What is a Catholic entitled to in terms of the Order of Christian Funerals? A Catholic, practicing or not practicing, and in some instances their spouses or family members, are entitled to a Vigil service, Mass of Christian Burial or Memorial Service and committal in the cemetery of the family’s choice. I want to elaborate on the parts of the rite.
Since in Baptism the body was marked with the seal of the Trinity, we are to treat the body with the utmost respect beginning with preparation of the body for funeral rites and then in the forms of prayer. In every celebration for the dead we are to give great importance to the Word of God. At the Vigil service there will be an Opening Prayer, selections from Sacred Scripture, homily, intercessions. We pray the Our Father, Closing Prayer and blessing. If there are going to be eulogies, or personal reflections from family members or friends the Vigil is the preferred place for those reflections, preferably kept to a minimum, possibly two or three people at the most. We are inundated with the new secular concept of having “celebrations of life” when, in effect, we are celebrating our faith in the resurrection, that we will be raised up on the last day.
There may be some other elements that could be included at the Vigil preferably those details worked out with the Parish Pastoral Care team and the priest who will be presiding at the funeral. The booklet “Through Death to Life” is used to select the prayers and scripture texts from the rite, The Order of Christian funerals. Generally the church prefers that the body be present for the Mass, even if the individual asks for cremation which is permitted. It is possible to work out that detail with the mortuary. At the beginning of the rite, the deceased is welcomed at the door of the church with the sprinkling rite, recalling their Baptism and then the casket is clothed with the funeral pall that reminds us we are clothed in Christ.
In the celebration of the liturgy of the Word at the funeral liturgy, the biblical readings may not be replaced by non-biblical readings. But during prayer services, novenas, or other cultural prayer traditions with the family non-biblical readings may be used in addition to the scriptures. Live music is essential in lifting our spirits in song and prayer even in a time o grieving. We sing as many parts of the Mass as we are able. Members of the family may present the gifts of bread and wine, preparing for the Eucharist itself, tying us to Christ who is the vine and we are the branches. Those who are able receive Communion come forward after the dismissal, we proceed to the cemetery for the Rite of Committal with Final commendation. Depending on the number of attendees, funeral receptions may take place at a local establishment or at the family home.
To be continued, more on cremation and the guidelines of the church……