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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

033117 funeralChurch law stipulates that funeral services are a right, not a privilege, of all members of the Church, both the faithful and the catechumens (Canons 1176; 1183, §1). The Order of Christian Funerals also provides for the celebration of funeral rites for children whose parents intended them to be baptized (Canon 1183, §2).

“Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life which has now been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just. The Mass, the memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection, is the principal celebration of the Christian funeral.” ("Order of Christian Funerals," no. 5)

“At the funeral liturgy 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.

Through the Holy Spirit the community is joined together in faith as one Body in Christ to reaffirm in sign and symbol, word and gesture that each believer through baptism shares in Christ’s death and resurrection and can look to the day when all the elect will be raised up and united in the kingdom of light and peace.” ("Order of Christian Funerals," no. 129)


Non-practicing Catholics may receive Catholic funerals

It is an unfortunate reality that many baptized Catholics no longer practice their faith and may consider themselves to have been away from the Church for too long to be ever welcomed again by the Church.

Such individuals or their families may feel uncomfortable in a church and ultimately decide against having a Catholic funeral.

By our baptism, however, we have been made equal in dignity before the Lord, and the Church, our Mother, bears the suffering of all those who became her sons and daughters through baptism. Thus, the Church offers funeral rites (including a funeral Mass) even for non-practicing Catholics and, under certain circumstances, for non-Catholic Christians.

Although the deceased may not have participated fully in the life of the Church on earth, the Church longs for her separated children to share in Christ’s blessings. She desires to pray for them and with their loved ones so that their sins may be forgiven and they may dwell forever in the presence of God in heaven.

— “Catholic Funeral Planning Guide,” Diocese of Portland, Maine; Code of Canon Law 1183, §3


What about miscarried or stillborn babies?

Depending on the possibility of your collecting the remains, the baby should be named, baptized (if death is uncertain or if the baby has just died) and buried. If you are in a hospital, the remains of the baby will be sent to the pathologist. You should request that you receive the remains.

Most hospitals have little caskets which they offer you. If the baby is more developed a larger casket may need to be obtained from a funeral director. You should have a Mass of Christian Burial and bury the baby appropriately and in a marked grave.
— “Catholic Funeral Guide,” St. Michael the Archangel Church in Gastonia


Why is it important to have a grave?

Our cemeteries are places of great sign value as were the catacombs of old.

The grave and the marker are visible signs that a person did live and that it mattered that he or she lived. Years from now someone will walk by our graves and remember us and that it was important that we lived and died. Cemeteries are places of catechesis about death and they are places of prayer in the context of the communion of saints and our waiting for the final coming of the Lord.

We visit the grave often to pray for the deceased and we decorate the graves regularly, especially on Nov. 2, All Souls Day.

— "Catholic Funeral Guide," St. Michael the Archangel Church in Gastonia