Bereavement
66 Brooks Drive
Braintree, MA 02184
Secretariat: Ministerial Personnel
 
 

Contacts

 
 
Deacon James F. Greer
Director
Office: 617-746-5843
Fax: 617-779-4570
Karen Farrell
Administrative Assistant
Office: 617-746-5843
Fax: 617-779-4570

Bereavement

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Guide for Preparing Funeral Liturgies

A Guide for Preparing Funeral Liturgies - PDF
Grief Handbook - PDF

The Order of Christian Funerals is divided into three rites:

Vigil (wake) and related rites and prayers:

  • The vigil for the deceased is the principal rite celebrated by the Christian community in the time following death and before the funeral liturgy. Words of remembrance may be spoken at this time without any limitations to the number of speakers.
  • The vigil may be held in the home of the deceased, in the funeral home or in the church.

Funeral Liturgy:

Because the funeral liturgy is the central celebration for the deceased it should be scheduled for a time that permits as many of the Christian community as possible to be present.

  • The funeral Mass can be scheduled at any time, day or evening.

Rite of committal:

  • The rite of committal at the conclusion of the funeral rites is the final act of the community of faith in caring for the body or ashes of its deceased.
  • Whenever possible, the rite of committal is to be celebrated at the site of committal, that is, beside the open grave or place of interment or at sea.

Planning the Rites

Whenever possible the family should be involved in the planning of the funeral liturgy. This section will help guide you through this process. The family is invited to fill out the Funeral Mass Selection Form included with this booklet indicating their choices in the appropriate places.

  • Pallbearers
  • Placement of the pall and Christian symbols
  • Readings
  • Readers
  • Music
  • Presentation of the gifts
  • Communion
  • Words of Remembrance

Pallbearers

Family members or friends of the deceased may be selected as pallbearers. This can be coordinated with the funeral director. If the family does not wish to have family members or friends as pallbearers the funeral director can provide this service.

Placing of the Pall

A funeral pall, reminding us of the garment given at baptism and therefore symbolizing our life in Christ, is draped over the coffin at the beginning of the liturgy. Family members or friends are encouraged to do this, although the placing of the pall may likewise be done by others. The use of this pall also signifies that all are equal in the eyes of God (Jas 2:1-9).

Symbols of the Christian life

One symbol of the Christian life may be carried in the procession by a family member or friend and placed on the coffin at the conclusion of the entrance procession.

The symbol is provided by the family.

This may be a bible or book of the gospels as a sign that Christians live by the word of God and that fidelity to that word leads to eternal life. It might also be a cross as a sign that the Christian is marked by the cross in baptism and through Jesus' suffering on the cross is brought to the victory of his resurrection. The priest may recite a prayer to accompany this placing of the symbol on the coffin.

Readings

Ordinarily two readings plus a responsorial psalm and gospel acclamation will precede the gospel. The family, in collaboration with the priest or minister, can select one text each from the Old Testament Readings, Responsorial Psalms, New Testament Readings, and Gospel Readings.  Non-biblical texts may not replace scriptural readings at Mass.

Readings from the Old Testament can be found in appendix A.

(Note: During the Easter season one of the New Testament readings in appendix B is used as a first reading instead of a reading from the Old Testament.)

Responsorial Psalms are in appendix C

New Testament readings are in appendix D.

Gospel readings can be found in appendix E.

Page 10 has a special reading appropriate for a wife and /or mother and may be used as a first reading.

Readers

If a family member or friend is a parish reader or comfortable with public speaking you may want to invite them to do the readings which are always proclaimed from the lectionary. The readings provided in this guide are for preparation purposes only.

Music

Funeral music needs to reflect not only the grief of the family, but the whole truth about the life and death of a Christian: “God’s love for them and the promise of eternal life.” This is why the Church insists that only liturgical music should be used and that the primary focus should be on the assembly's song.

The leadership of a cantor is recommended for both the Mass and the vigil. A soloist should never perform at a time when the people should be singing - for example, the Communion song.  The choice of music from various liturgical seasons which is familiar to the community from its use at Sunday Mass is a good practice. Easter songs which speak of the Lord’s resurrection are particularly appropriate.

Ideally there should be a balance between music expressing grief, loss and the need for comfort, and music expressing the believing community’s joyful hope that both the deceased and those who celebrate the rites are entering into the risen life of Jesus the Lord. Music selections can be found in the Funeral Mass Selection Form.

