Services for Sen. Edward Kennedy will be Saturday morning at a Boston church before his burial in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, his office announced Wednesday.Now, as to eulogies: according to this article, "The revised Order of Christian Funerals issued in 1989, however, allows for a "remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation" by a family member or friend." But the final commendation can take place either at the church itself following the Mass or at the graveside, according to some other sources I checked; further, several priests and even some bishops have expressed a strong preference that nothing even approaching a eulogy should be voiced in the church itself--the time for such remarks should be at the vigil service the night before the funeral, or at the graveside, but not at any time during the Funeral Mass. The homily is not to be a eulogy, and no lay person--no, not even the president of the United States--should offer remarks at any time other than just before the final commendation.
President Obama, who called Kennedy an "extraordinary leader," will deliver a eulogy at the funeral, according to several sources.
Before the funeral, Kennedy's body will lie in repose Thursday afternoon and Friday in the Smith Center at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, said the source, who once worked closely with Kennedy's office. A memorial service will be held Friday evening at the Smith Center, the source said.The funeral will be held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston's Mission Hill section. The church is commonly known as the Mission Church. It is a short distance away from the Kennedy library.
There are many reasons why Catholic funerals aren't supposed to have eulogies. One of the chief ones, to me, is that a eulogy leads to the false idea that the deceased is definitely and surely already in heaven. We don't know that he or she is--we can't know that about any human person. Our duty at the funeral is twofold: to pray earnestly for the repose of the soul of the one whose body we are about to commit to the earth, and to pray with equal fervor for our own eternal salvation, which we should ponder in hope, but never in presumption.
Of course, another reason we shouldn't have eulogies is that they are not fitting for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Just as it would be extremely unsuitable for a bride and groom to spend a few minutes after the homily telling the congregation why they love each other and what they hope to gain from their marriages, so is it unsuitable during the Funeral Mass to take the focus off of Christ, our Hope, and place it on the personality of the deceased. It's bad enough when the deceased was really the kind, good, just, patient, holy sort of man we are usually assured he was; it's infinitely worse if the deceased was ornery, cantankerous, selfish, rude, impatient, and scandalous in his behavior toward others, because then in addition to being unsuitable the eulogy becomes an occasion for grave hypocrisy.
So President Obama should not be giving anything even remotely approaching a eulogy at any time during Ted Kennedy's Funeral Mass. The fact that they are or were both liberal Democrats has nothing to do with my objection to this, which is not partisan--I would be cringing just as much if some Catholic Republican were to be eulogized by a fellow Catholic Republican. This should not happen, because it is not seemly behavior for Catholics, not because the people involved are pro-abort Democrats.
In fact, it is an insult to the Church for the Kennedys or anyone else to insist on having things added to a Funeral Mass which do not belong there. God is not impressed by people's family connections, after all. The rites of the Church are her own business, and nobody should interfere with them for any purpose whatsoever, whether that purpose is the out-of-control personality of a pastor who likes to be "creative" or the assumption on the part of a wealthy and well-connected group of people than since all their friends' faith traditions permit eulogies, they ought to be accommodated in their desire to have them, too.
Granted, a lot of less-wealthy, less influential Catholics have had eulogies, too, owing to the deplorable lack of liturgical conformity or obedience which has characterized our sacred rites in this country since the Second Vatican Council. But the tide has begun to turn, and some diocesan bishops have begun to remind people that eulogies really aren't appropriate for a Catholic Funeral Mass. There's the possibility, then, that people who were told "no eulogy" for a funeral for one of their relatives will see the President's eulogy for Ted Kennedy as proof that there are different rules for wealthy and influential people, which is not really the best lesson to be teaching people.
I wish that I could hope that Cardinal O'Malley of the Boston Archdiocese would step in here and remind everyone concerned that there is not to be a eulogy during the Mass, and that any words honoring Senator Kennedy must be spoken at either the vigil or at the graveside. Let's just say that I'll be pleasantly astonished if any such thing were actually to happen. It is more than likely, although I hate to be so cynical, that once again Catholics will be scandalized by the complete lack of adherence to church norms when we're dealing with the rich and famous.