Funerals

How to write a eulogy

A final gift to a loved one

After polls determined that our number one fear is public speaking—topping even death—writer Peggy Noonan observed the implications: At a funeral most of us would prefer lying in the coffin to standing at the lectern. Will you be ready when your time comes (to deliver a eulogy)? This particular speech is doubly daunting because a grief-stricken friend or loved one will ask you to do it, on very short notice. It helps if you don't think of eulogy as a performance art, but as a gift. You are not expected to replicate televised eulogies given by professional entertainers and politicians. Your task is to console, not to entertain—though sharing amusing memories may be a welcome part of what you offer.

Reading your eulogy is appropriate and expected, so write it out. Start by considering what you cherish about your subject. This might involve how the deceased looked. No detail is too small. Novelist Katherine Anne Porter's tribute to her colleague Flannery O'Connor, who died at age 39 of lupus, captured a precise image: "I want to tell what she looked like and how she carried herself and how she sounded standing balanced lightly on her aluminum crutches, whistling to her peacocks, who came floating and rustling to her, calling in their rusty voices."

Eulogist Mario T. Garcia offered a visual portrait of César Chávez addressing a privileged Yale University audience, an image very different from the dynamic civil-rights leaders of his era: "Here was César, a small, Indian-looking, modest leader of farm workers with his usual checkered shirt, the kind you buy at Penney's or Sears. He was a humble farm worker with little education, who spoke softly and with little emotion. It was hard to believe that he was one of the most important labor leaders in the country's history."

Stanford Professor Tobias Wolff recalled his fellow writer/teacher Andre Dubus, clad in a U.S. Marines T-shirt and a Rambo headband, jerking his wheelchair around a room: "Andre had about him a loud blustering maleness—one of my sons, then quite young, called him Yosemite Sam."

Expand your memories to consider what a novelist might call an elucidating moment. Did your subject ever say anything that revealed the essence of who (s)he was? Eulogist John Taylor recalled maxims his brother, Maj. David G. Taylor, often recited before he was killed in Iraq: "Life isn't fair—get over it. No whining. You are probably not entitled to anything you didn't work for. Freedom isn't free, someone has to pay the price, and it might as well be you."

Speaking at the funeral of the witty host of PBS-TV's Firing Line, William F. Buckley, Jr., his son Christopher's anecdote evoked loving laughter: "I was with him in Connecticut . . . last October at a fundraiser for the local library, billed as 'A Bevy of Buckleys.' An article had appeared in the local paper, alerting the community. . . . My eyes alighted on the sentence: 'The Buckleys are a well-known American family, William F. Buckley being arguably the best known.' I handed [him] the clipping and waited for the reaction I knew would come. Sure enough within seconds, he looked up with what I would describe as only faintly bemused indignation and said, 'Ar-guably?'"

Jim Forest's tribute to activist Dorothy Day, revealed that virtuous people—even pacifists—can have sharp edges. He recalled some typical Day retorts: After someone told her she was too hot-headed, Day shot back: "I hold more temper in one minute than you will hold in your entire life." When a journalist who told her it was the first time he had interviewed a saint, she snapped, "Don't call me a saint—I don't want to be dismissed that easily."

A reminder of the faith or wisdom that influenced the deceased can be the best way to summarize the meaning of a life. At a eulogy for New York Giants owner Wellington Mara, his son John recalled that after a string of losses a sportswriter—referring to the elder Mara—asked: "What can you expect of an Irishman named Wellington, whose father was a bookmaker?" The sting from that was still fresh a few days later when Mara decided to answer that question at a kickoff luncheon:

"I'll tell you what you can expect. You can expect anything he says or writes may be repeated aloud in your own home in front of your own children. You can believe that he was taught to love and respect all mankind, but to fear no man. And you could believe that his abiding ambitions were to pass onto his family the true richness of the inheritance he received from this father, the bookmaker: the knowledge and love and fear of God, and second to give you (our fans and our coach) a Super Bowl winner."

Former speaker of the House Tip O'Neill's granddaughter Catlin said it all when she told mourners that O'Neill called the Sermon on the Mount "the best political speech ever written." She then read that section of the Gospel of Matthew, known as the Beatitudes.

