Ever since the early days of the Church, bereaved families, close friends, and parts of the larger community have gathered together, ritually, to support each other, share grief, and express hope in the resurrection of loved ones, based on our hope in Christ. (Rev. Terrence Curley, Planning the Catholic Funeral).
We read in the Roman Missal, that the funeral liturgy, was designed to, “celebrate the Pascal Mystery of Christ. Those who in baptism have become one with the dead and risen Christ will pass with him from death to life, to be purified in soul and welcomed into the fellowship of Saints in Heaven. They look forward in blessed hope to his second coming and the bodily resurrection of the dead. The Church celebrates the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ’s Passover for the dead, and offers prayers and petitions for them in the communion of all Christi’s members, the prayers which bring spiritual help to some may bring to others a consoling hope.”
The celebration of a Funeral Mass begins with a Prayer Service at the Wake, followed by the celebration of a Funeral Mass at the Church, and concludes with Committal Prayers at the graveside. This is a beautiful way to help those who grieve to take sometime to reminisce with stories the important role the deceased has had on our lives, then to raise them up in our prayers at the celebration of Mass, concluding with the committal of their earthly remains to the grave couples with the hope we hold of being reunited one day in the fullness of God’s Kingdom. Our Pastoral Associate, Catherine Rein, along with the assistance of the Funeral Home, will assist families in planning the unreal Liturgy. That planning involves personalizing the liturgy by choosing among a pre selected selection of readings and prayer texts, as well as selecting sacred hymns. The Archdiocese also permits a member of the family or close friend to offer words of remembrance. The remembrance is to be offered by one single person, and the talk can be up to five minutes in duration, which is five doubled spaced pages of typed text. The talk needs to be submitted to the Pastoral Associate just prior to the wake. The remembrance talk is a great way to bring out the important ways that our loved one has served God, and walked with Christ on the earthly pilgrimage.
On the occasion where a family knows that their loved one is in grave illness and terminally ill, it is worth remembering that the Church continues to provide the Sacrament of the Dying, “Extra unction.” This sacrament includes forgiveness of sins and reception if the Holy Eucharist, given for the last time, as nourishment for the pilgrimage we pray they are to take to Heaven. This can be a beautiful moment for the one who is dying and for those who love them, as included in the rite are readings, prayers and the invocation of the Litany of the Saint (Holy Mary, Mother of God…pray for him/her, St. Ann…pray for him/her, St. Joachim…pray for him….). Lastly, we would ask families to consider, should they choose to select a charity in place of flowers, to consider naming Saint Ann by the Sea’s Missionary Program or Building and Renovation Program as a source for that donation.