An Overview of Catholic Funeral Rites

An Overview of Catholic Funeral Rites

From Delaware St. Mary Catholic Church.

Catholics believe that at death “Life is changed, not ended.”  Death is a passage to a new and fuller life, and ultimately to resurrection and eternal union with God.  The Church emphasizes life in the funeral liturgy.  The resurrection is the theme and the readings, hymns, and prayers reflect the overall tone of expectant joy.  During the Catholic funeral we gather to pray for the repose of the soul of the one who has died, and to ask that God will strengthen and console family and friends. The priest and deacon are the principal presiders of this sacred action between God and humanity, guiding those present in praying for the beloved departed and for ourselves.  The Funeral Mass is offered in intercession for the deceased person because we know that God hears our prayers for the forgiveness of the sins of our deceased loved ones.  We know that we are not alone, but are supported by God’s grace, by the community here on earth and by the communion of saints. At the funeral we derive strength from our Christian faith, which provides the true consolation we find in the resurrection of Jesus, our source of hope in times of sorrow. Our attention is centered on Jesus our Savior, who speaks to us through the Scriptures, and who comes to us in the Holy Eucharist in our time of grief.

For some who do not understand the Catholic approach, the funeral can primarily be a time for remembrance and celebration of a person’s life. For Catholics, however, the intercession for the dead and the transition to eternal union with God are the central focus of the funeral liturgy, not the person’s past but their future. While we believe a tribute to the past life of the deceased loved one can be a very good and emotional healing experience, a eulogy is not meant for the future-looking solemnity of the funeral mass. Certainly, it is fitting to laugh, cry and celebrate the life of a good person. (Hopefully, their love of God and their fellow man is central to the tribute.) However, there is a time and place for everything good, and the best place for a eulogy is not at the funeral mass. Instead, it is when people are gathered together at the wake service or at the repast when people can best take the time to truly enjoy the memories of their loved one.  

In short it comes down to this: it is good for us to gather as a human family to recall the past earthly life of a deceased loved one. Looking to each other we find support, healing and appreciation in sharing and celebrating the person we knew and loved. Then, pausing from our earthly gaze and looking to Heaven, we turn to God at the funeral mass. Together we implore our Heavenly Father for His mercy and loving embrace for the living and the dead. 

Accordingly, our Community of Our lady of Perpetual Help – Saint Agnes Parish will continue its tradition of NOT having eulogies at the funeral mass as the best way to respectfully remember the passing of our beloved deceased.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Rev. Fernando A Lopez