CHRISTIAN FUNERALS AS CELEBRATED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
"For everything there is a season…a time to be born and a time to die.” ( Eccl 3:1-2).
This quote from the Book of Ecclesiastes reflects what every society and religious tradition recognises: the reality of death.
Each culture deals with the mystery of human living, with birth, growth, ageing and dying, according to deeply held beliefs.
As in all cultures, these beliefs are expressed in rituals surrounding the time of death, burial and grieving.
For the Christian these beliefs are grounded in the reality of Christ’s Death and Resurrection.
WHAT THEN DO CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS BELIEVE ABOUT DEATH?
Our belief is in a God of love who is a Trinity of Persons
- God the Father, our Creator
- God the Son, our Saviour
- God the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier.
Baptism brings the person into the life of the whole Christian community, which we call the Body of Christ. When a member of the faith community dies, the Christian assembly gathers to remember the Christian life of the deceased as this person is entrusted into the loving embrace of God.
This belief in a God of love leads us to understand that the purpose of our life is to live in loving relationships with each other and come to union with God for ever.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE CHRISTIAN FUNERAL?
The funeral ritual offers comfort at the time of death: its task is to proclaim once more that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our death is transformed into life everlasting. This is the promise which gave certainty for the one who has died and hope for all of us who are in the pain of shock and grief.
Each time we gather as the Body of Christ, we have the intent of praising God through sacred language and ritual, remembering the good things God does for us.
We celebrate God’s love which has been shown to us in the life, death and raising up of Jesus.
We celebrate that the person who has died was baptised, and who, in their life, with its joys, sorrows, goodness and sin, tried to love God and their neighbour.
We celebrate that as a Church we are called to spread this news of God’s love by our daily lives, to a world that suffers sickness, injustice and despair.
HOW DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CELEBRATE FUNERALS?
The Church has the customs of Prayers after Death and then a number of Rites which together make up the Order of Christian Funerals. These Rites assist the family and community during the time of bereavement. They recognise the different times and needs after death. The movement from one ritual to another allows gentle space between these Rites of Farewell.
The Vigil and related Rites and Prayers
The Funeral Liturgy
The Rite of Committal
The Vigil and related Rites and Prayers
The Vigil is not often experienced in Australian parishes. However, the ritual is becoming better known and valued as a time to be with the body of the deceased, to pray and to read and reflect on the Scriptures as our source of hope and comfort. At this time, family relatives and friends can tell their stories of the deceased and share images and objects of remembrance in an informal setting.
Some of the related Rites and Prayers associated with the Vigil are:
The Prayers after Death
The Gathering in the Presence of the Body
The Transfer of the Body to the Church
The Funeral Liturgy
This Liturgy is the central celebration of the Order of Christian Funerals. Given the belief in the Paschal Mystery of Christ (the life, death and resurrection of Christ) which is the foundation of an understanding of Christian funerals, the Funeral Rite would normally be celebrated with a Funeral Mass. However, the Order of Christian Funerals also provides for a Funeral Liturgy outside Mass.
THE RITE OF COMMITTAL
“The rite of committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the church on earth and the Church in heaven: the deceased passes with the farewell prayers of the community of believers into the welcoming company of those who need faith no longer but see God face to face.” RCF #206
WHAT IS THE TASK OF THE PARISH COMMUNITY?
The parish community journeys in various ways with the deceased and their family.
These may include:
Visitation with Viaticum (last Communion);
Preparation for the Funeral Rites with family and Celebrant;
Celebration of the Funeral liturgy and the Rite of Committal;
Coordination with Funeral Directors and Parish Ministers of Liturgy, and Bereavement Care; and
Visitation of relatives and friends after the funeral, and providing ongoing care, keeping the bereaved in contact with the parish activities.
Compassionate Friends Bereavement Ministry
In Time of Sorrow
We give emotional and spiritual support to grieving families and are available for pre and post funeral visits offering help if required with preparation of the Liturgy for Requiem Mass or Funeral Prayers. Confidentiality of visits and information are always observed.
We are called compassionate friends because we are not qualified Grief Counsellors.
It is not easy for some members of the church community to accept that in modern times with fewer priestly vocations the laity have to support the priests far more extensively than in the past.
Our ministry is to assist the parish priest by visiting the bereaved family. At times this has not happened due to prevention by the privacy act. For this reason we ask bereaved family members to contact the office if you have not been contacted and would like us to visit. We are also available for members of our parish who may have had a relative die in another parish.
Often by just being able to share your experience of the loss of your loved one with someone can help the grieving process. At times you will cry and at times you will laugh, you may even be angry and at other times we will sit and share a quiet moment with you while you remember those private times you had together.
For some people this can be achieved with family and close friends. Other people prefer someone not so close to them where they can express their feeling more freely.
This is when we may be of help.
For many reasons some people do not grieve when someone close dies because their duties at the time prevent them grieving.
Years later they may need someone to talk with about unfinished grieving.
The feedback from the Annual Memorial Mass, on the second Friday in November, for all those who have died, especially those who have died in the previous twelve months, of bereaved people is that it has been a time of healing for them.
We usually finish arranged contact after the first anniversary of the death but circumstances may make visiting for a longer period desirable.
More and more people are choosing to prepare the Funeral Liturgy with their own choice of readings and hymns selected while still fit and well. We are only too happy to help you make these arrangements.
Contact the parish office for referral to the team on (02) 4332 2216 or firstname.lastname@example.org