The Order of Christian Funerals
It is with deep sympathy that we meet you on this occasion of the death of your loved one. You can be assured of the prayerful support of the community of Saint Peter's now and in the days ahead.
The Christian tradition that has been preserved in the Church continues to provide generation after generation with sacred ritual gestures and prayers that give us hope in our mourning. They are gestures that are fitting at the end of a life that began with Christian baptism. Family and friends may find comfort in the belief that Christ binds himself to those who mourn and rejoices with those who are called to eternal life.
Christian death has traditionally been honored by three distinct gestures of prayer and ritual. It is customary for family and friends to gather on the evening (or afternoon) before the funeral to offer a simple set of prayers known as the Vigil (Wake) Service. On the following day the Funeral Mass takes place in the Church, and afterward, the family and friends process to the gravesite for the Rite of Committal.
You will want to establish the times for these rituals as soon as possible by calling the office and speaking with the Parish Priest or the Pastoral Associate.
Vigil (Wake) Service
"At the Vigil the Christian Community keeps watch with the family in prayer to the God of Mercy . . ." (Order of Christian Funerals)
The Vigil Service is quite short - approximately 15 minutes. It begins the sacred action of Christian burial. Borrowing from the ancient gesture of asking God to be protection not only for those who have died, but also for those who remain, the Vigil especially provides a time for friends and family not able to be at the funeral to join their prayer with others.
The pinnacle moment in Christian burial is the Funeral Liturgy or Mass celebrated in the Church. During the Mass we reflect upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a means of understanding the goodness that God shows us at the time of our own death. It is a time for us to renew our faith and in doing so pray for our loved one.
Family members may be involved in the planning of the Funeral Liturgy by:
Choosing scripture readings.
There are three readings: one each from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, and one from the Gospels. These readings may be chosen by the family from a selection made available to you.
Choosing family members or friends to be liturgical ministers.
Family members or friends who are readers or communion ministers in their own parishes may be asked to carry out these ministries during the funeral Mass.
Choosing favorite hymns
Every funeral is enhanced by liturgical music. Those arranging the funeral may request hymns that are particularly appropriate and well known to the gathered community. Following liturgical guidelines, a song leader will be provided to enable the singing of all gathered when appropriate: (e.g. gathering and communion songs). The song leader will also act as a cantor to intone the verses of the Responsorial Psalm and other sung responses.
Presenting the gifts of bread and wine
The bread and wine that will be blessed during the mass may be brought to the altar by two or three family members. This is an opportunity for younger family members to have some involvement.
Rite of Committal (Burial)
After the funeral liturgy those leading the Rite of Committal will accompany the family to the gravesite. This graveside service concludes the funeral rites and is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven.
The Days After . . . Our pastoral staff has basic skills in bereavement counseling and if you would like to talk about the loss and grief that remains after death we would be happy to meet with you. We are also able to make valuable referrals to other professionals in the field of counseling.
When there is Cremation
In a Christian Funeral Liturgy, the body of the deceased is respectfully honored with appropriate prayers and blessings. It is the usual practice for the body to be brought to the Church for the Funeral Liturgy; however, if cremation has taken place the ashes may be brought into the Church for a Memorial Mass.