GUIDELINES FOR CATHOLIC FUNERAL RITES
The Catholic Funeral Rites in the Order of Christian Funerals (1989) are celebrations that enable the Christian community to mourn as well as to hope by focusing on the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ. These guidelines are offered to assist in effectively preparing the funeral rites with individuals and families.
Understanding Death - A Christian Perspective
Death and passing on to eternal life are mysteries at the center of the Church’s belief. Although American culture generally recoils from death and tries to deny it, “In the face of death, the Church confidently proclaims that God has created each person for eternal life and that Jesus, the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, has broken the chains of sin and death that bound humanity.” (Order of Christian Funerals, #1)
Celebration of the Church
Christian funerals are not private observances, but celebrations of the whole Body of Christ, in which, “Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of life which has now been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just.” (Order of Christian Funerals, #5) Therefore these rites are celebrated with appropriate choices of music, readings, gestures, and decorations that are consistent with a Catholic understanding of death. “The celebration of the Christian funeral brings hope and consolation to the living. While proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and witnessing to Christian hope in the resurrection, the funeral rites also recall to all who take part in them God’s mercy and judgment and meet the human need to turn always to God in times of crisis.” (Order of Christian Funerals, #7)