OCF 238-239: Pastoral Ministry to the Bereaved

The funeral rites always have an eye on the pastoral ministry to the mourners, and the occasion of a child’s death is no exception.

238. In its pastoral ministry to the bereaved the Christian community is challenged in a particular way by the death of an infant or child. The bewilderment and pain that death causes can be overwhelming in this situation, especially for the parents and the brothers and sisters of the deceased child. The community seeks to offer support and consolation to the family during and after the time of the funeral rites.

239. Through prayer and words of comfort the minister and others can help the mourners to understand that their child has gone before them, into the kingdom of the Lord and that one day they will all be reunited there in joy. The participation of the community in the funeral rites is a sign of the compassionate presence of Christ, who embraced little children, wept at the death of a friend, and endured the pain and separation of death in order to render it powerless over those he loves. Christ still sorrows with those who sorrow and longs with them for the fulfillment of the Father’s plan in a new creation where tears and death will have no place.

These principles allow a healthy integration of liturgy and pastoral ministry. I am sure that many pre-conciliar priests were deeply gifted in their compassionate presence with families of deceased children outside of liturgy. It is vital for the Church’s many efforts in ministry: the worship of Christ, taking leave of the departed, the comfort of the mourners, and the opportunity for the faith community to express its support. OCF 239 is rather explicit: liturgical participation is a sign of Christ’s presence. Christ also participates in human longing and sorrow. This is why participation is a liturgical virtue stressed as it is: God and people are drawn closer through this action of grace.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Order of Christian Funerals, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

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