While not a sacrament, the Rite of Christian Burial and the Funeral Mass are two of the most important services of the church. We outline information about each below.
At the death of a Christian, whose life of 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.
— Order of Christian Funerals, no. 4
The following information is provided courtesy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
The Catholic funeral rite is divided into several stations, or parts, each with its own purpose. For this reason we recommend following the complete structure and making use of each station.
“At the vigil, the Christian community keeps watch with the family in prayer to the God of mercy and finds strength in Christ’s presence” (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 56). The Vigil Service usually takes place during the period of visitation and viewing at the funeral home. It is a time to remember the life of the deceased and to commend him/her to God. In prayer we ask God to console us in our grief and give us strength to support one another.
The Vigil Service can take the form of a Service of the Word with readings from Sacred Scripture accompanied by reflection and prayers. It can also take the form of one of the prayers of the Office for the Dead from the Liturgy of the Hours. The clergy and your funeral director can assist in planning such service.
It is most appropriate, when family and friends are gathered together for visitation, to offer time for recalling the life of the deceased. For this reason, eulogies are encouraged to be given at the funeral home during visitation or at the Vigil Service rather than at the funeral Mass.
The funeral liturgy is the central liturgical celebration of the Christian community for the deceased. When one of its members dies, the Church encourages the celebration of the funeral liturgy at a Mass. When Mass cannot be celebrated, a funeral liturgy outside Mass can be celebrated at the church or in the funeral home.
At the funeral liturgy, the Church gathers with the family and friends of the deceased to give praise and thanks to God for Christ’s victory over sin and death, to commend the deceased to God’s tender mercy and compassion, and to seek strength in the proclamation of the Paschal Mystery. The funeral liturgy, therefore, is an act of worship, and not merely an expression of grief.
The Rite of Committal, the conclusion of the funeral rite, is the final act of the community of faith in caring for the body of its deceased member. It should normally be celebrated at the place of committal, that is, beside the open grave or place of interment. In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the resurrection. The Rite of Committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven: the deceased passes with the farewell prayers of the community of believers into the welcoming company of those who need faith no longer, but see God face-to-face.
Funerals at Holy Comforter Catholic Church
We are praying for you and your family as you enter this time of bereavement. If you are in need of funeral services at Holy Comforter, you should first contact your chosen funeral home to begin making arrangements. Please then call our office (434-295-7185) to speak with the receptionist, who will notify Fr. Joseph Mary and check his schedule. When the funeral date has been set, the receptionist notifies a Works of Mercy ministry member and the music director, who will meet with you to help you plan the liturgy.
As you prepare for your loved one’s funeral Mass, Holy Comforter will provide you with a step-by-step guide (Through Death to Life by Joseph M. Champlin) to help you plan and personalize the ceremony. This guide includes selections for Scripture readings, general intercessions, Eucharistic prayers, and other prayers that occur throughout the Mass. It may also be helpful to consult the USCCB’s Funeral Liturgy Readings page (which lists the same readings as those in Through Death to Life) and its guidelines for music at funerals. The following USCCB prayer guide may also provide solace for your family.
An individual may wish to work with their family to plan their own funeral Mass in advance, which can be a challenging but profoundly spiritual event. Indeed, parishioners are encouraged to consider funeral planning beginning around age 50, or at the time they are preparing their last will and testament. Planning one’s own funeral is one activity that helps us to be at peace with death. It also ensures that our family is not faced with the hardship of preparing our funeral Mass as they are simultaneously beginning to grieve. Finally, it provides guidance for those carrying out our funeral and interment who may be of a different denomination or faith. Through Death to Life can be helpful for this planning process. Holy Comforter also has a preparation packet available to help you pre-plan your Christian funeral and burial: Preparing for the Journey Home. In this way, you will ensure that your pastor and loved ones are aware of your wishes and desires for a spiritually meaningful liturgy and committal. Please contact us if we can support you and your family in advance planning.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.