There is great spiritual and psychological wisdom in the Church’s traditional funeral customs.
Following a death, when a family or funeral director contacts the parish, there is an opportunity for the family to meet with the priest who will celebrate the funeral. This is a time to select Scripture readings, choose music and other parts of the service and to share cherished thoughts about the person who has died, or perhaps begin the process of healing of hurts that may be there. The staff of Our Lady of Hope urges families to have this meeting.
A wake or visitation, often omitted today, is helpful for several reasons. It gives the immediate family and friends the time needed to adjust to the reality of the death that has occurred and to respond to that death. A wake provides an opportunity for friends and community members to express their love and concern, to fulfill a basic human need to “do something” at such a time. Very often seeing the love others have for your loved one and hearing stories about how that person touched them and made a difference in their lives is a source of healing and consolation for those who are grieving. The wake, is, also, a time for the church community to offer its prayers for the deceased person and his or her family.
The funeral Mass is the next step in offering up the loved one to God and giving thanks for his or her life. At the Mass we pray for God’s blessing on the person and on those who remain, and we are reminded of and reflect on the power of Christ’s promise of eternal life. While telling stories about the deceased is important at the wake, at the funeral Mass the homily is centered on our Christian faith and hope.
A final step in the celebration is the prayer of committal at the cemetery. As a person’s body or ashes are laid to rest we again commend that one to the love of God, ask God’s blessing on their place of rest, and seek the graces of consolation for one another.
Note: A full funeral Mass may be celebrated in the presence of the cremains (ashes). Out of respect for the dignity of the human body, the Church asks that the ashes be buried in a blessed place.
Our Lady of Hope parish has prepared a guide for families planning a funeral. (Contact: Parish Office – 207-797-7026)