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Old 01-27-2014, 02:00 PM
 
Location: Mississippi
6,715 posts, read 12,273,104 times
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So, my grandmother died last week. In my eyes, it was without question for the best. She had suffered so long and fought so hard without triumph that it seemed so cruel for her to keep hanging on. In a sense, I was relieved for her. I went to the funeral this past week and I'm quite certain most of the members of my family felt very much the same - including my grandfather. However, my grandfather was still very visibly upset. After all, they had been married for close to 64 years.

My grandmother had never really mentioned her own religious beliefs for as long as I'd known her but had requested a Catholic wake and funeral. I've been spared the good fortune for most of my life not to have attended many funerals and, thus, this was the first I'd experienced a Catholic funeral.

I can't help but say I felt very, very awkward. At the wake, when the priest showed up to say a few words. It was solely members of my immediate and extended family there but we are a small clan and only perhaps 15-20 people were in the room - many of whom I was meeting for the first time. As the priest began to speak, all of the members of my family began saying things like "Thanks be to God," "Amen," and a few others. They began making signs of the cross and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel like these were the sorts of things that had been pre-programmed into their heads from a very young age. It was like listening to zombies who were only activated in the presence of a priest.

Now, I'm not one who goes out of my way to offend people but I refused to participate in such nonsense. I remained quiet. I stood when everyone else stood. I sat when everyone else sat. But I refused to bow my head as though I were mimicking prayer, and I certainly would not say something like "Thanks be to God." But I tried to NOT do so in the least obvious manner possible, if that makes sense.

No one seemed to notice or mind except for the priest. He seemed to be staring a hole through me the entire time. The next day, at the funeral, we were inside a Catholic Church, and again it was the same thing. However, this time, because all 10 or 20 of us were inside a much larger area alone, I felt much more easily identifiable. Again, the priest never took his eyes off of me and he seemed genuinely angry with me. I was seated in the second row but on the aisle and suddenly everyone started getting up and standing in line. Before I knew it, I was being ushered to stand in line behind everyone else and the next thing I knew, I was "taking Communion." When I arrived at the priest, he held a cracker in front of my mouth and said "The Body of Christ." I just held my mouth open with a dumb look on my face. He hesitated for a very long time and finally placed the cracker in my mouth.

I sort of followed everyone else back to the seats and just sat there dumbfounded by these seemingly nonsensical actions that must have apparently been taught many times to people as they grew up - and which I had no inkling of whatsoever.

The main thing is that I tried very hard not to be rude to my grandfather. I knew he was taking it hard but I felt a very real crossroads in terms of my own personal convictions and feelings about religion and also supporting my grandfather. I never went out of my way to be personally rude or to even speak my mind about religion but it was so hard to be there in the midst of everyone while all of these rituals were happening and I had no clue what was going on. Even had I known, I wouldn't have done many of the things the others were doing anyway.

So, what does everyone else do at a funeral of those loved ones and friends who are religious?
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Old 01-27-2014, 02:17 PM
 
Location: Sitting beside Walden Pond
4,609 posts, read 4,112,066 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GCSTroop View Post
So, what does everyone else do at a funeral of those loved ones and friends who are religious?
I would have done what you did except I would have taken communion, even if I had been hungry and thirsty.

I am a lifelong Atheist but I think it is wonderful how organized religion gives comfort to many people.

My wife's father (a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor) died two years. We did not have the funeral in a church, but she found a wonderful priest to officiate at the service we arranged, and he handled things very, very well. His sincerity helped all of us to feel better.
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Old 01-27-2014, 02:26 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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I wouldn't worry about it too much. You didn't know what was coming with the communion, and under other circumstances, it would be a funny story. If you had understood what was happening you probably would have just remained seated, and in all honesty, if anyone got their knickers in a twist about it, that would be their problem, not yours. After all, it's far likelier that a non-theist would attend such a service and no Catholic I've ever met would expect a non-Catholic to take communion; in fact, it would be considered wrong for someone who is not a member to take communion -- whereas in most Protestant churches you wouldn't have to be a member of that particular church or denomination, but just a professing fellow believer.

I'm sure that the priest was debating whether to refuse you communion and whether to cause the upset of the resulting "scene".
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Old 01-27-2014, 04:31 PM
 
Location: Southwestern, USA
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Remember you can bow your head and think of your girlfriend...just to fit in.
A lot of people ...who have not gone to confession or have not gone to church
in a longtime don't go up for communion. It doesn't offend anyone.
When they do the sign of the cross...itch your forehead....so what.
Since its not "your" day...fake whatever you can comfortably.

And remember don't wear white at the next wedding you attend, see?
It's not that hard to conform to others' traditions, Pagan or Jewish or Chrstian or Islamic.
When I go to bars...I want to fit in so I drink...
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Old 01-27-2014, 05:35 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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What I wound up doing at the last one I attended was getting angry.

