Planning a Funeral

The Meaning Of Death
Death is a passage from this life to the new life promised by Christ. This passage is to be experienced in the light of the Resurrection. In faith and commitment to Christ and His Church, we believe and hope that one day we will all be gathered together by God, the Father, to dwell in God's presence for all eternity.

When A Loved One Dies
At the time of death, please have a family member call the Parish Office so that the parish community may pray with you for the family and the deceased. We will work with you and the funeral home to plan the services and schedule the priest (or deacon).

The Support Of The Church
The priest meets with the immediate family to minister to them and to help them prepare the Funeral Liturgy.
A Vigil (prayer service) may be celebrated by the community the evening before the main funeral celebration.
The main Funeral Liturgy is celebrated in the parish church.
Prayers of Committal take place at the cemetery.

The Vigil
The community gathers the evening before the main Funeral Liturgy to pray and to keep watch with the family. The Word of God is proclaimed as a source of hope in the face of darkness and death. All pray for the deceased in anticipation of the funeral to be celebrated the next day. Prayers are also offered for the comfort and consolation of the bereaved. This prayer service may take place at the funeral home or at the church. It is a vigil and is meant to be celebrated on the eve of the funeral. If there is to be a eulogy, it is appropriate at the vigil.

The Main Funeral Liturgy
The Celebration of the Eucharist in the presence of the body of the deceased, and the participation of family and friends, is the ideal Funeral Liturgy. In the Eucharist the community 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 death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For valid reasons the family may choose a Funeral Liturgy Without a Mass - a Liturgy of the Word. This decision should be made in consultation with the person in charge of the Parish.

For the Funeral Mass, Christian symbols (cross, bible, rosary, scapular, etc.) may be placed on the casket at the beginning of the Funeral Mass. All secular items, like flags or medals of honour are important, but are not part of the Funeral Mass. These secular and important symbols are removed at the church door and a pall of white material is placed over the casket. This symbolises our unity in Christ through our baptism. Christian symbols only are used within a church.
The Order of Christian Funerals (OCF) provides that, at a Funeral Mass, a member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased following the Prayer after Communion but before the Final Commendation begins (OCF 170). If the funeral is celebrated outside Mass, this may be done after the Lord's Prayer, before the Final Commendation begins (OCF 197). Likewise, at a Vigil Service, a member or a friend of the family may speak in Remembrance of the deceased after the Concluding Prayer and before the Blessing and Dismissal (OCF 80).
Finally, at the Committal Service at the cemetery or crematorium, it may be appropriate to have a member or a friend of the family speak in remembrance of the dead after the Committal and before the Intercessions and Concluding Rite. Only one person should speak at the Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy outside Mass. Others may speak at the Vigil Service, Committal Service, or at a reception or "Wake" to follow the Funeral Rites. The reflection should be brief: no more than 3 - 5 minutes (one typed page).
The reflection should be prepared beforehand, and ideally reviewed with the priest or
presiding minister beforehand, to avoid undue length or embarrassing situations.
Story telling, anecdotes, poems, songs etc. are best used in a domestic situation and not in the church itself. They can however form part of the Vigil Service.
The following suggestions may assist the bereaved to prepare the words of remembrance:

  • The words of remembrance should be about the deceased person's human qualities (primarily found in their life of faith), and how these qualities can inspire the hearers to a deeper faith.
  • The speaker should speak honestly and compassionately, reflecting the life and circumstances of the deceased.
  • It is neither necessary nor desirable that the speaker attempt to give a life history of the deceased. Instead, an itemised obituary of the deceased person's life history might be included in a booklet that is prepared for the funeral, rather than read at the Funeral Mass.
  • While only one person will speak at the Funeral Mass, the reflection could well be a summation of remembrances gathered from family members and friends.
  • It is useful to rehearse the words aloud to ensure that the hearers are given a clear message about the deceased person, and that the speaker is able to deliver the reflection well.

 

 

Importance Of The Body
The care taken to prepare the body of the deceased for burial reflects our Christian
belief in eternal life and the resurrection of the body. The prayers and gestures of the Funeral Rites also affirm the Church's reverence for the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. The long standing practice of burying the body in a grave or tomb in memory of Jesus, whose own body was placed in a tomb, continues to be encouraged as a sign of Christian faith.

Cremation
The practice of cremation is accepted by the Church as long as the reasons for choosing cremation are not contrary to the Christian way of life. In most cases cremation should take place following the Funeral Liturgies. These celebrations should take place with the body present. In this way the body can be honoured by the community, and the bereaved are allowed the proper time to mourn. Death is the last passage of life and should not be hidden or negated by cremation prior to the funeral celebrations. In particular circumstances, it may be necessary for cremation to take place prior to the funeral. This Liturgy may then be celebrated with the ashes present.

The Ashes
The ashes are the body of the deceased in a changed form. We honour them as we honour the body. They must be reverently buried or entombed in a place reserved for the permanent burial of the dead, as soon after cremation as possible. It is not acceptable to put off this burial, to scatter the ashes, or to keep them in the home. It is appropriate that burial prayers occur at the time of burial, even with ashes.

Commemorative Service
If for some reason the body or the ashes have been buried before the funeral, a Commemorative Eucharist or Liturgy of the Word may be celebrated.

Preparing Your Funeral In Advance
You are encouraged to think about your own funeral. With respect for the Church's teaching outlined in this book, and in dialogue with your family, you may want to leave directions as to how you wish your funeral to be celebrated.

Masses for the Deceased
Each year in November, two special Masses are celebrated for the deceased. The first, occurring in early November on a Saturday morning, is celebrated at Woronora Cemetery. Towards the end of the month, a Candlelight Mass is celebrated on a Friday evening at St Aloysius Church, Cronulla.

 

Prayers immediately after death

For the deceased:
Holy Lord, almighty and eternal God, Hear our prayers for your servant (insert name of
deceased person), whom you have summoned out of this world. Forgive his/her sins and
failings and grant him/her a place of refreshment, light and peace. Let him/her pass
unharmed through the gates of death to dwell with the blessed in light, as you promised to Abraham and his children for ever. Accept (insert name) into your safekeeping and on the great day of judgment raise him/her up with all the saints to inherit your eternal Kingdom.

For the mourners:
Father of mercies and God of all consolation, you pursue us with untiring love and dispel
the shadow of death with the bright dawn of life. Comfort your family in their loss and
sorrow. Be our refuge and our strength, O Lord, and lift us from the depths of grief into the peace and light of your presence. Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, by dying has destroyed our death, and by rising, restored our life. Enable us therefore to press on toward him, so that, after our earthly course is run, he may reunite us with those we love, when every tear will be wiped away. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Eternal rest grant unto him/her, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him/her.
May he/she rest in peace. Amen
May his/her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen

 


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