Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Funeral

The Tragic Death Of The Funeral

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The Tragic Death Of The Funeral

Like most people, I don’t particularly relish encounters with death. But, welcome or not, I’ve had my fair share. I’ve clasped a woman’s hand as her breathing slowed, became sporadic, and finally ceased. Through the cramped hallways of an ancient farmhouse, down which no stretcher could be maneuvered, I helped heft the sheet-wrapped body of a family’s matriarch to carry her to the waiting hearse. When a small Oklahoma church mourned a member who’d fallen asleep at the wheel, late at night, early in life, I was there, thinking of the joyless “Joy the World” the band of believers had choked out the day before that December 26th funeral. In each of these situations, the death of the young or the old, there was within me a desire to lighten the load of grief borne by the survivors, to shine a ray of life into the gloom of death.

Because of that desire, when I first heard about families opting to have a so-called “Celebration of Life” service for their departed loved ones, instead of a funeral, my interest was piqued. Perhaps here was a viable alternative. The name alone effuses a positive, uplifting appeal that “funeral” or “memorial service” can’t begin to match. Celebrations are good, right? And, life, well, who can possibly have any qualms about that? Perhaps this approach to confronting death, at least the ceremonial part of saying goodbye, would help alleviate some of the pain associated with, and expressed in, a more traditional rite. Maybe it was time to have a funeral for the funeral.

So what makes a Celebration of Life different? Rather than a focus upon the loss of a loved one, this service rewinds the present into the past, to draw the mourners back into the life lived by the deceased. It’s like a miniature, enacted biography of the person, with a focus upon those qualities, interests, and achievements that his family and friends found most endearing about him. Whereas a traditional funeral is structured around a liturgy, in this ceremony stories about the person—serious or lighthearted—take center stage. It is his funeral, after all, so shouldn’t it be about him?

Read on here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 4, 2014 at 16:29

Home Burials

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A new trend? Why let strangers care for the ones you love?

Burying a family member in the garden can be a much more personal experience than the traditional funeral. It can also help those who want to avoid being taken advantage of financially in the time of grieving.

Rest here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 16, 2014 at 15:18

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Archbishop Bans Eulogies at Funeral Masses

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Canadian Catholic Archbishop Terrence Prendergast:

Roman Catholics in Ottawa are no longer permitted to deliver eulogies during funeral Masses, the local archbishop has decreed.

The Feb. 2 decree from Archbishop Terrence Prendergast reminds the faithful that Catholics gather at funerals “not to praise the deceased, but to pray for them.”

Contrary to popular belief, eulogies “are not part of the Catholic funeral rites, particularly in the context of a funeral liturgy within Mass,” the decree stated. Many Catholics, it pointed out, do not know this.

Rest here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

February 25, 2014 at 17:40

Nelson Mandela Laid to Rest in Ancestral Home

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QUNU – Nelson Mandela has been laid to rest in his ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

Mandela’s coffin was brought to his funeral by the military – a last chance for the people of Qunu to see it. In the hills above the village, lay a flag with a simple message: “Hamba kahle Madiba” – Go well, father of the nation.

We’ll miss your smile, your laugh, your love and your leadership. Hamba kahle, Madiba.
His abaThembu brethren buried him in front of family and close comrades in the ANC.

SA National Defence Force chaplain Reverend Monwabisi Jamangile said at the burial that Mandela had truly achieved ultimate freedom.

“We will remember Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela,” he said while praying for him before his coffin was lowered into the grave.

“Rest in peace. Yours was truly a long walk to freedom and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom in the bosom of your leader, God Almighty.”

Jamangile asked that God soothe the family in this time of grief, when their longing for Mandela became unbearable.

The military honour guard marked the occasion by firing a 21 gun salute.

President Jacob Zuma, Mandela’s widow Graça Machel and his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were among the 4,500 dignitaries who attended the preceding funeral service.

Madiba’s close friend, Ahmed Kathrada, spoke of visiting him in hospital and how Madiba’s death left him feeling abandoned.

