Archive for the 'Death' Category

Exsequiarum Ordo

Rite of Burial

‘You need to say more prayers to St Michael, the rain is not stopping.’

‘Good idea, I will try the Latin one this time.’

One priest and four altar boys in a moving car under a darkened sky. Today was not a good day for a burial. It was pouring cats and dogs. We were hoping that the rain would stop before we got to the cemetery. Lim Chu Kang is home to farms, military camps and of course, dead people. It is very, very inaccessible. Thankfully we took Father’s car there. Still, the gravesite was not easy to locate. We had to make a few U-turns, even in the narrow lanes of the plot.

‘Are we supposed to turn right now? But it says Chinese Cemetery, not Christian Cemetery.’

The rain had not stopped by the time we arrived. There was little choice but to use the umbrellas, though they were of little help.  We carried all the liturgical items and vestments to a nearby shed, where we proceeded to vest. Fortunately we arrived before the hearse and the rest of the congregation.

The newly dug grave was on the far end of the plot, and we had to step over the existing graves in order to get to the other side. I felt mildly embarrassed for the poor souls. We gathered around the grave with our black umbrellas.

The grave is not a mere hole in the ground. It has concrete structures at the edges, almost like frames of a box. The soil was earthly orange. A large digging machine a few meters away was the instrument for this fine handiwork.

We first began with the blessing of the  grave. I passed the censer and incense boat to and fro from the brother server behind me. My hands were occupied with the bottle of holy water and a black umbrella. Father began with the prayers.

‘O God, by whose mercy the souls of the faithful find rest, vouchsafe to bless this grave, and appoint Thy holy Angel to keep it; and release the souls of all these whose bodies are buried here from every bond of sin, that they may always rejoice in Thee with Thy Saints for ever. Through Christ our Lord.’

‘Amen.’

The body was brought forward to the grave. It is not easy to lower a coffin into the grave. The eight gentlemen with the funeral company had attached two wooden spars to the coffin with an elaborate maze of ropes. This allowed the coffin to be suspended directly above the grave. It was not a pleasant or comfortable duty, especially not with this weather. They were dressed in white dress shirts and dark trousers but were totally soaked to the skin. They removed their shoes and socks as well. By comparison, I was reasonably dry under my umbrella.

Father began to intone the Benedictus antiphon, ‘Ego sum resurrectio et vita: qui credit in me, etiam si mortuus fuerit, vivet: et omnis qui vivit et credit in me, non morietur in aeternum.’

‘Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel…’

‘Requiem aternam dona eis, Domine.’

‘Et lux perpetua luceat eis.’ And once more the antiphon.’

‘Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison. Pater noster..’

I passed the holy water forward. And Father sprinkled the body. One normally sees the drops of holy water fly through the air. Not today. The heavy rain washed everything down. In any case, it was hard to distinguish the tears of the bereaved from the rain drops.

It was time for the burial. The gentlemen began to uncoil the ropes. I was amazed with the ropework. It was designed to lower the body bit by bit till the coffin touched the deepest earth.

‘And lead us not into temptation.’

‘But deliver us from evil.’

‘From the gate of hell.’

‘Deliver his soul O Lord.’

Once the concluding prayers were chanted, we turned away and returned to the shed. The mourners began laying flowers in the grave. Words of comfort and courtesy were exchanged at the shelter.

The work being completed, the rain finally began to subside. It stopped while we were driving out from the area. As they say, it never rains, but pours.

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Requiems in December

16 December 2010, Thursday, 3rd Week of Advent.

A close friend’s father passed away last Friday. I went to visit him last Thursday. I was absolutely shocked at his appearance. I had only seen him one month ago, and he had lost so much weight. He could barely speak, while hooked onto a nasal canula.

In less than twenty four hours he was gone.

The Sunday before he passed away I actually wondered if the family had already sent for a priest. When I spoke to my friend on Tuesday, he said that they already had. Deo gratias.

The funeral was on Tuesday. It was one of the saddest ones I’ve attended. So many were weeping, and I could not comfort them at all. Not my closest friend, not his mother. I have forgotten how to cry as well.

Woman, behold Thy son. Behold Thy Mother.

I will miss the dear sir. I still have one of his books with me, which I have not finished reading. I shall take this as a parting gift.

The day before the funeral, I attended a wake of a senior Legionary from my parish. This was a man that I highly respected. He was a good example to many. I regret that I was not able to learn all the secrets of the apostolate from him.

Funny it seems that I am surrounded by death and destruction. The people that I have prayed for are now dead. Recent events have caused me to be doubtful of many things, yet hopeful at the same time. Still, I cannot help but feel rather helpless.

I guess it is not too late that we remind myself of these things: The glory of the world fades. Time flies. Memento Mori. Remember that you will die. Treasure your loved ones while you still walk the earth.

May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Death and Liturgy

A relative of mine passed away recently. He was bedridden for a few years. He was baptized in March this year by a priest who went to visit his home. His wife also returned to practicing the faith.

On the day of the cremation, the priest arrived at the wake to take the body to the church. After a few short prayers, the undertakers transported the body into a hearse.

On arrival at the church, the body was brought into the church with the altar servers in front, and the priest flanking the coffin. We followed behind in procession. The immediate family placed a white pall over the coffin. The priest was in purple vestments.

The priest preached a simple homily about the end of life. The intercessory prayers followed, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist was commenced.

As at all Masses for the dead, there was no final blessing.

The body was sprinkled with holy water and incensed before being brought out of the church. In the Extraordinary Form, this takes place at the Absolution of the Dead. The Absolution of the Dead is not practiced in the Ordinary Form.

After that we recited the In Paradisum.

May angels lead you into paradise; upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, the poor man, may you have eternal rest.

