Funeral Etiquette: Why Bringing a Funeral Procession through a Burger Drive-thru is a Bad Idea.

The video below shows “American tacky” in all its glory. A man who loved Burger King dies and his family honors him by taking the funeral procession through the Burger King “drive thru.” Free Burgers for all on the way to the Cemetery, hearse and all.

I’ve seen worse, I have to admit. Probably at the top of the list is and “Funeral Home Drive- thru” where the deceased is actually on display in a window. No need to get out of your car and actually visit the family. No, that’s too much trouble and lacks the kind of convenience we Americans both deserve and expect. No, just drive through and say something cheesy like, “Don’t he look like himself?” Hit the gas and you’re back to your day.

And while I’ve not yet seen it, I am sure it has already happened that there are “Webcam” options for wakes now as well. Just go to the funeral home website, click through on the deceased’s name, choose the webcam option and shazam, there he is with Hammond organ music playing in the background. (Perhaps a special zoom option could be provided too, for closer viewing). And the guest book could be signed “virtually” as if to say, “I virtually made it there (without the inconvenience of leaving here)!” For an additional fee one could either add a flower to a virtual bouquet, or light a virtual vigil candle, saying, “I virtually care.”Β  πŸ™‚

But seriously, folks. I think the line that most stands out in the video is where a relative says regarding the Big Mac drive-thru, “It Started as a Joke, and became a reality.” For my money, it should have stayed a joke.

And while I’m not all that worked up about this (people have been doing silly things at funerals forever), I do think that sober reflection is more proper to funerals. Death, while conquered by Christ, remains a moment for sober reflection. It entered the world through sin, and remains a punishment due to sin.

Further, the deceased goes to the Judgement Seat of Christ. And even for the faithful who rightly trust in the Lord’s mercy, our particular judgement is an honest conversation with the Lord. Yes a very HONEST conversation: none of the sweet little lies we like to tell ourselves, none of the papering over of the things we tend to minimize, none of the shifting of responsibilities we so easily do here.

Yes, an honest conversation of which Scripture says, Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Heb 4:13). Perhaps too we will not only see our sins, but also be surprised by some of our goodness we never knew, or discounted. But it will be an honest conversation. Of the the judgement of our deceased loved ones, we should ALWAYS pray.

But in too many funerals today all this is thrust aside by corny chatter and often silly remarks about how “Joe is up there now playing poker with St Michael” etc. Sadly too often such remarks even come from clergy.

In all of this balance is required. Strong and confident hope is appropriate on behalf of the faithful who die. But it ought to be balanced with a sober acknowledgement that, even if it brings relief and an end to suffering, death is a very deep mystery, and in the realm of a tragic blow humanity suffered in the wake of sin.

Jesus, even knowing he would raise his friend Lazarus in mere moments, stood before his tomb and was deeply moved (the Greek text says he was brimming with anger) and he wept (cf John 11:33ff).

Purgation is needed – And, given the holiness of God, and the promise given to us of God-like perfection (Matt 5:48) and our present lowly and unseemly state, the strong likelihood for those who do die in grace, is that they must undergo final purification to inherit these promises. And this too balances our behavior, we are confident for the faithful, but vigilant unto their purification.

A final reason for sobriety at funerals is the solemn reminder that we will all die and must properly prepare for death. At funerals I never fail to earnestly preach conversion and preparation for death. This is no time to play around and tell lots of goofy jokes. There are many people at funerals who never come to Church at any other time, and many of them are in very serious sin, and in a very degraded spiritual condition, they are, plainly, in great danger of Hell. If I am going to reach them, I have to do it then.

I plea at every funeral for all of us to be serious about preparing for death and judgment. I remind us all of the many warnings of the Lord himself in this regard. An old song says, Sinner please don’t let this harvest pass, and die, and lose your soul at last.

So there, some pastoral reflections elicited by a video. I mean no harm to the family involved. But pastorally this sort of stuff is to be avoided. Funerals need not be times of utter gloom, but neither should they display a forgetfulness that death is ultimately a very serious matter. And even death when it brings relief suffering, it opens the door to a judgement about which we should be prayerfully sober.

Going through burger stands (or telling goofy stories in homilies etc. ) is probably a bad idea that helps neither the deceased nor the rest of us maintain the poise, the balance that is appropriate, a balance that, at the death of the faithful I would describe as sober and prayerful confidence.

22 Replies to “Funeral Etiquette: Why Bringing a Funeral Procession through a Burger Drive-thru is a Bad Idea.”

  1. Wow.Thank you so much for this .The recent funerals I’ve been to as of late have me
    so sad…too casual..too many jeans and t -shirts..a quick and uncomfortable Hail Mary
    at the evening wake…and many slip out at any mention of prayer…..sigh.
    Another trend I’ve noticed at Catholic funerals is that the burial is often skipped and then
    we are all invited to the reception in the church basement……it feels so incomplete.
    Most people I’ve talked to about this think it is a good thing and that it’s far too hard
    on the family to be at the burial …..only the pallbearers go. (I’m in New Brunswick, Canada
    so there were never winter burials, I’m talking about the rest of the year.)

    I can remember the beautiful dignified catholic funerals of my grandparents,aunts
    and uncles…the music, the incense, the rituals…. the rosary recited at wakes.
    These are such tender and unforgetable memories to me. I’ve always told my four
    children ” there is nothing more beautiful than a well done catholic funeral “. They
    are sad for sure….but we leave full …it’s mysterious to me. Thank you for presenting
    real issues of our times.

  2. What is very very rarely mentioned at funerals today is to pray for the deceased. Often times it is assumed that they went straight to heaven. There’s usually a detour – purgatory. Please remember to pray for their souls.

