Wednesday, 3 April 2013

No, it is not Catholic to throw flowers at a coffin

Archbishop Vincent Nichols is reported as saying that the relatively new custom of throwing flowers at a cortege (a la Princess Diana's funeral) or leaving bunches of flowers on the roadside at the site of a fatal accident, is evidence that Britain is re-discovering its Catholic heritage.

I disagree.
I see nothing Catholic in such actions that totally omit any element of Christianity.
In Ireland and in France and some of the other Mainland European countries, crucifixes are erected and, even, small shrines established.

That is a good Catholic custom.

Faded flowers at the roadside are mawkish and secular.
Throwing flowers at a coffin may have an emotional value but not a spiritual one.

What action could or should Catholics make?

Prayers, of course, but maybe we do also need a physical sign or symbol of grief. But what?

A prayer card encapsulated against the weather? A cross?

Any suggestions...please forward to Eccleston Square (but don't throw them at the Archbishop)



  1. I think he's right.
    Yours sincerely,

  2. In Poland, they erect a crucifix, or nail it to the tree the car crashed into, with a lamp and flowers which are replaced fairly regularly. In England I saw teddy bears.

    I have heard of throwing flowers in Italy at a living operatic diva. I really cannot imagine what the Archbishop is thinking of. He is reported to have put and not thrown flowers on the altar of a temple in Willesden. Hmmm.....

  3. To be fair, I think it was the new Archbishop of Canterbury who said this, not +Vin.

  4. My mother-in-law's theory was (a) precisely the opposite (b) obviously correct: that people leave these tokens because they no longer know how to respond to tragedy or sadness; they have no authentic religious recourse to make. (This, I should add, from a lady who lost a daughter at a tragically young age, to a road traffic accident. Pray for them both, please.)

  5. We have the same as in Poland out here in Australia. At the site of a car accident some time later a cross is usually placed there with flowers around it .

  6. Ttony, I am absolutely confident that it was ++ Nichols but will try to verify. Richard

  7. You're right; I'm wrong. It's here.

    Oh dear!

  8. Here in the US it is usually a cross and some flowers - except in the case of young children when it is teddy bears, dolls etc. with the flowers. I’m not much in favor of these as I think people should be remembered where they’re buried, rather than where they died – also in prayer rather than items that are ephemeral.

    Still, the ad-hoc memorials may have a benefit – if they remind people to say a prayer for the deceased upon seeing them…

  9. Ttony, yup, just verified it. That's a large G & T you owe me! :)

  10. Flowers are there for a while, but crosses also appear. I always pray for the souls when I see them. Occasionally there are small roadside shrines. The most unexpected one was when I had arrived early for a meeting and decided to walk around the neighborhood and all of a sudden there it was; it had a little wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin.