I have been a Catholic for almost forty years. I have served the church as a sacristan for many of those years and as such have attended hundreds of funerals. Of all the tasks a child of God is asked to perform, offering a funeral speech can be the most daunting. The funeral is a mixture of sadness, joy, and very real sense of loss, however, a heartfelt eulogy can in fact bring closure to those in attendance. I offer you now, from my experience as a sacristan, a few guide lines to help you write and deliver your funeral speech.
When is it appropriate to begin?
Depending upon the priest and the setting the vast majority of eulogies are given after the homily and before the presentation of the Eucharist. Normally a priest will finish his homily and then introduce the one who is to offer the eulogy. It is appropriate at that time to go to the ambo in the sanctuary and begin your speech. There are other priests who may not want to have the eulogy during the celebration of the Mass, therefore after the final blessing you will be asked to offer the eulogy. In order to avoid confusion make sure you speak to the priest or sacristan and have them explain the protocol to use.
Content of the Funeral Speech
There are three major points that should you should try to address when preparing your speech. The following is a brief description.
Many of those in attendance have more than likely not seen each other in many years. It is therefore appropriate that you introduce yourself briefly and what your relationship is with the deceased. In addition if there is a wife or husband present mention them as well and offer your deepest condolences. This should take approximately one minute, two at the most.
Body of the funeral speech
This section of your speech is where a brief overview of the deceased life should be given. Choose four or five real life experiences of the deceased that you can relate to those in attendance. Depending upon the mood of the funeral you may have one that is humorous, one that describes the deceased love for his or her family, something from a recent experience would also be appropriate. Make sure to avoid anything off color or a bad experience the deceased may have had such as a divorce. This section should be no more than five minutes.
A Poetic Closing
It is now time to bring to a close your eulogy and offer final words. There have already been two readings from the Old and New Testament, and a reading from the Gospel, in addition to a Psalm. Although a quote from scripture would be appropriate here, something from one of the Catholic saints would be much better. Saint Pope John Paul II is more than appropriate as he has been recently made a saint and will be recognized by most Catholics. Take a quote and expound upon its merits and how it now relates to the deceased. This should be brief, two or three minutes.
As a Catholic we all share the understanding that there is a God, Jesus Christ is His Son and we look forward to being with them in Heaven. Your funeral speech should not only be loving, kind, peaceful and poetic, but should relate that we will all be together soon with our Lord. This fact alone will bring closure for all in attendance.