Diocese of Palm Beach Helpful Points for Priests and Deacons in the Celebration of Funerals

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1 Diocese of Palm Beach Helpful Points for Priests and Deacons in the Celebration of Funerals Introduction: With the publication of the Diocese of Palm Beach s Guidelines for Christian Funerals, it seemed useful to publish this short document, to serve as a help to priests and deacons in the celebration of funerals. As the 1969 decree from the then-congregation for Divine Worship, promulgating the Order of Funerals, said in its first paragraph: By means of the funeral rites, it has been the practice of the Church, as a tender mother, not simply to commend the dead to God but also to raise high the hope of its children and to give witness to its own faith in the future resurrection of the baptized with Christ. The fruitful celebration of the funeral rites serves then as a way of praying for the dead, thanking God for their lives, comforting the mourners, and strengthening their faith and hope. There are few opportunities we have as priests and deacons where we can touch people more directly, and where the kindness and the compassion we show will be more remembered or missed, should it be missing. Hence, we see the importance of preparing well for the celebration of funerals. The liturgical texts offer a good number of options. It is always helpful to remember the importance of selecting, not the options that are most to the priest or deacon s own liking, but those that most closely apply to the needs of the mourners, the circumstances of the death, and the customs of the local Christian community. What books to use: Since November 2, 1989, the only approved text for funerals in English in the United States of America has been The Order of Christian Funerals. Since November 2, 2001, the only approved text for Spanish funerals in the United States is Ritual de Exequias Cristianas. There are editions of the The Order of Christian Funerals from Catholic Book Publishing Company and from The Liturgical Press. The Liturgical Press also publishes the Spanish ritual and a bilingual edition (the bilingual edition is abridged; the only section missing that is likely to be of much importance in most parish situations is the Funeral Rites for Children). There is also available, from Ave Maria Press, a set of cards and a binder, which link up with Msgr. Joseph Champlin s Though Death to Life, a guide for families who want to help make selections for the Funeral liturgies. This set is now available, updated to match the Roman Missal. Again, no other liturgical books are approved for funerals. The 1970 rite in English and the rites in Spanish, from Mexico or Spain or other countries should not be used. For those who celebrate in other languages, they should use the most recent versions available in that language. 1

2 Vigil and Related Rites: The Vigil for the deceased is the usual celebration which, in the United States, normally takes place at the funeral home, in the presence of the body. It may also take place in the church, and then combined with the Reception at the Church. Normally, the Vigil begins with one of four optional greetings (#69; note that the people s response should now normally be And with your spirit. ) An opening song is recommended afterwards, followed by an invitation to prayer, which may be adapted by the celebrant ( these or similar words ). After some time of silent prayer, the opening prayer follows. There are two choices presented in place, and many options in nos at the back of the book. Note that if you wish to use one of these choices, after the publication of the new Missal, it is better to use them at the wake, and use only the collects from the Roman Missal at the Mass. The Vigil calls for a Liturgy of the Word, which usually includes a first reading, Psalm and Gospel. You may pick the readings from the Lectionary, which begins at #343, and there may be fewer or more readings, depending on the situation. Following the readings, a brief homily is called for; then follows the prayer of intercession, in the form of a litany, the Lord s Prayer and a concluding prayer. The rite then notes: A member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased. If the family has asked to have one person speak as part of the vigil, then this would be an appropriate time. If the family wants there to be a more open time for people to come forward to speak, it may be advisable to conclude the liturgical service, and then offer the opportunity for people to speak. There is a brief concluding rite, which calls for a gesture, for example, signing the forehead of the deceased with the sign of the cross, accompanying the words of Eternal rest grant unto him/her A song is suggested at the closing or some time of silent prayer, or both. Any secular music meaningful to the deceased may be played during the visitation or following the wake service. If the reception of the body in the church takes place as part of the vigil service, then the rites which are described below, which normally take place at the beginning of the Funeral Mass, would take place at the beginning of the vigil. The Mass would begin with the body already before the Easter Candle, with the entrance hymn, the sign of the cross, the greeting and the Penitential Rite. With regard to the priest s or deacon s attire, #66 says: The presiding minister and assisting ministers should vest for the vigil according to local custom. If the vigil is celebrated in the church, a priest or deacon who presides wears an alb [with stole] or cassock and surplice with stole. Thus, for a vigil service at the funeral home, there is no formal local custom, but it is advisable for the priest to wear a black suit, unless he wishes to wear an alb [with stole] or 2

