for his priests to be doing than saying Masses for the living and the dead.
But what really made me return to this theme of a lack of Catholic Instincts were his (reported) comments 'that the lay ministers – some of whom are drawn from the roster of Eucharistic ministers, catechists and religious sisters – would receive continuing support and training to ensure that the service they provide is “of the best quality” and was not seen by Catholics as “second-class”.'
How could any lay-led service, even of the best quality (whatever that may mean in this context - to be frank the phrase makes me shudder) not be regarded as "second-class" compared to a Funeral Mass?
The Mass is 'the source and summit of the Christian life,' (CCC 1324) and specifically "The Eucharistic sacrifice is also offered for the faithful departed who "have died in Christ but are not yet wholly purified," so that they may be able to enter into the light and peace of Christ." (CCC 1371)
Are my instincts wrong to suggest that a Funeral Mass, the sacrifice of Calvary offered by a priest in persona Christi for the repose of the soul of the deceased, is superior, not just as first- is to second-class, but almost infinitely, to any lay-led prayer service, however high quality it may be?
I give notice here and now that when I die I want a sung EF Mass, with the traditional Chant, offered for my eternal repose; and I want people praying for my soul. I will need all the help I can get.
In the meantime, pray for the Archbishop, and for all those who die in Liverpool and are denied a Funeral Mass.
Mulier Fortis blogged about this a while ago - excellently, as you might expect - here.
The Liverpool leaflet Planning a Catholic Funeral can be read here. (H/t Part Time Pilgrim)
Ttony makes some important additional points here.
Mark Lambert adds powerfully to the debate here.
I realise I missed the breaking of this story all together: Reluctant Sinner blogged here, based on this article in the Pill (I make no apology for missing this...) and Fr Simon Henry explains his refusal to comment here. I will blog more on this soon.
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