Those popes who bear the name, "Pius," are the greatest guardians of the Church against heresy. This blog is a watchdog for modernism in the Church. In reality, outside this blog, the members of the board temper their criticisms and opinions with prudence and charity so as to help souls in their journey towards Christ. But sometimes, for the sake of their own sanity, the authors of this blog just need to blow off some steam. The result is Totus Pius.

12 June 2006

In defense of black

Fr. Jonathan Robinson, founder of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Canada, writes in his book, The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backwards (Ignatius Press, 2005), "It seems to me obvious in light of what I have written that wearing white vestments for funerals ought to be the exception and not the norm. Funerals are about, and for, the person who has died. The comfort of the bereaved and all the other important community aspects of death must be recognized, but they must not determine the rite of Christian burial" (p. 115).

Who doesn't love black vestments? We think it pertinent to explore the reasons Fr. Robinson provides for his conclusion cited above. Fr. Robinson argues that David Hume's philosophy, specifically his work on miracles, has touched the Christian mind in such a way that it has adversely affected Christian funeral rites. Hume says of miracles that they are a violation of the laws of nature. Everyone, even Christians, concede this point. He then states that the laws of nature have been formed by "a firm and unalterable experience." Again, everyone accepts this premise. Thus, Hume reaches the conclusion that any argument against miracles has as much force as any argument from experience that can be imagined. Very brilliant. What does this have to do with Christian funeral rites?

Fr. Robinson asserts that this philosophy has crept into theology and has led many scholars to assert that the Resurrection of Christ was not an actual, historial event, but rather a spiritual one experienced by His earliest disciples. While this belief is not taken up explicitly by Catholic theologians, Fr. Robinson writes, it has exercised a profound influence on Catholic worship. He writes, "What I am objecting to is the all too common conviction that funerals are a sort of instant canonization of the dead person in the interests of the community left behind; or, as an even stronger version of this goes, 'funerals have nothing to do with the dead person'" (p. 110). Fr. Robinson goes on to explain the important of the infallable doctrine of purgatory and the importance of praying for departed souls. Hume is difficult and Fr. Robinson's book is worth a read to see more clearly the logical connections between Hume and current practice. At any rate, here is a defense of black in a nutshell. We affirm and approve it.


Papa Beatus Pius IX said...

At this moment, our will consists of two "last wishes:"

1) That the mass be celebrated in Latin

2) That the priest and deacon be wearing black vestments

That is all.

Ma Beck said...

Mmmmmmmmm, black vestments. Tasty.
You've probably already seen it, but here's some video of black vestments. Oh, and Mozart's Requiem and all that, too.

Ma Beck said...

I concur with your last wishes.
I have those, plus one more.
(One of those plastic wreaths with the toy telephone and the banner that reads 'Jesus Called'.)

Anonymous said...

I agree that funerals these days are instant canonizations which I find to be such a lack of charity for the deceased. Who will think to pray for them?
I have told my children repeatedly that they are to acquire black vestments asap after I die so that they can be used for my funeral rite. Wills aren't always opened in a timely manner. They will also have to find a priest who will agree to wear them, that is who will celebrate my funeral. That priest is also to be instructed that I request at the funeral Mass to have the symbolism of the black vestments explained to everyone and that they be asked to always pray for the repose of my soul, although those who know me probably won't need much convincing of that! Hope they can find a priest who will agree to all of the above...

Ma Beck said...

Good plan.
In my opinion, it doesn't hurt to discuss this with your parish priest at any time, no matter your age or health.
And having the priest explain the symbolism is an excellent idea.