Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Give-Away

Rez funerals are not like the funerals most of us know. They are longer and involve a whole series of rituals unfamiliar to us. Though most funerals do not include every element described below, almost all include some of them.

The funeral begins with the wake which may last two full days. As often as not, this occurs in a local community hall. They usually begin at 7:00 PM. At this time, the priest or deacon will lead a typical Catholic Vigil for the Deceased. After he has finished his part, any variety of things might happen. Native drum groups might sing honoring songs. Religious leaders of other denominations (typically the pastors of non-Catholic family members) might lead vigils of their own. Around 9:00 PM, a meal is served. The vigil then continues. The funeral itself is pretty typical until the end, when the casket is rolled to one side of the room and opened and a procession begins wherein every person present at the funeral passes the casket for the "second viewing." This is where the wailing begins. The family of the deceased waits in a receiving line to greet those present for the funeral.

After the viewing, the people will process to the cemetery where the committal is to occur. Most often the grave is dug by hand, and after the prayers have been finished, it is filled by hand. Following this, another meal occurs. Tripe soup is frequently on the menu. After the meal has been served, the give-away begins.

The give-away is exactly what it sounds like. The family of the deceased gives gifts to honored guests at the funeral. The most honored will typically receive a star-quilt. Others will receive any variety of things - dish towels, laundry baskets, food, etc . . . I'm not sure how they determine who will receive something or what they will receive. Clergy usually receive something, though.

One year after a death, a memorial service is held. This includes prayers of remembrance, speakers who honor the deceased, more drumming and native dancing, and sometimes a ritual known as "the wiping of the tears" which is a way of welcoming the family back into the community after their period of mourning. These are followed with another meal (and more tripe) and then a second give-away.

I attended my first memorial and give-away over the weekend. There was a large crowd, and a party sort of atmosphere. The native drumming and singing began early. The rhythm of the drum and the wailing sound of the singing gave me shivers. At one point, the family of the deceased did a circle dance. The meal was served buffet style for those with sufficient stamina to stand in line. The grandchildren of the deceased brought food to the elderly people present for the event. I left before the give-away proper, as it was getting to be time to prepare for Mass. I had been there for three hours already, and the give-away proper was yet to begin.

I am not sure what all of this means, or why it is all done, or really anything at all, but I did have a few observations:

1) As I have found with cultures, all people were saintly during their lives after they are dead.

2) Prairie people like the opportunity to get together. Even for death, there is pleasure to be found in gathering the community.

3)I am going to have to force myself to eat tripe before the summer is over. I had thought I could handle it before I saw the soup - now I am not so sure.

4) As similar as Eagle Butte can be to my own ranch culture background, I have a steep learning curve to manage this summer.

1 comment:

Jinglebob said...

If you've eaten canned chicken noodle soup, you have already eaten tripe. Thought it was bits of chicken, didn't you? LOL

Have you run across Blaine yet?

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