Last week, we celebrated three funerals in five days between our two parishes. With so many funerals, have you ever wondered why we have funerals at all? Many, if not most, people don’t even want to talk about death or dying. Some view funerals as simply the end of the person’s life. However, a Christian funeral celebrates the completion of a person’s life from baptism to death then going home to God.
At a funeral, we bring the body of a loved one back to the church or funeral home one last time. Just as they were welcomed at the church door on the day of baptism, washed free from sin and clothed in the white robe of redemption, we sprinkle the casket or urn with holy water and clothe it in the white cloth (the pall) as a reminder of our baptismal garment.
A complete Catholic Christian funeral is celebrated with three liturgies: a Vigil Service on the evening before the funeral to keep watch with the grieving family and remember the loved one who died, the Funeral Service (which can be with or without a Mass), and the Graveside Committal Service for burial of the body or cremated remains.
Many people don’t like, or want to think about, planning a funeral. But it’s important to remember, when someone dies, we want to make all the right decisions to honor that person. So, one of the most important gifts of planning a meaningful funeral is that it helps family and friends to focus their thoughts and feelings on something positive. The funeral encourages them to think about the person who has died and remember the ways they touched our lives. The remembering, deciding, and reflecting that takes place in planning the funeral liturgies is an important part of the process of grief and mourning. This process of contemplation and discovery creates a memorable and moving funeral experience for all who attend.
Funerals provide us a time and place to reaffirm our faith in a new life after death. Funerals show us that death is only the end of our earthly life, but not the end of our spiritual life and relationship with God. By staking our lives with the hope of resurrection assured to us by Jesus, we believe that death is the doorway to heaven. Baptism celebrates the beginning of our life in Christ, funerals celebrate our earthly life and faithful relationship with God as we look toward the promise of everlasting life.