Finally, keep it short. A brief, well-thought-out eulogy that acknowledges even one trait you cherished about the deceased will be appreciated far more than the kind of long, rambling tribute that invariably begins focusing on the speaker rather than his subject. Your heartfelt remembrance, simply told, is one of the sweetest gifts you can give, because it calls for grace under pressure, and usually courage. You have said "yes" to comforting those who mourn, even as you are one of them.

From The Huffington Post, March 16, 2011

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Suggested Funeral Readings

The following are lists of Scriptures appropriate for use at Catholic Funeral Liturgies. One reading is chosen from each the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Gospels. 

*Other Scripture passages can be presented to the presider for approval. 

Old Testament


2 Maccabees 12:43-46 "...he made atonement for the dead..."  

Job 19: 1, 23-27  "...I know that my vindicator lives...."

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15  "...A time to be born, a time to die..." 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 "...A time to be born, a time to die..."

Wisdom 3:1-9 "...The souls of the just are in the hand of God..." 

Wisdom 3:1-6,9 "...The souls of the just are in the hand of God..." 

Wisdom 4:7-14 "The Righteous One, though he die early, shall be at rest..." 

Sirach 2:1-11 "...in fire gold is tested....Compassionate is the Lord..." 

Isaiah 25:6a, 7-9 "...he will destroy death forever..." 

Isaiah 26:7-19 "...your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise..." 

Isaiah 35:1-10 "...Here is your God, he comes with vindication..." 

Isaiah 40:1-11 "...Here is your God, Here comes with power..." 

Lamentations 3:17-26 "...My portion is the Lord, says my soul..."

Ezekiel 37:12-14 "O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise..." 

Daniel 12:1-3 "...the wise shall shine brightly..." 

Micah 7:7-9 "...though I sit in darkness, the Lord is my light..." 



New Testament

Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43 "Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins"

Acts of the Apostles 10:34-36,42-43 "Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins"

Romans 5:1,5-11  "...We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son..." 

Romans 5:17-21 "...through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all..." 

Romans 6:3-9  "...if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall live with him..." 

Romans 6:3-4,8-9 "...if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall live with him..." 

Romans 8:1-11  "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ..."  

Romans 8:14-23 "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are Children of God"

Romans 8:31-35,37-39 "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Romans 14:7-9,10-12 "This is why Christ died and came to life"

1 Corinthians 2:6-10 
"Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard..." 

1 Corinthians 15:12-20  "If there is no resurrection of the dead..."

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 "In Adam all die, so too if Christ shall all be brought to life."

1 Corinthians 15:51-57 "Death where is your victory?"

2 Corinthians 4:14-5:1  "The one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us..."

2 Corinthians 5:1,6-10 "We would rather leave the body and go home..." 

Philippians 3:7-14 "...I run toward the prize to which God calls me..."

Philippians 3:20-21  "He will change our lowly body..."

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  "If we believe that Jesus died and rose..."

2 Timothy 2:8-13 "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead..." 

2 Timothy 4:1-2,6-8 "I have competed well, I have finished the race..." 

1 John 3:1-2 "Beloved, we are God's children now..."

1 John 3:14-16  "We know that we have passed from death to life..."

Revelation 14:13 "...Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord..."

Revelation 20:11-12:1 "...The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades..."

Revelation 21:1-5a,6b-7 "...I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem..."


Gospel

Matthew 5:1-12a  "The Eight Beatitudes" 

Matthew 11:25-30  "come to me . . . and I will give you rest." 

Matthew 25:1-13  "Look. The bridegroom comes. Go out to meet him" 

Matthew 25:31-46  "Come, you whom my Father has blessed" 

Mark 15:33-39  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 

Mark 15:33 ---16:6  "Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last" 

Luke 7:11-17  "Young man, I say to you, arise." 

Luke 12:35-40  "Be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,..." 

Luke 23:33-43  "Today you will be with me in paradise." 

Luke 23:44  ---24:6a  "Father, I put my life in your hands." 

Luke 23:44-49 "Father into your hands I commend my spirit"

Luke 24:13-35 "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer..." 

Luke 24:13-16,28-35 "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer..." 

