Prepare for a Funeral
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”
Order of Christian Funerals
Upon learning of the death of a loved one, or even before their passing, the family is invited to prepare the Rites of Christian Funeral. These “rites” are a series of prayers, each building on the sharing of the Scripture, and praying for and with your loved one.
Vigil – which before 1984, was commonly called the “Wake” – or “a Rosary”
The first prayer is called the Vigil (which replaces what used to be called “the wake” and/or the rosary), and is usually celebrated on the night before the funeral Mass celebrated the next day (contrasting the darkness of our sadness and grief with the warmth, hope, and life of the new day....)
Funeral Mass – which may be prayed at night, or during the day (but not on a Sunday, and never outside of the parish church). The Mass is the most central prayer of the Catholic Church, where we gather here on earth to pray for and with those who are with God, through the very Person of Christ, who comes to us in the Word, and in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
Burial – and the final prayer is the burial.
Each rite expresses our believe that your loved one, and all those who have died, are with God, and join in our prayer. This is what we believe when we celebrate each and every Mass, which is why our Church desires the celebration of a funeral Mass. (Other prayers may include the Gathering with the Body After Death; Prayer During the Transfer of the Body, etc., etc.)
FIRST STEP — after calling and talking with a priest or deacon....
You will need to consider how your loved one will be buried: either in a casket or as cremated remains. Our Church wants the body of your loved one respected in all treatments. (This is why the body is treated, and prayed for, differently than when it has been cremated.) Things you may want to consider: having the body of your loved one present at all of our prayers, and buried; the body being present only for the Mass, then cremated afterwards, and buried a couple of days later; or, delay the prayers until after the body is cremated.
TEACHINGS of Church on Funerals — Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church
#1684 — The Christian funeral is a liturgical celebration of the Church. The ministry of the Church in this instance aims at expressing efficacious communion with the deceased, at the participation in that communion of the community gathered for the funeral, and at the proclamation of eternal life to the community.
#1689— The Eucharistic Sacrifice. When the celebration takes place in church the Eucharist is the heart of the Paschal reality of Christian death. In the Eucharist, the Church expresses her efficacious communion with the departed: offering to the Father in the Holy Spirit the sacrifice of the death and resurrection of Christ, she asks to purify his child of his sins and their consequences, and to admit him to the Paschal fullness of the table of the Kingdom. It is by the Eucharist thus celebrated that the community of the faithful, especially the family of the deceased, learn to live in communion with the one who “has fallen asleep in the Lord,” by communicating in the Body of Christ of which he is a living member and, then, by praying for him and with him.
#1690—A farewell to the deceased is his final “commendation to God” by the Church. It is “the last farewell by which the Christian community greets one of its members before his body is brought to its tomb.” The Byzantine tradition expresses this by the kiss of farewell to the deceased: By this final greeting “we sing for his departure from this life and separation from us, but also because there is a communion and a reunion. For even dead, we are not at all separated from one another, because we all run the same course and we will find one another again in the same place. We shall never be separated, for we live for Christ, and now we are united with Christ as we go toward him . . . we shall all be together in Christ.” (St. Simeon of Thessalonica (circa 1429)).
Order of Christian Funerals
18. Through the celebration of the funeral rites, the Church manifests its care for the dead, both baptized members and catechumens. In keeping with the provisions of Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 1183, the Church's funeral rites may be celebrated for a child who died before baptism and whose parents intended to have the child baptized.
At the discretion of the local Ordinary, the Church's funeral rites may be celebrated for a baptized member of another church or ecclesial community provided this would not be contrary to the wishes of the deceased person and provided the minister of the Church or ecclesial community in which the deceased person was a regular member communicant is unavailable.
19. Since in baptism the body was marked with the seal of the Trinity and became the temple of the Holy Spirit, Christians respect and honor the bodies of the dead and the places where they rest. Any customs associated with the preparation of the body of the deceased should always be marked with dignity and reverence and never with the despair of those who have no hope. Preparation of the body should always include prayer, especially at those intimate movements reserved for family members. For the final disposition of the body, it is the ancient Christian custom to bury or entomb the bodies of the dead; cremation is permitted, unless it is evident that cremation was chosen for anti-Christian motives. (Note: There is the expectation that the cremated remains would be treated similar to how the body is treated: buried or entombed, with an integrity maintained of the remains.)
21. Since liturgical celebration involves the whole person, it requires
attentiveness to all that affects the senses. The readings and prayers,
psalms and songs, should be proclaimed or sung with understanding, conviction
and reverence. Music for the assembly should be truly expressive of the
text and at the same time should be simple and easily sung. The ritual
gestures, processions, and postures should express and foster an attitude
of reverence and reflectiveness in those taking part in the funeral rite.
The funeral rites should be celebrated in an atmosphere of simple beauty,
in a setting that encourages participation. Liturgical signs and symbols
affirming Christian belief and hope in the paschal mystery are abundant
in the celebration of the funeral rites, but their undue multiplication
or repetition should be avoided. Care must be taken that the choice and
use of signs and symbols are in accord with the culture of the people.