Guidelines For Planning a Funeral At St. John the Baptist Parish
For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
The true significance of death is revealed in the light of Christian faith. Death, for a Christian, is the gateway to eternal life in Christ. St. Paul reminds us not to grieve as those who have no hope, for we are given hope and comfort in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The pastoral care of the Church and its funeral rites are directed towards a proclamation of faith. In the Order of Christian Funerals we find directives for the celebration of funerals and discover the following:
- At the death of a Christian, whose life and faith was begun in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end nor does it break the bonds forged in life.
- The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting Word of God and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
- Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life that has been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just.
- The Church through its funeral rites commends the dead to God’s mercy and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins.
- In the funeral rites, especially in the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the Christian community expresses the union of the Church on earth with the Church in heaven in the one great Communion of Saints. Although separated from those who remain, nevertheless the dead are still one with the community of believers on earth and benefit from their prayers and intercessions.
The Funeral Rites of the Church
The Order of Christian Funerals provides three distinct rites through which the Church intercedes, consoles, offers thanksgiving, and expresses the Christian faith in eternal life and in the Communion of the Saints:
- Vigil for the Deceased - The Church provides rites for use during the period between the time of death and the Funeral Mass. In this way, the Church prayerfully accompanies the family through the initial time of grieving following the death of a loved one, helping them to draw comfort and hope from faith in the risen Lord. These prayers may take place at either a funeral home or in the parish church in the presence of family, friends and members of the parish community.
- Funeral Liturgy - The Church earnestly desires that the family and friends of the deceased gather with members of the parish community for the celebration of the funeral Mass. This takes place in the parish church. We are strengthened by the scriptural proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and by the Eucharistic presence of our Lord, whose own passage from death to life gives hope to all who die believing in Him.
- The Rite of Committal - The funeral rites conclude with the Rite of Committal, celebrated at the place of internment. The family and other members of the Church prayerfully offer their final act of respect toward the loved one’s body, which will be raised up on the last day in accordance with the promise of Christ.
Guideline for the Celebration of the Funeral Liturgy
Our increasingly secularized society threatens to not just obscure, but to even overtake the Christian perspective on death. For this reason it is necessary to have certain guidelines, which preserve and emphasize the Christian character of the funeral rites, and thus serve to give real consolation and hope to our people when a loved one dies. The priest or pastoral minister with whom funeral arrangements are made will help the bereaved family in making choices in conformity with the funeral rites themselves, thus drawing on the consolations of faith in Jesus Christ.
The Place of the Funeral
The proper place for the funeral liturgy is in the church of the parish community to which the deceased belonged. Normally, this should be a funeral Mass. For pastoral reasons, the parish priest may determine with the family that a funeral liturgy without the celebration of Mass is more appropriate. This, too, is most properly celebrated in the parish church. In exceptional circumstances the funeral liturgy without Mass may be celebrated in the funeral home, in which case every effort is to be made to ensure the official rites of the Church are reverently celebrated.
Days Funeral Masses Can Be Celebrated
In Canada funeral Masses may be celebrated on any day other than Sundays, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Holy Thursday, and during the Easter Triduum (from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper to Easter Sunday inclusive).
Music has a powerful and healing effect on us during the liturgy. If the funeral is taking place within a specific liturgical season (Advent, Lent, Christmas, Easter) it will be more appropriate to have hymns that reflect this in order to connect the death of the deceased with the rhythm of the Church’s liturgical year. All music in the church must be liturgical in nature. Secular or recorded music is not appropriate as part of the liturgy itself but may be shared as part of the memorial for the deceased at the vigil or at the reception. The choice of hymns is to be made in dialogue with he presiding priest, a representative of the parish or the Resurrection Choir leader.
Planning the Funeral Mass
- The funeral home will contact the parish and set up a time to meet with the deceased’s family. They may also give the family a copy of the reading booklet for them to look over before their meeting at the Church. Usually the funeral home plans the date and time of the funeral with the Church according to the families wishes.
- At the meeting, the family will choose the readings for the Funeral Mass and who will proclaim them. They may choose two people to bring up the gifts. The family will also be asked about a lunch, if they would like the Resurrection Choir to look after music and if the deceased was a member of the CWL or Knights of Columbus.
- The family will also be asked if they are planning a eulogy. If they choose to have one, it should only be three to five minutes long.
- On the day of the funeral, the family gathers in the Church Auditorium along with those who will be saying the readings, general intercessions, eulogy, and bringing up the gifts. The Pastoral Assistant of the parish will be in the Church Auditorium to assist the family with anything they need.
- Approximately twenty minutes before the funeral begins, the Pastoral Assistant will take the lectors, the person reading the eulogy and the people bringing up the gifts to the Church to help them feel comfortable in their ministry.
- The readings and prayers of the faithful will be placed in a binder on the ambo before the Mass begins.
Our goal is to share God’s love and mercy and reassurance of the Resurrection of the deceased with each of our families.