“How I wish I could not have seen what I saw, a man reduced to a shadow of his former self,” Kathrada said. “Farewell, my brother, my mentor, my leader. When Walter [Sisulu] died I lost a father, when Nelson died, I lost a brother. My life is in a void and I don’t know who to turn to.”

Zuma began his tribute with a moving hymn, saying his final farewell to Mandela.

“We’ll miss your smile, your laugh, your love and your leadership. Hamba kahle, Madiba.”


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 15, 2013 at 17:56

Posted in Church

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Cape Town: Bull to be Slaughtered for Funeral Kills Boy

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Times Live:

Ayanda Mfenku was attacked by the bull while standing in his yard in Philippi East on Sunday morning, the Cape Argus newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The bull was reportedly to have been used in the funeral ritual of Jackson Ntandiso, who died last week, but it broke loose.

“The raging bull shoved and injured an old man who was trying to force it into the yard, and it ran off frantically down the street, knocking over everyone who tried to get close to it,” Ntandiso’s daughter Yandiso was quoted as telling the newspaper.

“As it ran down the street, people moved out of the way and shouted for kids and drunken people to get out of its way.”

According to the Cape Argus, the bull entered Mfenku’s yard, gored him in the back and threw him against a wall. He died later in hospital.

The bull reportedly died overnight from shock and stress.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 30, 2013 at 11:01

Priest to Lonely Dead: ‘I Love You’

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No one Mary Helen Wells knew was at her funeral.

The physical sum of her 85 years filled a donated urn Monday afternoon, among 36 other donated urns full of unwanted remains. A kindly priest said prayers and stowed them in a crypt. A groundskeeper sealed it, and the mourners, gathered on principle, dispersed.

In South Florida, hundreds die every year without a survivor to claim them. The causes vary: liver failure, dementia. One homeless man died in 2011 when an industrial oven he was helping someone carry crushed him. Strangers — funeral homes or government workers — hold their bodies.

The Rev. Gabriel Ghanoum claims them. The local Catholic priest gives a ceremony for a new group of the lonely dead every few months. He says to their ashes, “I can tell all of you, each one, that I love you.” He blessed each little box with the tips of his fingers.

When Walter Hibson died in his bathroom in West Palm Beach, no one knew. His mail piled up, and a neighbor called the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies found his bones. A county social worker could identify no family or friends. Hibson was 69.

Bobby Melton, 69, cut grass in exchange for room and board in a shed behind a Delray Beach home. Witnesses saw him collapse next to the lawn mower from a heart attack. The county contacted his ex-wife, divorced 15 years ago, who said he had no family. She declined his body.

Lawrence Grening, 65, of Lake Worth, had spoken to a neighbor about his two sons, but no one could locate them after his body was found decomposing in his apartment.

There were homeless people and people who apparently immigrated alone and solitary elderly people who outlived their social network.

“We pray that our brothers and sisters may sleep here in peace,” Ghanoum said…

Rest here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

May 15, 2013 at 14:41

Bride and Gloom

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An appalling clerical double booking. The Austrian Times reports:

Serbian Orthodox priest Father Jefrem Ratkovic was forced to apologize, after he recently scheduled a wedding at the same time as a funeral in the central Serbian town of Ljig, the Austrian Times website reports exclusively today (November 26, 2012).

When bride Dragana Jovic, 23, arrived at the church dressed in white, she found dozens of mourners dressed in black together with a coffin containing the body of a local man, Nemanja Petrovic, 86.

Both the brightly-dressed wedding guests and the dark-clothed mourners had started to take their places in the church by the time the priest arrived.

After he realized that he had scheduled a wedding and a funeral at the same time, Father Ratkovic asked the mourners — and their coffin — to wait outside while he carried out the wedding, and then the funeral was allowed to go ahead. He told the local media, “Double bookings can happen in anything, the Church is no different. I have apologized though, and both sides were fine about it.”


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

November 27, 2012 at 07:43


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