A few months ago I received a phone call informing me of the untimely death of a former classmate from my elementary school. He had always been kind to me and we were pretty good friends for the time we spent together. Although he had suffered a facial deformity from an accident as a child (the same accident was the cause of his seizures- one of which ended his life) his presence was always one of a light hearted contentedness. The news of his death saddened me and I decided to attend the funeral.

I had been raised Roman Catholic and had been to several funerals in the past including another for a friend from the same grade school class. However, at the time of those other funerals I was still a devout Catholic. This time I was viewing the funeral through the eyes of an agnostic. Throughout the mass I watched the other members of the congregation while remembering my own experiences with the deceased. The priest spoke in a somber tone about the people he had touched during his brief lifetime. I couldn't help but wonder if this was the proper method to celebrate the memory of such a person. The priest spoke of community and the ways in which everyone effects one another without even knowing of the effect they have had. This sort of mass did not allow for any true sense of community to be felt. While we were all sitting in the same building we were still isolated from one another- completely immersed in our own thoughts and feelings. For this mass to truly mean anything to the congregation as a whole we need to celebrate the person we are remembering. Even if one does not believe in an afterlife it is important to share with one another the parts of the person that still live on within us. Masses like these allow us too easily to forget the individual and dwell only in the ritual.