Apr 30, 2015
A couple of years ago I read a priest’s guidlines for giving a eulogy and found it very good, but did not take a copy of it and now I am wondering if there are any priests out there who have formulated a page which will give guidelines on how to prepare and deliver an eulogy. I generally tell them the total time is ten minutes; one speaker can speak for the whole ten minutes or a couple of speakers with a total combined time of ten minutes. It must always be written out so that they know how to start and end and so that they can stay within the time limits and that they don’t end up sitting down thinking, “I forgot to say this or that” or “I wish I didn’t say that”. I ask them to include reference to their life of faith, how their faith was important to them, what their practice was like – how they expressed that faith in their daily lives. What I usually end up getting is a simple life history and an instant canonisation testimony. Any one got a sheet that can consisely and acurately fulfil the need of producing a sheet that I can hand out?
Asked at 12:52 pm on April 30th 2015
Dear Father E Ashkar,
Thank you for your question. I am not sure about your specific diocese, however the archdiocese of Sydney has very specific guidleines for Eulogies, which you can see below. These might be useful guidlelines to hand out. The full document is available as a PDF here.
GUIDELINES FOR SPEAKING IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE DEAD (Archdiocese of Sydney)
A. HOMILIES AND EULOGIES AT FUNERALS
The Order of Christian Funerals instructs that a brief homily based on the readings is always given after the gospel reading at the funeral liturgy, and may also be given after the readings at the vigil service; but there is never to be a eulogy. (OCF 27)
This means that a eulogy is never to replace the homily at a Funeral Mass or within the Liturgy of the Word celebrated as a Vigil Service. However, there is provision for words of remembrance elsewhere in the funeral rites.
B. THE PLACE FOR WORDS OF REMEMBRANCE WITHIN THE FUNERAL RITES
The Order of Christian Funerals provides that, at a Funeral Mass, a member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased following the Prayer after Communion but before the Final Commendation begins (OCF 170). If the funeral is celebrated outside Mass, this may be done after the Lord’s Prayer before the final commendation begins (OCF 197).
Likewise, at a Vigil Service, a member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased after the Concluding Prayer and before the Blessing and Dismissal (OCF 80).
Finally, at the Committal Service at the cemetery or crematorium, it may be appropriate to have a member or a friend of the family speak in remembrance of the dead after the Committal and before the Intercessions and Concluding Rite.
In summary, the proper time for a layperson to speak is:
- Vigil Service: after the Concluding Prayer, before the Blessing and Dismissal
- Funeral Mass: after the Prayer after Communion, before the Final Commendation
- Funeral outside Mass: after the Lord’s Prayer, before the Final Commendation
- Committal Service: after the Prayer of Committal, before the Intercessions
C. GUIDELINES FOR HOMILISTS
Funerals are important moments when the homilist can proclaim the Good News and focus the attention of the mourners on the person of Jesus Christ, Who is the Resurrection and the Life. Thus the Church exhorts its preachers:
Attentive to the grief of those present, the homilist should dwell on God’s compassionate love and on the paschal mystery of the Lord, as proclaimed in the Scripture readings. The homilist should also help the members of the assembly to understand that the mystery of God’s love and the mystery of Jesus’ victorious death and resurrection were present in the life and death of the deceased, and that these mysteries are active in their own lives as well. Through the homily, members of the family and community should receive consolation and strength to face the death of one of their members with a hope nourished by the saving word of God. Laypersons who preside at the funeral rites give an instruction on the readings (OCF 27).
D. GUIDELINES FOR LAY SPEAKERS
The following may assist parishes and funeral directors to develop clear and helpful pastoral practices in guiding those who ‘speak in remembrance of the dead:’
- Only one person should speak at the Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy outside Mass. Others may speak at the Vigil Service or Committal Service.
- The reflection should be brief: no more than 3 – 5 minutes (one typed page). Speakers should be reminded of factors such as:
— the time involved in travelling from church to cemetery/crematorium
— the schedule of the cemetery/crematorium, which may have several services that day
— the need of some in the assembly to return to work or other responsibilities.
- The reflection should be prepared beforehand, and ideally reviewed with the priest or presiding minister beforehand, to avoid undue length or embarrassing situations.
- Priests should suggest that storytelling, anecdotes, poems, songs etc. can well form part of the Vigil Service or Committal Service, or better be used in a domestic situation.
The following suggestions may assist the bereaved to prepare the words of remembrance:
- The words of remembrance should be about the deceased person’s human qualities (including their life of faith), and how these qualities can inspire the hearers.
- The speaker should speak honestly and compassionately, reflecting the life and circumstances of the deceased.
- It is neither necessary nor desirable that the speaker attempt to give a life history of the deceased. Instead, an itemised obituary of the deceased person’s life history might be included in a booklet that is prepared for the funeral, rather than read at the Funeral Mass.
- While only one person will speak at the Funeral Mass, the reflection could well be a summation of remembrances gathered from family members and friends.
- It is useful to rehearse the words aloud to ensure that the hearers are given a clear message about the deceased person, and that the speaker is able to deliver the reflection well
Answered by Fr Don Richardson
Replied at 05:05 am on May 21st 2015
Thank you very much for that, it articulates well the content guidelines of a eulogy.
Replied at 05:51 am on June 11th 2015