This was nine years ago when my mother died. Her father had been the chief patriarch of the Catholic church in their small community and after he died, my parents became the major financial supporters. After my father died my mother continued to contribute until she relocated to another town to live with my sister. Despite no longer being a parishioner, my mother continued to send money to the old church until she had a stroke seven years before her death. After that we kids had to handle her financial affairs. There were big medical bills to pay so we cut the flow of donations to the old church.

My sister told me that during those seven years, not once did anyone from my mother's old parish call to see how she was doing, send any cards or evidence the least concern about her.

After her death, as planned, she was buried next to our father which meant conducting the service at the old church. The pastor got up to deliver the eulogy and the only thing he seemed to know about her was that she was part of the family which had sustained the place for so long. The majority of his address was about giving to the church and family traditions of supporting their particular church and the whole thing was very obviously aimed at me, my brother and my sister. This was supposed to be our mother's eulogy and instead we were getting pitched and hit up for stepping in as the new benefactors.

Apparently this pastor had no idea that none of the three of us were believers, and that even if we were church members, we would be supporting the churches where we lived, not this one where we didn't.

It was so blatant and offensive to me that I thought maybe I was misreading it, maybe my distaste for organized religion in general was making me cast this fellow as more of a villain than he was. Then as soon as it was over I looked over at my sister and I could see the fury in her eyes and I knew it wasn't just me.

Of course a funeral, especially one's mother's funeral, isn't the place to start a brawl, so neither of us said anything to the pastor. I just gave him a cold handshake and a cold "thank you."
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Old 01-27-2014, 05:42 PM
 
Location: Southwestern, USA
15,352 posts, read 12,114,801 times
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Omg, mordant, it is such a big deal to active Catholics that the proper person receive communion...and not the WRONG person....you don't even want to know what happened to me the LAST time I attended a Catholic Mass.
(They can be militant nuts there. I mean it!)

That priest was being a reflection of a typical loving Christian, drawing
someone with the love of Jesus.....sarcasm alert.
Sorry, have issues with people like that priest.
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Old 01-27-2014, 05:55 PM
 
Location: Mississippi
6,715 posts, read 12,273,104 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hiker45 View Post
I would have done what you did except I would have taken communion, even if I had been hungry and thirsty.

I am a lifelong Atheist but I think it is wonderful how organized religion gives comfort to many people.

My wife's father (a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor) died two years. We did not have the funeral in a church, but she found a wonderful priest to officiate at the service we arranged, and he handled things very, very well. His sincerity helped all of us to feel better.
My sister and I discussed the communion thing afterwards and we both felt a bit "forced" in terms of being pushed to go up there. This woman had come up and tapped me on the shoulder and pointed straight ahead. I guess you had to be there but I certainly wasn't going to start an argument in front of everyone at my grandmother's funeral. So, essentially, I just assumed it was all part of the show, so to speak. Looking back on it, I think the priest was debating on whether to spit in my mouth or feed me the body of Christ as I stood there with my mouth open.
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Old 01-27-2014, 06:08 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
14,190 posts, read 9,077,440 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
I wouldn't worry about it too much. You didn't know what was coming with the communion, and under other circumstances, it would be a funny story. If you had understood what was happening you probably would have just remained seated, and in all honesty, if anyone got their knickers in a twist about it, that would be their problem, not yours. After all, it's far likelier that a non-theist would attend such a service and no Catholic I've ever met would expect a non-Catholic to take communion; in fact, it would be considered wrong for someone who is not a member to take communion -- whereas in most Protestant churches you wouldn't have to be a member of that particular church or denomination, but just a professing fellow believer.

I'm sure that the priest was debating whether to refuse you communion and whether to cause the upset of the resulting "scene".
What I meant to say above, BTW was, "its' far likelier that a non-Catholic would attend such a service". Too late to fix with an edit.
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Old 01-27-2014, 06:30 PM
 
Location: Sitting beside Walden Pond
4,609 posts, read 4,112,066 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
The majority of his address was about giving to the church and family traditions of supporting their particular church and the whole thing was very obviously aimed at me, my brother and my sister.
Two rules to live by:

1) Don't fight a land war is Asia.

2) Don't take money away from the Catholic church.
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Old 01-27-2014, 08:00 PM
 
16,083 posts, read 17,880,433 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GCSTroop View Post
My sister and I discussed the communion thing afterwards and we both felt a bit "forced" in terms of being pushed to go up there. This woman had come up and tapped me on the shoulder and pointed straight ahead. I guess you had to be there but I certainly wasn't going to start an argument in front of everyone at my grandmother's funeral. So, essentially, I just assumed it was all part of the show, so to speak. Looking back on it, I think the priest was debating on whether to spit in my mouth or feed me the body of Christ as I stood there with my mouth open.
It is actually very odd that you were pushed into communion. Not even all the active Catholics take communion at mass. Also, the churches here do NOT place the wafer into the mouth of the recipient, but place it in your hand.
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