November is a special month for Catholics as we remember those who have gone home to the Lord. Notice, I didn’t say “died” here. That’s because, as Christians, we believe in eternal life. St. Paul said, “although we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7). So, if we believed what we see, life ends at death. But it doesn’t. For Christians, life does not end with death—it only changes form, and we go home to live forever in God’s Kingdom.
The Church’s funeral rite consists of three separate liturgies to celebrate someone’s death: the Vigil Service, the Funeral Liturgy, and the Rite of Committal at the cemetery. On the evening before the Funeral Liturgy, we hold a scripture Vigil Service to gather in the presence of the deceased to pray, remember their life, and comfort the family in their grief. The next day, the Funeral Liturgy is celebrated either within Mass or outside of Mass. The Funeral Liturgy allows us to relive the Easter mystery and Christ’s promise of eternal life. Afterwards is a graveside service, the Rite of Committal, to say farewell to our beloved brother or sister. At this time, we commit our loved one to their earthly resting place and await the resurrection when our bodies will be rejoined with our souls at the Second Coming of Christ.
Our funeral rite offers worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of our loved one’s life which we now return to God. Together, all three parts of the rite allow the family to fully experience the Christian burial of their loved one, although, families do not have to select all three. As a minimum, the Christian Funeral Liturgy should include the Rite of Committal with the Final Commendation to say farewell to our loved one and experience God’s graces when we commend them to His eternal care.
Celebrating Christian funerals brings hope and consolation to the living. While proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing hope in the resurrection, the funeral rite also recalls God’s mercy and our need to turn to Him in times of crisis. Through the Order of Christian Funerals, we recognize the spiritual bond that still exists between the living and the dead, and proclaim our belief that all the faithful will be raised up and reunited someday in the new heaven and new earth where death will be no more.