The family removed the white pall. As the body was being brought out, we sang one more hymn.

The cremation was at Mandai. A lay funeral minister led the rite of commital. Very emotional for all the relatives present.

Having attended Requiem Masses in the Extraordinary Form, this Mass seemed rather insipid. The hymns didn’t seem very mournful at all. It was vaguely comforting. Of course we must be grateful for having a choir to sing for the funeral Mass.

I think this arises from a problem in modern Catholic music. In theory, we should sing the Mass, not sing songs at Mass. What do we mean by singing the Mass? If we look at the missal carefully, there are things such as the Introit, Responsorial Psalm, Communion Antiphons, and these are meant to be sung. Instead, we have taken the easy way out and substituted them with ‘suitable’ hymns, which may turn out to be not so suitable afterall.

Meaningful parts such as these are left out.

Introit: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

It’s bad enough that we are leaving things out from the modern missal. Let’s not discuss what the modern missal has removed from the old missal. In the old missal it would be like this:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer; to you shall all flesh come.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Dies irae is also omitted from the Ordinary Form:

Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophets’ warning,
Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

This sequence was formerly recited or chanted before the Gospel. Nowadays it has been removed. We can still, however, sing this hymn during the Divine Office. This hymn reminds us of the Final Judgement, and asks us to pray to God to spare us. There are several orchestral versions of this song, which you can easily find on Youtube.

The offertory antiphon is also very comforting to the bereaved:

Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
free the souls of all the faithful departed
from infernal punishment and the deep pit.
Free them from the mouth of the lion;
do not let Tartarus swallow them,
nor let them fall into darkness;
but may the sign-bearer, Saint Michael,
lead them into the holy light
which you promised to Abraham and his seed.

O Lord, we offer you
sacrifices and prayers in praise;
accept them on behalf of the souls
whom we remember today.
Let them, O Lord, pass over from death to life,
as you promised to Abraham and his seed.

Lamentation, lamentation. Students of classical music know that the Requiem Mass has inspired many musicians to write great pieces of music based on the Mass. These prayers are also great spiritual treasures. What treasures we are losing nowadays!

Other than the music, there are also external signs. Traditionally, the vestments are black. The Church, like a sorrowful mother, puts on mourning colours for those who have left the earthly life. Of course, Purple and White are allowed nowadays.

Nevertheless we make the best with what we have. Let us remember the Holy Souls in our prayers.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Block Leave Activities

Block Leave is going well!

I’ve been getting enough rest and recreation during the past week. On Wednesday I met up with Pei Suan for Dinner. It was good to see her since school ended.

On Thursday I had dinner with Cerelia. We met up with Kenneth, Jonathan, Constantine and Nicholas at Muddy Murphy’s. The special occasion was Kenneth’s enlistment on Friday. That place is terrible; overcharging like nobody’s business. Fine, their business is good but I digress. Five dollars for a small cup of tea!? Hell, I can buy the box for tea for half price! The most funny part was watching Kenneth in in dismay after paying two dollars and fifty cents for a little bag of Bacon Chips.

I had fun. Dear Cerelia, I hope you were not too shocked with the company that night. Then again everybody else would be shocked when hanging out with a bunch of trads.

The many outings on the weekdays were starting to get to me, so much so that I decided to spend Saturday afternoon alone. I went to Novena Church, to give thanksgiving to our Blessed Mother for letting me come back in one piece from the army. After that, I went to Holy Spirit Church to pray for the late Father David Thexeira, who passed away last Thursday.

Another reason for going there was to look for Father Gerard. He was transferred over. So yes, I managed to drop a hello, but he said he would only be free to see me after Christmas. Well I hope to see meet with him soon.

During this week I’ve gradually started on my preparation for the next phase of training. I have cleaned some of my equipment, such as my helmet. Unfortunately I have failed to drag myself out of bed for some PT. I think I’m going to get hell next week.

In the meantime I’ve also done some Christmas shopping. Apparently it’s supposed to be for Chinese New Year too. Oh crap, I’ve spent most of the budget already. Never mind; I rarely shop.

This Saturday will be a busy day. Perpetua and Robin are getting married. I will be assisting. I hope everything goes well.

Latest update on deadly accident

Tragic trip for 47 pilgrims

Ok, no Singaporeans were involved. Please continue to pray for the dead and injured.

Dies irae.. again?

I have recieved news that a bus of Singaporean Catholics on their way to St Anne’s Church in Penang was involved in a serious accident. The bus flipped over, and 11 out of 24 passengers were killed. There should be a report in the papers tomorrow.

Please pray for the repose of their souls, especially in the Rosary and the Office for the Dead. Please offer your reception of the Eucharist for the salvation for their souls.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
Et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem
Exaudi orationem meam
Ad te omnis caro veniet.

Requiem aeternam dona defunctis, Domine.
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine
Et lux perpetua eis.

R.I.P Ms Maisie Tay

Went with Benjamin Neo and his father to Ms Maisie Tay’s cremation. She passed away on Wednesday. She was my teacher in primary 4. So we went to the Mandai Crematorium to pay our respects. Quite a few marist teachers there and a couple of students. Quite sad to see her husband and kids crying so bitterly.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see…

Went home for lunch. Went for CAYC’s event at the youth centre at Hougang with Matt Heng. It was penitential service for youth. Then there was quite a bit of interaction with youth from all over singapore. And they gave us a nice t-shirt. Interesting door gift. Ate some of the food there, then went home.


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Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us

Stella Matutina, ora pro nobis

Our Lady of Perpetual Succor, pray for us

St Michael the Archangel, pray for us

St Jude, pray for us

St Benedict, pray for us

St Dominic, pray for us

St Anthony, pray for us