PREACHING THE FUNERAL HOMILY
Proclaiming the Gospel of Heavenly Hope
Rev. R.C. Sonefeld
Foreword by Andrew Greeley
160 pages, 5½" × 8½"
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Your most powerful homily could be at a funeral. These 18 model homilies will help
preachers prepare funeral homilies more easily and deliver them more effectively.
The author, known for giving especially inspiring funeral homilies, covers the
gamut of homilies for "ordinary" funerals to those preached in more difficult
circumstances — for example, at the funeral of a person who has committed
suicide or a young victim of leukemia. All sample homilies are derived from real
circumstances that most preachers face at some point. Part 2 is an especially
useful section of inspirational quotations and poems suitable for use in funeral homilies.
All of Fr. Sonefelds homilies proclaim that a ... person finds
strength neither in despair nor in personal power but in committing oneself
to the incomprehensible mystery that occurs at the moment of death. This
mystery is the God of hope. I highly recommend these sermons as a
valuable resource for describing lifes most paradoxical
Rev. Gaylord Shimnoski, Ph.D., St. Thomas More Center, Smithtown, N.Y.
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Table of Contents
The Composition of the Funeral Homily
The Dos of Homily Preaching
The Donts of Homily Preaching
Use of Poetry
Death of a Young Wife and Mother
Death of a Young Husband And Father
Death of a Young Person From Leukemia
Death of a Motor Vehicle Accident Victim
Death of a Divorced Mother
Death of a Twice Married Husband And Father
Death of a Spinster
Death of a Husband Who Adopted Two Sons
Death of an Elderly Male
Death of a Person Who Committed Suicide
Death of an Air Disaster Victim
Death of a Person with AIDS
Sudden Death of a Mother
Death of a Mentally Challenged Daughter
Death of an Elderly Widow
Appendix A: Homily Desserts
Acceptance of Death
Fear of Death
Denial Of God
Philosophy Of Life
Purpose of Life
Appendix B: Poetic Sequiturs
Builders of Eternity
I Did Not Die
The Devil Is A Gentleman
Death of a Child
The Dream of Gerontius
Hamlet, Act I, Scene V
Children of God
Crossing of the Bar
Returning to God
The Clock of Life
Hamlet, Act III, Scene I
Hamlet, Act I, Scene II
Selected Works Cited and Recommended
Following is an excerpt from Preaching the Funeral Homily. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2000, Resource Publications, Inc.
Death of a Young Wife and Mother
First Reading: Dan 12:13
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 129:1 2,3 4,4 6,78
Second Reading: Thess 4:1318
Gospel Acclamation: Jn 11:25,26
Gospel Jn 11:1727
I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the Jack and his children, Michael and Megan; to the parents of Alyce, Ken and Emma; to her two brothers, Ivan and Alvin; and to all the relatives and friends.
Monday morning, June 4, began as a typical day in the life of Alyce Tabor. She was up early to put breakfast on the table, to supervise the washing and dressing of the children, to prepare herself for work, to check if she had the necessary items for Megans day care center, and to check if Michael had his books. Perhaps she had a second cup of coffee to start her day. Then, after a kiss and a hug from her husband, she packed everything, including her children, into the car. She gave a kiss and a hug to Megan at the day care center and a kiss and a hug to Michael at the school. Finally, with all these tasks completed, she drove off to her job. She had been going through this routine five days a week for many years. She was well-organized and confident. A day that started out with dispensing the love and care of a mother. She rarely paid any attention to the stress of such a routine. It was all part of her threefold role of mother, wife, and wage earner.
All of us would have bet that Alyce had some forty-plus years to live and that her dreams and ambitions for her family would be fulfilled. She wanted to see her children through grade school, high school, and college, their marriages, and then the grandchildren. Later, she would spend retirement with her husband, Jack. She was not only a wife, but also a daughter to her loving mother and father. Daughters, even though married, often dont really leave home. They can be counted on to help care for their elderly parents. It is a blessing for parents to be helped in their advanced age.
