The idea of having a civil funeral ceremony is a fairly recent phenomenon in Ireland.
In a country which has been predominantly Roman Catholic, funerals have been strictly a church affair. Historically the remains of a deceased were “waked” at home. Often that is still the case, and, more recently, it has been the practice to have the deceased reposing in a funeral home. Following the reposing, the deceased is brought to the church (a removal). At the removal, prayers are said and this short ceremony provides another opportunity for neighbours and friends to comfort the grieving family. The funeral then takes place, usually on the following day. In the days before cremation, burial followed the funeral ceremony.
The words and pattern of a traditional funeral are familiar and comforting. But there have been restrictions on the extent on to which a church funeral can be personalised. Few people would wish to endure a long speech giving the life history of a deceased but some authorities frown upon the idea of having any form of eulogy included in the funeral service. Most people would agree that a funeral service should not sound like a rock concert but the restriction in some quarters on having any form of secular music included is a restriction that is hard to justify.
And what about people who do not have a religious faith or who would describe themselves as “spiritual” but who do not practice that spirituality in a particular church community?. Many people who fit into this category still would prefer to have some element of their beliefs and philosophy referred to in the ceremony which marks the end of their life. This is where a civil funeral ceremony can help.
A civil funeral ceremony is drafted around the life and times of the person whose funeral it is. The world has become smaller. Once-distant places and alternative philosophies have become more familiar. Now we are all increasingly aware of the wealth of ideas surrounding life and death and how the important stages of life might be celebrated. It is no longer case of one formula fits all. We are as individual as snowflakes and our life-marking events need to reflect that individuality.
Seeking a Civil Funeral is not a protest against a church. If someone has not been practising a religion it can be felt to be hypocritical to go through the motions of a ceremony in a tradition that has not been part of the lived life of the person. The fact that it is a civil ceremony does not mean that it cannot include religious references. A civil funeral can be designed include religious elements from a wide variety of sources in order to reflect the beliefs and practices of the individual concerned. It is not to be confused with a humanist ceremony in which there would be no reference to God, religion or spirituality.