A couple of weeks ago I was planning to go to Divine Liturgy, but was feeling too ill in the morning to make it to any, so I went to a noon Mass. I don’t remember why but the older lady who sat in front of me began talking to me as we were leaving the Church. When she realized I was a Secular Franciscan, she said, “Oh, that will be nice when you die.”I smiled because I know that may sound odd to most persons, but I knew what she was referring to. Although the Secular Franciscan Order does not wear a habit, even though the Tau Cross is sometimes referred to as our habit (we’ve been told not to do this anymore to avoid any confusion), there is the tradition that Secular Franciscans can be buried in the habit of the Religious Franciscans. This is what this nice lady was referring to when she made that easily misinterpret-able comment.
I had the intention of being buried this way as soon as I heard of it, and a few years ago, I began looking into it along with information on a green burial. I was even planning to buy a kit to make a coffin, but since I had no place to put it, I decided not to. I also discovered a document that said Secular Franciscans are not allowed to be buried in the habit of a Religious Franciscan. With these two problems, I forgot all about it. (Incidentally, the Third Order branch of the Franciscans of the Immaculate do have their own habits, but they are a bit different from men and women religious as they are meant to go over regular clothing for special occasions, such as meetings.)
When I had cancer, I somehow knew everything was going to be OK. However, I also thought everything being OK would include that I wouldn’t make it to my next birthday. I wrote plans for the Requiem Mass and the prayer service the evening before. I did start it by writing, “I am quite confident that these requests will not have to be carried out for a long time, but it is only responsible that I make them now.” I started this way so as not to upset anyone, but when I wrote, “a long time,” I had the verse, “…one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” I wasn’t being dishonest, but poetically compassionate. My poor wife was already upset enough (I was rather confused about the “OK” part concerning her). My mother-in-law didn't seem very happy that I wrote such requests regardless of how I started them.
I had a number of requests, but left it up to whatever was possible as Church politics would be a limiting factor of some of the things that were not optional. An Extraordinary Form Mass was not optional, but Simple Tone for the Salve Regina was optional if the choir couldn’t do the Solemn Tone. (My daughters weren’t helping them yet, and I wouldn’t expect either of them to take any kind of directing role at a time like that.) The prayer service would be based on the Ordinary Form of Vespers from the Mundelein Psalter with a number of other suggestions to make it as easy for everyone to participate, such as everything being in English, except the Salve Regina, but in Simple Tone so more could participate. I also wanted the Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed John Duns Scotus prayed. (Seems this prayer was the most important part of my plans.)
I was focused on liturgical issues and catechetical points so everyone would know why I had made these requests. However, I forgot all about the idea of a green burial I had been investigating a few years earlier. The Very Rev. Fr. Tryphon, Abbot of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery, reminded me of that today with this podcast: Cremation - The Morning Offering - Ancient Faith Radio
My requests are quite different now, including no longer poetically implying 2 Peter 3:8. Given much less politics, I don’t have to be very specific. I want a green burial and everything as orthodox as possible in the Kievan Rus' tradition, but with quite a bit of English. Ponytails and beards are not optional.