John 5:24-29  "Whoever hears my word and believes has passed from..."

John 6:37-40 "All who believe in the Son will have eternal life..." 

John 6:51-58  "All who eat this bread will live for ever...." 

John 11:17-27 "I am the resurrection and the life." 

John 11:21-27 "I am the resurrection and the life." 

John 11:32-45 "Lazarus, come out." 

John 12:23-28  "If a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies..." 

John 12:23-26 "If a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies..." 

John 14:1-6  "There are many rooms in my Father's house." 

John 17:24-26  "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me..." 

John 19:17-30  "Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirits."  
 





















































































Here are other alternate suggestions for appropriate readings:

Old Testament

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 
Song of Songs 8:6-7 
Isaiah 35:1-6, 10 
Isaiah 41:8-10, 13
Isaiah 57:15-19 
Isaiah 61.1-3 
Isaiah 65:17-21 
Ezekiel 34:11-16 
Micah 6:6-8 
Zephaniah 3:16












New Testament

Acts 10:34-43 
Romans 5:5-11 
Romans 5:17-21 
Romans 6:3-9 
Romans 8:14-23 
Romans 8:3lb-35, 37-39
Romans 14:7-9, l0b-12 
I Corinthians 15:20-23, 24b-28 
I Corinthians 15:51-57 
2 Corinthians 4:14 -5:1 
2 Corinthians 5:1, 6-10
Ephesians 3:14-21 
Philippians 3:20-21  
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 
2 Timothy 2:8-13 
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17- 18 
1 Peter 1:3-9 
1 John 3:1-2  
1 John 3:14-16 
Revelation 14:13 
Revelation 20:11 - 21:1
Revelation 21:1-5a, 6b-7

Revelation 22:1-7
Gospel

Matthew 6:19-23 
Luke 1:67-74 
John 3:13-17 
John 10:11-18 
John 10:27-30 

 

Liturgical Hymn Suggestions for the Mass of Christian Burial

Sacred Heart Saint Francis de Sales Church

 

The following hymns are recommended for your consideration.  They are printed in

Breaking Bread 2018, the parish hymnal of Sacred Heart Saint Francis de Sales Church.

We will be happy to provide you with a copy of this hymnal if you like. You may find it very comforting to read the texts to the hymns as you make your selections.  Donald McMahon, parish organist, will be glad to assist you, if you wish.  He can be reached at

(802) 442-3141 (Extension 5).  You are welcome to request hymns or sacred songs that do not appear on the list below.

 

“I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (Tune: Duke Street) - #570

“For All the Saints” (Tune: Sine Nomine) - #723

“How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place” (Randall DeBruyn) - #686

“The Strife Is O’er” (Tune: Victory; Easter Season) - #563

“We Walk by Faith” (Marty Haugen) - #497

“We Will Rise Again” (David Haas) - #440

“Song of Farewell” - #683

“This Alone” - #404

“O Breathe on Me, O Breath of God” (Tune: St. Columba) - #650

“Be Thou My Vision” (Tune: Slane) - #397

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” #689

“I Heard the Voice of Jesus” (Tune: Kingsfold) - #463

“Jerusalem, My Happy Home” (Tune: Land of Rest) - #609

“O Sanctissima” aka “O Most Holy One” and “Mary, Full of Grace” - #701

“Ubi Caritas” (Setting by Bob Hurd; Communion) - #328

“I Am the Bread of Life” (Suzanne Toolan, RSM; Communion) - #364

“Shepherd of Souls” – (Tune: Saint Agnes; Communion) - #365

“How Great Thou Art” - #425

“O God, You Search Me” (Bernadette Farrell) - #438

“O God, Our Help in Ages Past” – (Tune: St. Anne) - #444

“On Eagle’s Wings” - #437

“Christians, Let Us Love One Another” – (Tune: Picardy; Communion) - #476

“O Sacrament, Most Holy”- #334 (Communion)

“Fly Like a Bird” - #464

“Adoro Te Devote” - #409 (Communion)

“O Lord, I Am Not Worthy” - #493 (Communion)

“You Are Mine” (David Haas) - #457

“Amazing Grace” - #433