The church celebrates seven sacraments, seven signs of God’s love, healing and presence. From the sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation & Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing: Reconciliation & Anointing of the Sick, and the Sacraments of Service: Matrimony and Holy Orders. In addition there are many ways we celebrate Christ’s presence in and through sacramentals, sacred medals, and many prayerful devotions to saints and Mary, and finally our personal experience of our relationship with Christ.
An indirect sacrament, better known as a corporal work of mercy is “burying the dead”, or honoring those who have died through the rituals associated with the Catholic Order of Christian Funerals. People are less and less familiar with the order of Christian funerals and what they mean and how we celebrate them. In the near future we will offer again a workshop on preparing for your own funeral rites. We say in faith that “in the face of death, the Church confidently proclaims that God has created each person for eternal life and that Jesus, the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, has broken the chains of sin and death that bound humanity.” We have been initiated into Christ’ dying and rising, that he holds out for us the hope and promise of eternal life. “When someone dies it is pertinent that the Church ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them with the funeral rites with the comforting word of God and the sacrament of Eucharist” – (From the Order of Christian Funerals.)
“Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life which has now been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just.” I am exceedingly grateful that Saint Anthony Parish has a Pastoral Care team to help work through preparing these rites with a grieving family. Each baptized person regardless of their marital status is entitled to Christian burial that may include a Vigil service (not necessarily a rosary), the Mass of Christian Burial or in some circumstances a Memorial Service and the Committal rites at the cemetery for cremains interred or body to be buried in vault or grave.
I can think of no greater gift you can give to your family than preparing for your funeral rite choices long before you become ill, incapacitated or die without making your wishes known. Sadly, too many people do not have that frank and important discussion with family in light of the Order of Christian funerals and the options available for family (participating in the life of the church or not) and those entrusted with funeral arrangements. We have a wonderful booklet to help prepare entitled “Through Death to Life.”
None of us wants to have that conversation, but when we find the courage to have it; it alleviates so many unnecessary tensions and stressors at that most intimate time when a family member breathes their last and we are caught up in the emotions of grief.
To be continued……