3 cassock and surplice and stole. The permanent deacon would be best advised to wear alb and stole. Note that the initial section of the ritual also includes a Gathering in the Presence of the Body, which is a simpler service which can be very helpful if the priest or minister is going to be with the family alone, perhaps before their friends arrive. There is also a service for Transfer of the Body to the Church or to the Place of Committal, which most priests and deacons would only have occasion to use at the funerals of their own family members or very close friends. It can, however, be used by another member of the community, to make this very difficult moment one of prayer. Finally, in #53 we read that the experience of death can bring about in the mourners possible needs for reconciliation. The text suggests helping in this process, and adds: In some cases this process may find expression in the celebration of the sacrament of penance, either before the funeral liturgy or at a later time. Certainly, it may at times be helpful to offer an opportunity for confession after the vigil service, if it is possible to do so. Funeral Liturgy: The funeral liturgy, normally in the presence of the body of the deceased, but sometimes in the presence of the cremated remains, is the central celebration for the deceased. Usually, the Funeral Liturgy is the Funeral Mass. Note that there is an option offered for a Funeral Liturgy outside Mass. While this option would seem to be primarily designed for a situation where a priest or deacon is presiding at a liturgy in the church, it may also be used, and in fact should be used (and adapted as necessary), when there is only one service taking place at the funeral home, and the body is not being brought to church. This could also be used in situations where the deceased is Catholic and most of the family is not. Note that in this case, the priest or deacon should vest in an alb and stole, with a cope if desired (#182). For the Funeral Mass in the United States, the priest may wear white, violet or black vestments. It may be good to discuss the meanings conveyed by the different options with the family, and allow them to be a part of choosing the liturgical color. For the Funeral Mass: (I)f the rite of reception of the body takes place at the beginning the introductory rites are those given (in the Order of Christian Funerals) and the usual introductory rites of the Mass, including the penitential rite, are omitted. If the rite of reception of the body has already taken place, the Mass begins in the usual way (#158). The rite of reception of the body begins with the priest going to the door of the church and offering the greeting (as in #159). Then there is the sprinkling with holy water (#160) and the placing of the pall (#161). In Spanish, there is an optional prayer that can be said as the pall is placed on the casket. There follows the entrance procession and song. The priest and assisting ministers precede the coffin and the mourners into the church (#162). When the casket reaches the 3

4 Easter Candle, which should be placed beforehand near the place where the body will be for the Mass, a symbol of the Christian life, such as a Book of the Gospels, a Bible, or a cross, may be carried in procession, then placed on the coffin (#163, in silence or using a text from #400). On reaching the altar, the priest, with the assisting ministers, makes the customary reverence, kisses the altar and (if incense is used) incense it. Then he goes to the chair. The Collect of the Mass begins immediately, taken from the Roman Missal. Immediately thereafter comes the Liturgy of the Word. The texts come from Part III, Texts of Sacred Scripture (#343ff). Note that if the Order of Funerals being used was published before 2002 (the date of publication of the current Lectionary for Mass), then the readings need to be taken from the Lectionary for Mass, Volume IV, Masses for the Dead. In the case of funerals for baptized children or children who died before baptism, there are special selections. The first reading should come from the Old Testament, except in Easter Time, when one of the readings from Acts or Revelation is used. There is normally a Psalm, a second reading, Alleluia verse (or verse before the Gospel, in Lent) and the Gospel passage. There may be just one reading and Psalm before the Gospel. It is very helpful to have the family help in the selection of the readings (using the Champlin book or another aid), and to have Catholic members of the family who feel comfortable proclaim the readings. A brief homily is given after the gospel reading (#166). The Order of Funerals offers two options in place for the general intercessions (and several more at #401), or an original composition may be prepared. Sample intercessions also appear in the Roman Missal, Appendix V, #11. The Liturgy of the Eucharist follows as usual. It can be a beautiful gesture for family members or friends to bring up the gifts of bread and wine, but this should be coordinated with the assistance of the funeral director. If incense is used, only the altar and gift, priest and people are incensed, as the casket or remains will be incensed as part of the signs of farewell. In Eucharistic Prayers II and III, there are special mentions of the deceased, which make them particularly appropriate for the Funeral Mass. After the Prayer after Communion, the rite indicates: A member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation begins. The diocesan Guidelines for Funerals discourage eulogies, and if a Pastor allows a family member to speak, it is helpful to offer clear guidance. Then comes the Final Commendation, which consists of an Invitation to Prayer (two options offered in place at #171, and several more at #402), followed by some prayer in silence, the signs of farewell (can include sprinkling, which is usually omitted if it was done at the beginning of Mass, and incensation of the casket or cremated remains), and the song of farewell. After the Prayer of Commendation, the deacon or the priest himself gives the dismissal, normally omitting the blessing: In peace let us take our brother/sister to his/her place of rest (#176). I M NOT MENTIONING THE POSSIBILITY OF 4