Presentation of Gifts

The church encourages family members or friends at the Funeral Mass to bring to the altar the bread and wine.

Holy Communion

This is the most perfect way to share in the Funeral Mass. The church encourages you and those present who are receiving communion to do so under both kinds. While everyone receives the whole Christ under the form of bread alone, it is a better, fuller sign that we truly do eat and drink the Lord's body and blood when we communicate from the chalice as well.

Words of Remembrance

The Order of Christian Funerals provides for the possibility of “a member or a friend of the family speak[ing] in remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation begins.” [OCF, no. 197]

As with the homily, these “words of remembrance” are not to constitute a eulogy as such.  Rather, they are to express appreciation for the life of the deceased, or take the form of a prayer or other inspirational text.

Only one family member or friend is to speak, and he or she is to be brief, speaking no more than five minutes.

Because of the intensity of the emotions at the time of a Funeral, the “words of remembrance” should be consigned to writing. To ensure that these words are in harmony with the celebration, the script should be given to the priest celebrant in advance of the Funeral liturgy, so that he can make any suitable suggestions to help the “words of remembrance” convey the consolation of God’s love, grace, and mercy. These words, then, are intended to particularize the praise and gratitude to God for His gifts to the deceased, especially the gift of the Christian life.

Those who wish to give a eulogy or to share a story about the deceased more fittingly do so during the Vigil (Viewing/Wake) at the Funeral home, or following the Committal at the cemetery. A biography of the deceased could be included in the printed worship aid, if one is prepared for the Funeral liturgy.

Flowers

During the season of Lent flowers are not used in the church.

Worship Aid

If the family of the deceased wishes to prepare a Worship Aid for the service, the content should be reviewed with the church prior to publishing.

Guidelines for the Reception of Communion

On November 14, 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the following guidelines on the reception of communion. These guidelines replace the guidelines approved by the Administrative Committee of the NCCB in November 1986. The guidelines, which are to be included in missalettes and other participation aids published in the United States, seek to remind all those who may attend Catholic liturgies of the present discipline of the Church with regard to
the sharing of eucharistic communion.

For Catholics

As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

For our fellow Christians

We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters.  We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).

For those not receiving Holy Communion

All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

For non-Christians

We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.

Cremation

ORDER OF CHRISTIAN FUNERALS, Appendix 2, "Cremation"

INTRODUCTION

411 The Christian faithful are unequivocally confronted by the mystery of life and death when they are faced with the presence of the body of one who has died. Moreover, the body which lies in death naturally recalls the personal story of faith, the loving family bonds, the friendships, and the words and acts of kindness of the deceased person. Indeed, the human body is inextricably associated with the human person, which acts and is experienced by others through that body. It is the body whose hands clothed the poor and embraced the sorrowing.

412 The body of a deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of Life. Thus, the Church's reverence for the sacredness of the human body grows out of a reverence and concern both natural and supernatural for the human person. The body of the deceased brings forcefully to mind the Church's conviction that the human body is in Christ a temple of the Holy Spirit and is destined for future glory at the resurrection of the dead. This conviction in faith finds its expression in a sustained and insistent prayer that commends the deceased person to God's merciful care so that his or her place in the communion of the just may be assured. A further expression is the care traditionally taken to prepare the bodies of the deceased for a burial that befits their dignity, in expectation of their final resurrection in the Lord.

PRESENCE OF THE BODY AT THE FUNERAL LITURGY

413 Although cremation is now permitted by the Church, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those rites.

414 The Church's teaching in regard to the human body as well as the Church's preference for burial of the body should be a regular part of catechesis on all levels and pastors should make particular efforts to preserve this important teaching.

415 Sometimes, however, it is not possible for the body to be present for the Funeral Mass.  When extraordinary circumstances make the cremation of a body the only feasible choice, pastoral sensitivity must be exercised by priests, deacons, and others who minister to the family of the deceased.

Gathering in the Presence of the Body

This rite provides a model of prayer that may be used when the family first gathers in the presence of the body. It may also be celebrated when the body is to be prepared for burial, or after it has been prepared. The family members, in assembling in the presence of the body, confront in the most immediate way the fact of their loss and the mystery of death. A member of the clergy or lay person may preside.

In prayer and gesture those present show reverence for the body of the deceased as a temple of the life-giving Spirit and ask, in that same Spirit, for the eternal life promised to the faithful.  Please refer to the rite on page 10 in the Final Grief Handbook PDF.