Alyce was on her way to work when tragedy struck. Every time we enter an expressway or a traffic lane, especially in the early morning rush hours, an accident is possible. Events on the road are often beyond our control, regardless of our defensive driving. We live in a world of speed and steel, where technology can be both good and destructive. Mechanical failure. Human errors. Bad road conditions. Carelessness. There are innocent drivers and innocent victims. How often is the innocent victim killed? As she drove to work, a car ran into her car. Possibly, a defective tie rod, maybe a defect in the steel or construction, caused an oncoming car to veer into her car head on.
Two children lost a mother; a husband became a widower; the parents suffered the loss of their daughter.
Her husband told his story at the vigil service. He said that he and his wife and children went to church on Sunday. That, despite his loss and pain, he bowed his head and heart to God, his savior and redeemer. In baptism, both had pledged their lives to Christ; they had committed their trust to God, just as Christ had done to his heavenly Father when he died on the cross. This is the treasure and strength of a dedicated faith.
Both Alyce and Jack loved God in good times and in bad, in life and in death. As Job expressed his trust, The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Free will and the eventualities of life are allowed by God to exert their force and consequences, to follow the laws of cause and effect. Death and suffering are evils, contrary to the original will, against the will of God. But God doesnt ordinarily interfere in these casualties nor with the laws of nature. Even to use the expression, as insurance companies do, an act of God, is incorrect. Destructive storms and upheavals of nature are not positively willed by God, but play their part according to the laws of nature.
St. Johns Gospel records Christs intervention in the death of his friend, Lazarus. Christ proved his power over death when he declared, Lazarus come forth. Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it. Within a week, he would rise from the dead, as he had predicted.
Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, while waiting for Jesus to come from Perea, the country beyond the Jordan, experienced four days of sadness and grief. When Jesus finally arrived, Martha showed her distress in a mild rebuke to Christ, If you had been here, my brother would not have died. She was not embarrassed to show her disappointment. She was miffed. Grief claimed her. At the cemetery, tears were shed. Blame was placed on Christ for not responding immediately: Why this delay? I believed you could cure my brother.
Christ could have defended himself by explaining that he and his disciples might be stoned by the Judeans for coming to Bethany. Like Martha, all humans react to the death of loved ones with grief and anger. The degree of grief depends on the relationship; the greater the loss, the greater the grief. The passing of grief cant be accelerated. Its like growing up; it takes time. Even though Martha believed in the resurrection and made her profession of faith, she still experienced concern, which is what grief is. I love this person. I need this person. So the emotions seek resolution. Did I do enough? If only Christ had been here! Usually no matter what anyone did (or did not do), death would still take place.
Christ had a higher purpose, unknown to Martha, Mary, and his followers. He wanted them to have unshakable proof of his power over death. He declared, I am the resurrection and the life. Christ was saying its okay to die. By death you gain your heavenly Father and an everlasting home. Lazarus was one human who died and came back from the grave, with proof that Christ is the resurrection and the life.
Theres an old story, very effective though seldom quoted today, of a conversation between Charles Maurice Talleyrand, the prime minister of France, and the French philosopher, M. Lepeaux, who invented a new religion that, in his judgment, was superior to Christianity. M. Lepeaux sought from the prime minister a revolutionary way to spread his new dynamic religion. Without hesitation Talleyrand replied, I shall recommend that you have yourself crucified and on the third day rise from the dead. This is the litmus test applied by the divine founder of Christianity, Christ.
Rose Kennedy endured more than the normal amount of grief and pain with the deaths of her four children. The mother of the former president confessed her faith in her savior, as reported by Cleveland Amory, in Parade Magazine:
I have always believed that God never gives a cross to bear larger than we can carry. And I have always believed that, no matter what, God wants us to be happy. He doesnt want us to be sad. Birds sing after a storm. Why shouldnt we?
May the angels lead the soul of Alyce, a faithful Christian wife and mother, into paradise. May the soul of Alyce Tabor and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.