By Kathy Fanger
When a loved one dies, the richness of our Catholic Funeral Rites brings hope and consolation to the living. All present experience great comfort in the beautiful prayers, scriptures, psalms and songs offered at the Vigil, Mass and Committal (burial) services. These sacred Rites give praise and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life which now has been returned to God. The family, friends and Church community give thanks for the life of the deceased offering consolation to one another.
The Funeral Rites may be planned with the assistance of the priest, deacon, or parish staff. They assist you with the selection of Scripture readings, music and general intercessions that speak to the life of your loved one, reminding you of your faith in our merciful God who promises eternal life.
The Vigil comforts those present with prayer, scripture and song. This is the most appropriate time for eulogies, always given outside the sacredness of the Funeral Liturgy.
The Funeral Mass, the memorial of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, is the principal celebration of the Christian funeral. Around the Eucharistic table, the Church proclaims that God has created each person for eternal life. Beginning at the door of the church, the body of the deceased is received and mourners welcomed. The priest sprinkles the coffin with holy water. A pall, a white cloth recalling the white garment in which the deceased was clothed at baptism, is draped over the coffin. Symbols may include the Easter Candle – a reminder of Christ’s undying presence, his victory over sin and death, and our share in this victory. Holy water recalls the saving waters of baptism when the deceased was claimed for Christ. Incense honors the body, which through baptism became the temple of the Holy Spirit. Other options include the presence of an urn at the altar or a Memorial Mass without the body present.
Music is integral to the Funeral Rites, often expressing convictions and feelings that words alone may fail to convey. Selections should offer hope in the Paschal mystery of the Lord’s suffering, death and triumph over death. Specially chosen scripture readings speak to ways the deceased lived out the Gospel message.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist continues where the gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. At the conclusion of the Mass, the priest states, “In peace, let us take our brother/sister to the place of rest.” Often a song of farewell is sung.
Committal, at the cemetery, is the final resting place. Scripture and prayers regarding hope in the resurrection are offered asking God to welcome the deceased at the table of God’s children in heaven. The grieving may be comforted knowing they will be reunited with their loved one.
Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of San Jose encourages you to think, pray and discuss your services with your family, and even prepare your wishes before death. Catholic Cemeteries and your parishes have resources to help you. For a free legacy planning guide to assist you, contact Catholic Cemeteries at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website where we have resources to help you at www.ccdsj.org.