Thursday, September 11, 2008


Today Jerry and I are leaving for a short trip up North. I'll be posting intermittently, depending on internet and time availability. But for now...

I am starting to see why some people can spend hours and hours a day on the net. I am developing some "favorite" blogs and it is just downright fun to avail myself of some of the amazing things other people come up with. Today's blog comes from this website - which I learned about from Tom McMahon's blog, which is one of my favorites (except for his political rants). Anyway, this blog is all about the end of people's life, and I found this interesting posting today.

When Mourning was a Solemn Duty

From Roman Christendom Mourning: to comfort the bereaved and to pray for the dead.

Praying for the dead is, for those who have forgotten it, a grave duty for all Catholic Christians and one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. The purpose is to deliver one's loved ones out of the painful, suffering process of purgation that all but the most perfect must endure after death before they are sufficiently pure and holy to be ushered into the presence of Almighty God who is all love. No taint of self-love must remain to those who come before God.

-- Now this duty is easily forgotten in a busy world and so we wear mourning to remind us to pray regularly throughout the day and night for our dead.

(In the past,) the length of mourning depended on your relationship to the deceased. The different periods of mourning dictated by society were expected to reflect your natural period of grief.

  • for a widow 2 to 2 and a half years and a widow did not enter society for a year (although she could re-marry after 1 year and 1 day if financially necessary);
  • for a widower 2 years;
  • for a parent 2 years;
  • for children (if above ten years old) 2 years;
  • for children below that age 3 to 6 months;
  • for an infant 6 weeks and upward;
  • for siblings 6 to 8 months;
  • for grandparents 6 months;
  • for uncles and aunts 3 to 6 months;
  • for cousins, great aunts and uncles, or aunts and uncles related by marriage from 6 weeks to 3 months;
  • for more distant relatives or friends from 3 weeks upward.

Drew Gilpin Faust, in a new and eminently readable book - notwithstanding the somewhat grim title, This Republic of Suffering : Death and the American Civil War - has a chapter on how difficult the Civil War made mourning. She reminds us that the carnage was so great that there was no way bodies could be handled expeditiously and there was no system in place to notify relatives. Often, the first inkling a family had that their loved one might be dead was when nothing was heard from him for a period of time. If they supposed he was dead, it behooved them to put on mourning clothes, the kind also circumscribed about as carefully as the time frame noted above. In society at that time it was very important to mourn in the proper garb, as a matter of respect to the deceased, and the Civil War simply threw families into total confusion about what they were to do.

The point of her book is to show that many modern military procedures are a direct outgrowth of the terrible lessons learned in the Civil War. It is a good book to read, and not at all as grim as the title would suggest. And as a matter of fact, the new blog I found also is worth a peak. I don't have hours to nose around in it today -- but believe me, I will.

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