At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of Baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end, nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting Word of God and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.Order of Christian Funerals, no. 4
Guide to Catholic Funerals
At the time of death, whom do we call to set things in motion?
If a person dies unexpectedly at home, the local public safety department must be called first. If a person is under hospice care, the hospice nurse should be called first and they will then help you with the subsequent procedures. Funeral directors specialize in serving the needs of families at the time of death and will also assist in the notification of the pertinent people or agencies. The local parish may be called directly by the family or left to the funeral director to make the contact. After the parish is notified and has confirmed the day and time of the funeral, the family will most likely be asked to come to the parish in order to collect further information regarding the deceased and begin to plan the funeral rites. It also gives the parish the opportunity to offer their sympathy through their bereavement ministry.
What are the Funeral Rites
The Catholic funeral rite is divided into several stations, or parts, each with its own purpose. For this reason we recommend following the complete structure and making use of each station.
- “At the vigil, the Christian community keeps watch with the family in prayer to the God of mercy and finds strength in Christ’s presence” (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 56). The Vigil Service usually takes place during the period of visitation and viewing at the funeral home. It is a time to remember the life of the deceased and to commend him/her to God. In prayer we ask God to console us in our grief and give us strength to support one another. The Vigil Service can take the form of a Service of the Word with readings from Sacred Scripture accompanied by reflection and prayers. It can also take the form of one of the prayers of the Office for the Dead from the Liturgy of the Hours. The clergy and your funeral director can assist in planning such service. It is most appropriate, when family and friends are gathered together for visitation, to offer time for recalling the life of the deceased. For this reason, eulogies are usually encouraged to be done at the funeral home during visitation or at the Vigil Service.
- The funeral liturgy is the central liturgical celebration of the Christian community for the deceased. When one of its members dies, the Church encourages the celebration of the funeral liturgy at a Mass. When Mass cannot be celebrated, a funeral liturgy outside Mass can be celebrated at the church or in the funeral home. At the funeral liturgy, the Church 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. The funeral liturgy, therefore, is an act of worship, and not merely an expression of grief.
- The Rite of Committal, the conclusion of the funeral rite, is the final act of the community of faith in caring for the body of its deceased member. It should normally be celebrated at the place of committal, that is, beside the open grave or place of interment. In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the resurrection. The Rite of Committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven: the deceased passes with the farewell prayers of the community of believers into the welcoming company of those who need faith no longer, but see God face-to-face.
Words of Remembrance
The Funeral Rites provide the opportunity to share remembrances of the deceased. There is a leaflet available for speakers as they prepare words of remembrance. Words should be brief, less than 5 minutes, written and reviewed by the presider beforehand. At the Funeral Mass there should be not more than two speakers. The contents of the remembrances should focus on the loved one’s faith & hope in Jesus Christ.
Selection of Readings
Parish Bereavement Ministers have resources available that can help families select appropriate Catholic Bible passages. The Gospel reading is selected by the presider. Those selected to read should feel comfortable with public speaking and be approved by the presider.
It is preferred that the Funeral Mass or the Funeral Liturgy outside Mass be celebrated in the presence of the body of the deceased prior to its cremation.
If cremation has already taken place before the Funeral Liturgy, the Pastor may permit the celebration of the Funeral Liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains. The Pall is not placed on the ossuary or vessel with the cremated remains.
Cremated remains should be treated with the same respect given to the remains of a human body, and should be entombed or buried, whether in the ground or at sea. The scattering of cremated remains on the ground or on the sea or keeping any portion of the remains in individual containers as remembrances is not the reverent final disposition that the Church directs. It should be noted that burial at sea of cremated remains differs from scattering. An appropriate and worthy container, heavy enough to be sent to its final resting place, may be dropped into the sea.
Parish Bereavement Ministers can assist families in selecting music for the Funeral services. Since sung music within the funeral rites is ‘sung prayer,’ secular music (live or recorded) is not appropriate during funeral liturgies and not to be used.
An instrumentalist, a cantor, and even a choir where possible, should assist the full participation of the assembly in the songs, responses, and acclamations of the funeral Rites.
The choice of music for Christian funerals must be in accord with all the recommendations governing music in liturgy, especially those found in the Order for Christian Funerals as well as the documents of the Conference of Bishops.
Music is preeminent among the signs expressed by the participants in any liturgy. Therefore, recorded music is not to be used within the liturgy to replace the congregation, the choir, the organist, cantor, or other musicians.
The request for “favorite songs” of the deceased often result in inappropriate performances of music incapable of bearing the weight liturgy demands. Popular songs, sentimental ethnic music, or songs from Broadway hits are never to substitute for the music of the funeral liturgy. These songs are more appropriate at the vigil or committal.
I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you; you never forsake those who seek you, LORD. (Psalms 9:9)
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. (Psalms 34:19)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where [I] am going you know the way.” (John 14:1-4)
“Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
Following the Funeral Service
Through our Funeral Luncheon Ministry, St. Clement provides for the possibility of a funeral luncheon immediately following the service. If you are interested, please let us know.