102. The presence of the minister and the calming effect of familiar prayers can comfort the mourners as they begin to face their loss. When the minister is present with the family at the time death occurs, this rite can be used as a quiet and prayerful response to the death. In other circumstances, for example, in the case of sudden or unexpected death, this form of prayer can be the principal part of the first pastoral visit of the minister.
103. The initial pastoral visit can be important as the first tangible expression of the community’s support for the mourners. A minister unfamiliar with the family or the deceased person can learn a great deal on this occasion about the needs of the family and about the life of the deceased. The minister may also be able to form some preliminary judgments to help the family in planning the funeral rites. If circumstances allow, some first steps in the planning may take place at this time.
These passages are remarkable for their pastoral insights. The insights themselves are common sense. But their placement in a liturgical document shows, I think, the close relationship intended between liturgy and pastoral ministry. This optimism is a hallmark of the mature work of ICEL and the Church’s liturgists. I’d have to say that we may have lost something of that in the past decade.
Note the assumption that the minister will accompany a family at the time of death. “When,” not “if,” is the operative word for presence with the family.
The minister is also present not only to lead prayer, but to learn about the family and their needs.
Any thoughts on any of this? Experience from clergy or pastoral ministers on what you have done and what you find helpful?