We all need prayer to get us to heaven. The need doesn’t end when we stop breathing. The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer! ~St. Pope Paul VI
We all need prayer to get through all the times and seasons of our lives. This need doesn’t cease when we or a loved one dies. That is why the Church offers various prayers and liturgies as part of a Catholic funeral. The most significant and effective of these prayers is the Mass.
I mention this because often families are asking for a funeral service without a Mass, even when the deceased has attended Mass daily. Often those planning a funeral are children or relatives who may not be Catholic, or not practicing their faith. They may not understand the value and power of Catholic funeral liturgies. In addition, funeral home staff members are often not familiar with Church teaching. This creates a challenge for the priests and parish staff in helping families plan funerals. We are left with the challenge of trying to convince family members to have a Funeral Mass for their parent or family member. If the deceased hasn’t communicated their wishes, it can seem like the Church is just pushing for something inconvenient, expensive or what mom or dad didn’t really want. In reality, it is the caring thing to do for both the one who has passed from this life and those left behind.
Like with all Catholic worship, the Church gives general instructions on why, how and the significance of a Christian funeral. The Order of Christian Funerals has directives which outline the values, purpose and focus of a Christian funeral. In paragraph 5 of the
General Instruction it states, “The Mass, the memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection, is the principal celebration of the Christian funeral.” The Mass is our
prayer par excellence, and who wouldn’t want this powerful gift upon entering the next life?
To ensure your family understands your wish for a Catholic funeral, it is important that you make some plans and share that information with them. We are here to help by offering a workshop – Planning Your Catholic Funeral. We will offer the workshop at three different times in the pastorate: Holy Spirit on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 7:00 PM & Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 10:00 AM, at St. John Vianney on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7:00 PM. Please plan to attend one of these sessions.
There will be resources available and time for questions and answers. In the meantime, here is a brief summary of what constitutes a Catholic funeral. First, there are three general parts to a Catholic funeral – the Vigil for the Deceased, the Funeral Mass, and the Rite of Committal (burial). Each part serves a particular purpose and reflects faith and grief support. Second, a Catholic funeral is celebrated both for the person who has died (celebrating their life and praying for them) and those who are left behind. This is done in the context of faith. Eliminating a part of the funeral or abbreviating it will necessarily limit the help, grace and comfort that the Church can and wants to give.
Third, although cremation is now permitted for Catholics (with the condition that the remains are buried or interred soon after death), it does not have the same value as burial of the body. This is because the presence of the body at a funeral and burial better expresses the Church’s values of the reverence of the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit destined for future glory in the resurrection of the body. It also assists in the grieving process for those who are left to mourn.
Those are just some basics. There is a lot more to planning a funeral which we will discuss at the workshop. Such as how to bring family members into the planning process without causing undue fear or concern. Planning a funeral in the midst of grief and all the other details can add additional stress for family members. Providing them with your wishes and preferences ahead of time can be very comforting and helpful for them at the time of your death. It is a gift to them as well as yourself.
“Let us help and commemorate them [the deceased]. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.” ~ St. John Chrysostom
Yours in Christ,