5 GIVING THE BLESSING, THOUGH I DO WHEN THERE IS NO COMMITTAL, BECAUSE THE RITE DOESN T MENTION IT AT ALL. I THINK IT S LOGICAL, BUT IT S NOT OFFERED AS A POSSIBILITY. The procession then begins: the priest and assisting ministers precede the coffin; the family and mourners follow (#176). In Paradisum (May the angels lead you into paradise), one of the other antiphons or verses offered at #176, or other suitable songs may be sung during the procession to the church door, and may be sung during the journey to the place of committal (practically, speaking in our situation, it would be appropriate to continue singing during the procession to the hearse). The Rite of Committal: The Rite of Committal is offered in two forms, without and with final commendation. Normally, when the Funeral Mass has been celebrated immediately before, or a Funeral Liturgy outside Mass has been celebrated, the first option would be used. When the Funeral was celebrated some time before, even in another place, or when there has been no celebration prior to the gathering at the graveside, adaptations may be made to devise a longer committal service, as indicated in #211. In the usual Rite of Committal, there is an initial invitation, followed by a brief Scripture reading, followed by a Prayer over the Place of Committal (#218, with more options at #405). In that prayer, if the place of committal is being blessed (in general, the blessing is given, unless this is the second person blessed in the particular grave or mausoleum space, even in a Catholic), then the priest or deacon should extend at least the right hand during the Prayer over the Place of Committal, and make the sign of the cross at the conclusion of the Prayer over the Place of Committal (see a September 14, 2002 decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments). There follows the prayer of committal. It is good to know beforehand if the family wishes to see the body lowered into the grave or placed in the mausoleum. If so, this may take place now or at the end of the service, but it is helpful to be prepared with a song or prayers to accompany this action. Then come the Intercessions, followed by the Lord s Prayer. After the Concluding Prayer, there follows the Prayer over the People, as indicated in #223. After the dismissal, there may be a song, which is particularly helpful if the family is remaining to see the casket lowered or placed in the mausoleum. I didn t mention the Psalm, as you had indicated, because there is no mention of that in #223. There is no mention of vesture in the instructions, but the same suggestions offered for the vigil service would seem to apply. It is advisable for the priest to wear a black suit, unless he wishes to wear an alb or cassock and surplice and stole. The permanent deacon would be best advised to wear alb and stole; this is in fact the requirement for deacons at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cemetery. 5

6 Cremation: Appendix 2 of the Order of Christian Funerals offers some prayers and ritual indications for a Funeral Liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains. There is a revised prayer for the sprinkling with holy water (#433) and the pall is omitted (#434). The presumption in the rite is that the greeting takes place at the door of the church, and the procession takes place as at the Funeral Mass with the body present: priest and ministers, followed by the bearer of the cremated remains and the mourners, #435). There is also a special dismissal at the end of the Liturgy (#437), and a particular prayer for the Committal (#438). Funerals for Baptized Children and Children Who Died Before Baptism: It is important to remember that Part II of the Order of Christian Funerals offers special prayers and guidance for funeral rites for children. The various options, when used well, can offer comfort and hope to families who have suffered great loss. One particular element of the prayers for baptized children is that they tend to speak not so much of hope, but of utter certainty, that these children are in heaven. When appropriate it is good to review the options carefully and make the selections most appropriate for the situation. 6

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