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Funeral Liturgies

CHRISTIAN FUNERAL RITES


I. INTRODUCTION

Death can be a time of profound grief for the loved ones of the deceased, but it can also be a time of healing and deepening of faith.   The funeral liturgy helps us accept courageously the mystery of death as a way to bring full meaning to the life of the departed and our own.  The Christian community celebrates the mystery of human death within the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.


The Christian funeral ritual has sacred purposes:

 

  •  To proclaim our absolute faith in the transforming reality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the midst of a world of others who may, or may not believe;

 

  •  To provide a concrete way for the living to begin the painful process of continuing life in the midst of grief, supported by the church and her members;

 

  •  To bless and sanctify the passing of one of our own to the fulfillment of the Scriptural promise of eternal life, in the midst of the worship life of the community of believers.

The Order of Christian Funerals (OCF) states: “By means of the funeral rites it has been the practice of the Church, as a tender mother, not simply to commend the dead to God, but also to raise high the hope of its children and give witness to its faith in the future resurrection of the baptized with Christ”

It should always be our intent to celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise and thanksgiving to God for the gift of life now returned to God, and to rekindle the hope of the just, even in the hour of grief over the loss of a loved one.



II. THOSE TO WHOM RITES ARE TO BE OFFERED

Funeral rites are to be provided for baptized Catholics and for catechumens, since they are considered to be members of the Christian faithful

We also offer Catholic funeral rites to children who died before their baptism but whose parents intended that they be baptized. This includes stillborn children no matter how death occurred

Funerals for non-Catholics, especially when the surviving spouse is Catholic, may be permitted under the following circumstances:
 The deceased must have been validly baptized;
 The non-Catholic minister is not available, and;
 There is no indication that the person would not have wanted a Catholic funeral

Since suicide is very often the result of mental illness, and the circumstances surrounding such a death are often unclear, suicide in and of itself is not to be considered a reason for denying funeral rites



III. PLACE OF CELEBRATION

The funeral rites for the faithful departed are to be celebrated in his or her parish church.  This is the place where they most recently worshiped  or in whose geographical territory they resided.

At the request of the deceased or those charged with arranging the funeral, the funeral rites may be celebrated in another Catholic church  with good reason and with the consent of the deceased person’s pastor.   Reasons include a strong historical connection or being the parish of family members.

A Funeral Mass is not permitted to be celebrated in a funeral home or a private home. In cases of necessity the Archbishop may permit a Funeral Mass to be celebrated in another sacred space.

IV. LITURGICAL RITES

The funeral rites are ordinarily to include
 the Vigil for the Deceased,
 the Funeral Mass, and
 the Rite of Committal.

The three separate and sequential rites of the Vigil, Funeral Mass and Committal are the most fitting way to celebrate the pilgrimage of the deceased Christian. Economics and expediency should not prevent full availability and utilization of the rites by the Catholic faithful so that they receive the spiritual and emotional support derived from full and active participation in the Catholic funeral.

Vigil of the Deceased

The vigil is when “the Christian community keeps watch with the family in prayer to the God of mercy and finds strength in Christ’s presence. It is the first occasion among the funeral rites for the solemn reading of the word of God. In this time of loss the family and community turn to God’s word as a source of faith and hope, as light and life in the face of darkness and death. Consoled by the redeeming word of God, and the abiding presence of Christ and his Spirit, the assembly at the vigil calls upon the Father of mercy to receive the deceased into the kingdom of light and peace.”

It is a time to reflect on how the deceased lived a Christian life. Sensitive
to cultural practices regarding the Vigil; while the rite is to be followed, local adaptations may take place before or after the Vigil itself. These include the practice of novenas, rosaries, and viewing of the body. The recitation of the
rosary is not to take the place of the Vigil liturgy.

When the body is present at the Vigil, the parish is ordinarily to provide for a secure place to keep the body overnight. The funeral home will assist in determining security and in ensuring that State law is followed.

 

The Mass of Christian Burial

“At the funeral liturgy the community gathers with the
family and friends of the deceased to give praise and thanks
to God for Christ’s victory over sin and death, to commend
the deceased to God’s tender mercy and compassion, and to
seek strength in the proclamation of the paschal mystery.
Through the Holy Spirit the community is joined together in
faith as one Body of Christ to reaffirm in sign and symbol,
word and gesture that each believer through baptism shares
in Christ’s death and resurrection and can look to the day
when all the elect will be raised up and united in the
kingdom of light and peace.” (OCF, 129)


Unless the body has been received at the Church at the Vigil,
it shall be received at the Funeral Mass at the front door. If
the casket was draped with a flag, flowers or other cultural
symbols, they are to be removed at this time and replaced
with the funeral pall, which recalls the baptismal garment.
(see OCF, 130-133) “The covering of the cremated remains
with a pall is omitted.” (OCF, Appendix, 434)

The gestures, music, and symbols used in the Funeral Mass
are to be those of the Christian Church (e.g., baptismal pall,
crucifix, and the Book of Gospels).

Eulogies are not allowed at the Funeral Mass; a brief
remembrance by the person representing the family may be
offered prior to the final commendation.

 

O God, almighty Father,
our faith professes that your Son died

and rose again;
mercifully grant, that through this mystery
your servant,who has fallen asleep in Christ,
may rejoice to rise again through him
.

When Death Occurs

Funeral Liturgies

Gathering of Family & Friends

Catholic Cemetery

Life Beyond Loss

Cremation