Catholics may be surprised to learn, as they prepare for the funeral liturgy, that a eulogy is not permitted and there is no provision for a eulogy by a family member or friend in the ritual. The General Introduction to the Order of Christian Funerals quite clearly states that the homily after the gospel reading is never to be a eulogy. Eulogies are often a significant feature in non-Catholic funerals, but Catholics should understand that this is not an element of Catholic tradition or liturgy.
The word “eulogy” refers to speech or writing that offers high praise, particularly for one who has died. When Christians gather for the funeral Mass, we do so to praise God the Father, who has given us eternal life in His Son, and who is merciful to those who die believing in Jesus.
In the Christian funeral, we gather not to praise the deceased but to pray for them.
For this reason, eulogies are not given.
The fact that a eulogy is not permitted does not mean that there can be no reference to the
deceased person during the homily. Those who preach are directed to dwell on God’s compassionate love and the paschal mystery as proclaimed in the Scripture readings. As well, they are directed to be attentive to the grief of those present and to help them understand the mystery of God’s love and the paschal mystery in the life of the deceased person and in their own lives. References to the person’s life of faith and love are obviously appropriate. It is the “high praise” of a eulogy in the strict sense of the word, praise that has no reference to Christian life and is sometimes exaggerated, that is out of place in an act of worship.
It is natural that members of the family of the deceased may wish to speak publicly in remembrance of their loved one. A very effective way of doing so is at the celebration of the vigil prayers during the period of visitation at the funeral home, at the cemetery or during the reception following the liturgy. Indeed, these are moments when a number of persons may speak and share their memories. Families may wish to publicize this as part of the obituary notice. If these occasions are not possible, the Archbishop gives permission for words of remembrance to be spoken in the church, but only before the funeral liturgy begins with the formal reception of the body or entrance procession. Words of remembrance are not permitted at the end of the liturgy. In church, such words should be limited to five minutes in duration, and the text is to be reviewed beforehand by the presiding priest or deacon.