Mudcat Café message #1835429 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #94716   Message #1835429
Posted By: Joe Offer
15-Sep-06 - 01:53 PM
Thread Name: 'Danny Boy' at Catholic funeral
Subject: RE: 'Danny Boy' at Catholic funeral
Hmmm. Not a bad solution to a problem we Catholic church musicians frequently encounter. It is indeed a fairly good translation of "In Paradisum," an ancient, beautiful song that is used for the final blessing at funerals. Here's the original text, and a more direct translation:


That translation is by Owen Alstott of Oregon Catholic Press. I'd translate the last part "May the angel chorus receive you; and with Lazarus, once homeless and poor, may you have everlasting rest." I hadn't realized that the song referred to the poor man in the "Dives and Lazarus" story - I've heard that song a thousand times, and always thought it was Lazarus who had been raised from the dead.

The objection to "Danny Boy" is that it isn't a religious song, even though it makes the religious connection of saying an "Ave." It has nothing to do with the ideas and themes expressed in a funeral Mass - it's just a nice, old, sentimental song that people like. There are lots of wonderful religious songs that are more suited to a funeral Mass, and that's what we're supposed to be singing. Many parishes discourage the singing of "Ave Maria" at Mass, and that surprises a lot of people - but again, it doesn't usually have anything to do with the theme of the liturgy except on feasts of Mary.

The restrictions on choice of songs are not hard-and-fast rules, and "Danny Boy" is still one of the songs most frequently sung at Catholic funerals (particularly at the funerals of Irish priests who die in the U.S.-even if the deceased priest might not have approved). Many (probably most) parishes will compromise and allow the singing of non-liturgical songs before or after the Mass, if they're reasonably appropriate.

The funeral Mass, after all, is an act of worship - so the general idea is that the songs sung during liturgy should fit the liturgy. Usually, it's not too hard to work a compromise out for a funeral that will suit the needs of everyone, although I have to say it killed me to try to satisfy the demands of a woman who wanted eleven songs for her father's funeral, and fourteen for her mother's funeral a year later - and she kept changing her mind about what songs she wanted. [Worst of all, she was in love with me and pursued me for two years - and I wasn't interested]

Catholic weddings are even tougher to deal with - many couples seem to have no idea that the Mass is a sacred act of worship, and they want to have everything be all about them and their favorite songs. Most Catholic parishes don't allow recorded music during Mass, either - and many couples want to have "their song" played at the wedding. Usually, we compromise and play it before or after Mass, or at the reception. And usually, we just give in and let them have their "Ave Maria" solo sung by the maiden aunt....

Think of the meaning of the song "Danny Boy," and then take a look at the "May the angels lead you into Paradise" song and think about it for a moment - isn't its meaning far more appropriate for a funeral Mass than "Danny Boy"?

-Joe Offer-