MASSES OF CHRISTIAN BURIAL
Like approximately half of the world’s population, I watched the funeral services for Her Majesty, the late Queen. While elaborate in grandeur and scope, the service itself followed the pattern of her faith’s celebration for any other person of faith. A few of my brother priests and I remarked, humorously, but pointedly, that it set the pattern for what all funerals should include: They were on time, it was no more than an hour, no one from the family got up and spoke, and the calling hours were held down the street. Not seeking to bring offense – those are components that should take place, united within our tradition of ritual and worship. The basic misunderstanding comes when we say things like, “it’s my mother’s funeral”. While I understand that sentiment, it is in reality, “the Church’s Mass of Christian Burial for your mother”. Rather than possessing the celebration, the Church welcomes us into the celebration set forth to bring all of God’s people together. Below are some of the guidelines and policies regarding Masses of Christian Burial here at Saint Michael Parish.
Calling Hours / Visitation
This takes place at the funeral home you have chosen. While immediate family members of the deceased are well intended, it has become increasingly difficult to welcome the larger viewing crowd in maintaining a sense of reverence, respect, and decorum in the Church during past viewings. As such, calling hours are not permitted at Saint Michael Parish Church.
The Funeral Liturgy
This is the most important part of the celebration of Christian Burial. This is almost always celebrated within a Mass. The bodily remains are honored by being brought to the Church. We offer the Sacrifice of the Mass for the soul of the deceased in the whole context of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
A parish priest or deacon will accompany the remains and the family to the cemetery following the Mass, where the Rite of Christian Burial will conclude with the prayers of Committal and Final Commendation. Should one wish to speak in memory of the deceased, as in Words of Remembrance, the Funeral Rite allows for such to usually take place as part of the Prayer of Commendation that will be prayed at the cemetery.
The Time and Place of the Funeral Liturgy
A funeral may be celebrated on any day of the week except Sundays and Holy Days. There are also some restrictions concerning funerals during Holy Week or Saturdays with weddings. The parish office will discuss these restrictions as they apply. Masses of Christian Burial begin at 10:00am on the determined day of the funeral. The Mass of Christian Burial is celebrated in the parish church only. A Service of Christian Burial may take place at the Funeral Home or the Cemetery.
Planning the Funeral Liturgy
The funeral liturgy is one of the most beautiful and meaningful celebrations of the Church. Your family has the option of assisting with the preparation of the Mass by meeting with a parish staff member in selecting the Scripture readings and specific hymns. The Music Ministry at Saint Michael is under the direction of Mrs. Laura Kunkel. Only parish musicians or their approved substitute may provide the music. Please know that only sacred music is appropriate for a Mass of Christian Burial and only sacred music found in our Gather Hymnal may be used at Saint Michael Parish. Pop music, Broadway show tunes, folk songs or other genres are not appropriate for the Mass of Christian Burial.
Words of Remembrance
The General Introduction to the Order of Christian Funerals, states, that “a brief homily is to be given, but there is never to be a eulogy" (no.27). By a eulogy is meant an elongated narration of the human achievements and qualities of the deceased person. The homily seeks to unite the life of the person with the overarching connection to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As such. the parish policy is as follows: Eulogies are not permitted at a Mass of Christian Burial. Instead, it has become customary for many families to offer brief Words of Remembrance at the Funeral Home, Cemetery, or Luncheon to follow. We encourage families to instead provide remembrances of the deceased and give them to the person assisting with funeral planning so the priest-celebrant may properly prepare the homily for the Mass.
If the deceased is to receive a Mass of Christian Burial at Saint Michael Parish, it should be listed in the obituary as “A Mass of Christian Burial”. Terms such as: “A Celebration of the Life”, “A Mass of Resurrection”, “Funeral Service” are not appropriate.