Dear Friends in Christ:
The death of loved one is something all of us will face. There are numerous practical issues with which we must deal. Pre-need planning is a prudent thing to do, not only in regards to a will and financial arrangements but with a funeral director and also the parish. It is important that all family members know, understand and respect the teachings of our Catholic Faith in regards to the death of a loved one. At the time of death, the parish should be notified. With the funeral directors, a day and time will be set for the funeral liturgies. A meeting will also be scheduled for the family to meet with our Funeral Aid Ministry, pastoral staff and parish clergy. In this meeting, the details necessary to prepare for the Funeral (readings, music, reception, etc.) will be discussed.
Our Catholic Faith holds great reverence for the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, we give respect and honor to the body in death as we do in life. There is a preference in Catholic theology, teaching and practice that the body of the deceased be buried. Cremation is allowed in the Catholic Church but not for any reason which would be contrary to Catholic teaching. Even when cremation is chosen there is a strong preference that the Funeral Mass be celebrated with the body present with the cremation following.
The funerals rites of the Church take place in three parts or stations. The First Station is the Vigil. This is normally conducted in the funeral home the evening prior to the Funeral Mass and consists of the gathering of family and friends in prayer. The Vigil Service may be prayed and/or the recitation of the rosary. This is the most appropriate time for remembrances and eulogies. The second station is the Funeral Mass. The body is brought to the church and Mass is offered for the repose of the soul of the deceased and prayers for the consolation of the family are also offered. Eulogies are most appropriate at the Vigil Service and may not take the place of the homily at Mass. After communion, a family member may make brief remarks of 2-3 minutes in remembrance of the deceased and to express the gratitude of the family to the gathered mourners. The third station is the burial and Rite of Committal which normally takes place at the cemetery immediately following the Funeral Mass. Following the burial, a reception for family and friends is often held at the family home or at the parish.
In those instances where cremation has been chosen, the committal is delayed and takes place after the body has been cremated and the remains are ready. Cremated remains are to be treated with respect and dignity and should be buried or interred in a columbarium. They should never be scattered or merely stored or left unattended. When the body cannot be present and there is to be a direct cremation, a Funeral Mass with the ashes present and the Rite of Committal should still be held without unnecessary delay. When the ashes cannot be present or a delay is unavoidable, a Memorial Mass for the Dead is to be offered. Every Catholic should receive the prayers of the Church at the time of death. A proper Catholic burial and the rites of the Church should not be denied to any member of the Church.
Lastly, we should always pray for the dead. We pray for their souls in our private prayers and at mass. We can offer masses to be prayed for them. We can visit their graves and we pray that we might be given the grace to live our lives in a holy manner so as to be reunited with them in the Kingdom of God.
In pace Christi,