Christian Meaning of Death
“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.” (Order of Christian Funerals, 1)
“The celebration of the Christian funeral brings hope and consolation to the living. While proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and witnessing to Christian hope in the resurrection, the funeral rites also recall to all who take part in them God’s mercy and judgment and meet the human need to turn always to God in times of crisis.” (Order of Christian Funerals, 7)
Parish Ministry of Consolation
Through its celebration of the Catholic funeral rites, OLPH parish seeks to bring Christian hope to the family and friends of the deceased. We believe the best way for us to do this is to come together as a parish family to pray for the deceased and the family, and to support the family members at the difficult time of loss. In this way, we hope to be the presence of Christ to one another and for one another.
An important part of this presence of the Church occurs in the parish’s Ministry of Consolation. After the arrangements at the funeral home have been made, the funeral home will contact OLPH to arrange for the Funeral Mass. After that arrangement is made, the family will be contacted by a Companion from the parish’s Ministry of Consolation who will accompany the family through the days of the wake and at the Funeral Mass. The Companion will assist the family in preparing the Funeral Mass, and our Ministry of Consolation will be present at the Funeral Mass to serve in various liturgical roles, to assist in making the celebration of the Mass the dignified and worthy celebration of faith that it should be. A special booklet is prepared as a worship aid for every Funeral Mass, incorporating the name of the deceased and the particular selections for the Mass chosen by the family. It is our hope that this presence and ministry of fellow parishioners to a grieving family brings a deeper sense of faith and consolation to the difficult time of loss.
PARISH POLICY ON “EULOGIES” OR “WORDS OF REMEMBRANCE” OCCURRING AT FUNERAL MASSES
It is our parish policy that eulogies or “words of remembrance” are not permitted at the Funeral Mass, as the Funeral Mass is not the proper time for them. Instead, they must be done during the wake (viewing) in the funeral home, either at the Vigil Service or at some other time, or at the Rite of Committal at the cemetery.
For us as Christians, the meaning in life is to be found in Jesus Christ. As believers, we live the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising in union with our brothers and sisters who, also in union with Christ, share that most intimate of communions in the Spirit with each and all. We live our lives in the community of the Church.
It must be remembered that the Funeral Mass, and indeed any celebration of the Eucharist, is first and foremost the Church’s celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the celebration of Jesus’ dying and rising. The Eucharist is never any one person’s or any one group’s Mass, but is rather a communal celebration. Thus, the needs of any particular assembly here and now must be viewed through the lens of the larger meaning the Church assigns to the liturgy.
In Funeral Masses, the balance must be maintained such that while a community marks the loss of one of its individual members, with his or her own personal history, it does so within the larger context of Christ’s dying and rising. The Funeral Mass must always look at the deceased person’s life in light of the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, and how this person lived a Christian life.
The Funeral Mass is not the proper place for remarks by friends or family members precisely because those remarks often are simply a recounting of personal stories and memories about incidents in the life of the deceased. While the recollection of these anecdotes is healthy and positive within the entire process of mourning, the proper time for them is at a time other than the Funeral Mass. Such anecdotes, personal family reminiscences and expressions of personal grieving are inappropriate at the communal celebration of the Eucharist.
It is therefore the policy of our parish that eulogies and “words of remembrance,” if requested by a family, are to be done during the wake (viewing) at the funeral home, either at the Vigil Service or at some other time, or at the Rite of Committal at the cemetery. Families should also remember that eulogies are in no way required or even integral to the Church’s celebration of the funeral rites. It is therefore entirely appropriate to not have a eulogy at all, since in actuality the prayers and rites of the Church give us the proper language and say all that needs to be said about the mystery of Christian death. In addition, the information the family members give to the parish Companion from the Ministry of Consolation will be incorporated by the Priest in the Homily at the Funeral Mass, thus appropriately “personalizing” the Homily.
These guidelines are necessary in order to maintain the dignity and integrity of the rite of the Funeral Mass, and we thank you for your cooperation and understanding.