Friday, 21 August 2015
Cilla Black's Funeral. R.I.P
Ever since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, I have had requests to have pop songs played at funeral Masses, from ‘My Way’(Sinatra), through ‘Fields of Gold’(Cassidy) and ‘Someday, We’ll be together’(Supremes) to ‘Another one bites the Dust’(Queen). I have been asked to replace the Word of God with the words of man (‘Footprints’ or ‘Death is nothing at all’). Explaining that I am bound by the liturgical books to use the Word of God in the worship of God, and that just as we don’t sing hymns in the pub we don’t sing pop songs in Church, is usually met with “Well, they did it in Saint N’s at a friend’s funeral” leaves me less than happy with my brother priests, who thus make me appear uncaring, un-pastoral and inconsiderate as they turn the liturgy into a Service Of Remembrance of the deceased. I am now likely to be told, "Well, they did it at Cilla Black's funeral".
We have nothing for which to thank the clergy for who celebrated Cilla's funeral. What are priests doing, ditching the word of God in favour of the word of man, and playing pop songs instead of singing the liturgy itself? They may think they are being pastoral but they are not: they are setting themselves up over-and-above the authority of Rome and Tradition to people-please. They will be loved by the people of course, and it is perhaps not wanting to upset the folk that keeps them from celebrating Holy Mass according to the liturgical books. But this comes at a great cost at any funeral: clergy taking lordship over the liturgy may at the very least be an occasion of missed opportunity for grace or an actual diminishing grace in their own souls, while mourners may have missed an opportunity for grace or been diminished in grace by clergy facilitating not the worship and petitioning of God but the adulation of their loved one. Meanwhile the deceased is denied proper intercession for the repose of their soul. An overview of the how the prayer for Cilla’s soul went can be found at Torch of the Faith.
Cilla may well have been a great celebrity in this life, celebrated by other celebrities now her life on earth has ended, and we make no judgment about anyone's sincerity, only about the inappropriateness of what went on at her funeral as permitted by the clergy. This lady deserved better from the Church, upon which we rely for intercession, not adulation. A correctly celebrated Requiem is what ‘our Cilla’ needed, followed at a later date with a memorial service where all sorts of readings, pop songs and eulogies could have been utilised. The Holy Sacrifice for the repose of her soul was not the place for this. I'm sure all went as Cilla's family hoped as their loving tribute to her, and who can blame them for seeking what they felt was the best? They took her to the very Church in which their parents were married and to the Faith in which she was raised. And I can understand the clergy wishing to accommodate her sons' needs, but why didn't those clergy offer two services: the Mass, and a memorial at a later date? This would have safeguarded both the integrity of the liturgy and taken full account of the needs of Cilla's family (needs which ought not be dismissed).
Still, whoever approved the Order of Service for Cilla’s funeral (God rest her soul) should have kept it in conformity with the liturgical books, particularly since Cilla was such a well-known lady and her funeral attended by the media. There was an opportunity here to publicly show how well the Church prays for her children at their death rather than demonstrate how far her children have come in celebrating themselves and one another. Our bishops must issue a reminder to all clergy –themselves and the presbyters- that funerals are not a celebration of the deceased, but the opportunity to beg God’s mercy for the response of the deceased’s soul. Cilla has been deprived of the fullness of the Church’s intercession and given a send-off loosely based on the order of Christian Funerals. I do hope those who arranged and presided at the funeral of this much-loved lady have had second thoughts about it, and determined not to engage in such antics again.