    Also, in addition to praying for our loved ones, I would like to add what nuns many, many years ago suggested, ‘Pray for the one who is at the back of the line on the way to heaven, and then the one who is first in line.’

    ‘May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen

  3. I also have been to too many disrespectful funerals of late, although one I attended in an Orthodox Church was done well. Our ancestors knew what they were doing, if we could just admit this we’d be better off in a lot of areas.

    I love the point you made about Jesus weeping over the death of Lazarus, I’ll remember that the next time I hear someone, usually in their 60’s, tell me they want their funeral to be a celebration of their life instead of a time for mourning their death.

    Do you have a preference in vestment colors? Black seems best to me, but a priest I greatly respect prefers purple. White seems a bit much, but Holy Mother Church knows best.

  4. On a side note, I had to listen to a former Catholic (lapsed? I dunno) complain about how her family all went to a Mass “in honor of her grandmother” who was deceased. She was so upset because “all they did was mention her grandmother’s name once.” She clearly had no idea that the Mass was being said FOR her grandmother’s soul, not in honor of what a wonderful lady she was here in this life. I’m not sure what she expected to see at the Mass, perhaps a slideshow of her grandmother’s life set to music, showing the church how awesome she was.

  5. The guy lived to be 88 and his family hassled him for not eating right. Once anyone passes 80 they should be given credit for doing something right healthwise.

    1. I think this Burger King funeral is symptomatic of something else. Once moral relativism take hold and right and wrong is thrown out the window, what is left? Personality. And so personality, instead of being sort of the fragrance of what one believes, becomes of the substance of who one is. I don’t make that judgement about the families who had these weird funerals. The weird funerals are symptomatic of a culture where personality is considered the substance of who one is.

  6. I have been to a number of funerals, including one today of a beloved member of my parish. Very well done, not weird like what I have read here.

    Could the reason why purgatory has been mentioned less often is because of what has been talked about more in the last number of years, what is called “near death experiences” or NDE’s. There has been many books about NDE’s experienced by a number of people, including one of a child which became the basis for the book “Heaven is for Real”.

    I sense because of all the talk and books about NDE’s, could it be why Heaven is talked about more and purgatory a lot less. Msgr Pope, once again good article and what about the idea of “NDE’s” ?

    Thank-you. πŸ™‚

  7. In my family a funeral is a celebration of that persons life. the man was a fast food junkie and from what I see would have loved the gesture his family made for him. Judge not lest you be judged!…

    1. Good Lord – does everything has to be so frivolous? If the family wanted to get together after the service and reception for Burger King, great. The extreme to which they went was over the top and likely based on sheer emotion. And criticizing this is not being judgmental.

  8. At a recemt funeral of a well known personage, at the opening of the funeral mass for this very beloved
    individual, the celebrant welcomed all those attending to join together as we remember the death ( and
    he allowed a moment to pass) of our Lord Jesus Christ whose mercy and compassion we pray be extended
    for ( name of the deceased soul.) That is how I would like my funeral mass to commence. Truly a requiem
    mass without fanfare and eulogies. They (my friends and family ) can all go out and have a beer together
    if they want to after but I want a *serious* mass for the dead! I’m going to need all the help I can get when I
    stand before my Creator trying to *explain* my many failures. This is not only the time to remember our
    beloved deceased but also to admit we are all sinners in need of God’s tender mercies.

  9. One habit I happen to like, and which is not at all tacky, is that when a good person dies, the people applaud because he completed a good life. I remember this happened when Pope John Paul II died. After one of the cardinals came out on that balcony and announced that the pope had died, the people keeping vigil in St. Peter’s Square burst into applause. I know this is only a Roman custom, but I happen to like it. And it’s not in poor taste because it’s a celebratory way to commemorate the virtuous deceased entering into his reward. Then, of course, everything that follows would be solemn mourning.

    Since the Church has often universalized Roman customs, I would not hate it if this one took hold throughout the entire Church. And of course the applause should be reserved, not cheering and screaming like at a sporting event. After all, someone did die here.

  10. Just a few thoughts. Meals put on by the family of the deceased are common after a funeral in many cultures. While it might have been tacky still, it would have been much more appropriate for the family to treat the crowd to Burger King at a reception afterward if they really found the inclusion of BK necessary. I’ve had personal experience with skyping in to a memorial service. A loved one died on the other coast while I was laid up at home, sick and pregnant. Very discreetly I was able to be a part of the memorial service from states away. It meant a lot to me and the rest of the family that I see the memorial service (though for a mass that would definitely be inappropriate).

  11. “it started off as a joke and then became a reality”
    That sums up our age perfectly!

  12. I don’t see anything wrong with this. IT was after the funeral and it was a sweet tribute to a man who seems to have been loved.

    1. Any thoughts on the article. I do raise some reasons. I sense all or nothing thinking in your comment such that you presume I am saying it is 100% horrible. I am not saying that. But it does raise the issues I describe and they are worth discussing. I don’t think we have the right balance these days. The other side of your comment also bespeaks all or nothing thinking in that you don’t see “anything” wrong with it. Really? absolutely nothing? How about the fact that others who commented found it mildly offensive (I deleted your disparaging remarks about the commentors). There is more to life than just doing what we please, no matter what others might think. I remain only mildly offended by this action, it not really that big a deal and I suspect the other comments are in the same ball park, but it does point to more troubling trends in funerals overall. It think it is tacky, but we Americans love our tacky things, I even have some of that artificial rubber cheese in my refrigerator, really not cheese at all, but we Americans eat it in truckloads along with our boxed wine, I love that Chillable red boxed wine! But it is tacky, and hardy wine at all really.

  13. I think that when a culture is based on deep dish pizza, you end up with a yeast infection and type II diabetes.Don’t even get me started on all the grease.

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