Order of Christian Funerals (OCF)

Starting in the late 1970’s, various liturgical rites were re-examined in light of some years of post-conciliar practice. Liturgists and theologians had determined years before that the initial round of English translations were found wanting in many ways. Hasty work needed correction. Contrary to conventional wisdom at St Blog’s, Father Z did not discover shoddy translation, nor was he the first to advocate for its correction.

Modern developments (such as rites for baptized, but uncatechized adults or the church’s acceptance of cremation) and vital pastoral considerations (the death of an infant) demanded both recognition and new compositions for the liturgy. Simply put, the Latin original wasn’t adequate for the full spectrum of need for the worship and proclamation of God, nor for all the pastoral situations of the faithful.

The USCCB approved the second ICEL work on the Order of Christian Funerals (abbreviated OCF) at their Fall meeting in 1985. The CDWDS announced its recognitio in April 1987, and the “go” for publication came on 1 Oct 1989. One month and one day later, its use was mandated for dioceses in the US.

Combing through the funeral rites is a natural follow-up to RCIA. Chronologically, it makes sense: it was the next document approved in the US. It gets more heavy use than any ritual outside of the daily or Sunday Eucharist. We’ve all been to funerals. We’re likely all going to get one. We might as well plan ahead.

Over the next year, we’ll look at sections one through four-hundred thirty-eight. Some common parish uses will get a very close scrutiny. Others, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, will get a more cursory look. The red-n-black is important. But we’ll pay careful attention to the introductions to the various rites within OCF, and get the background on church teaching on funerals–not just church doing.

This series will emphasize liturgy and music as part of the ritual life of the Church. While I’m aware that other Catholics are concerned more with who gets a big funeral and who doesn’t, the issues of canon law and especially the culture war hold less interest for me. It’s not likely we’ll be uncovering and discussing Big Controversial Issues here. (At least nothing bigger than the eulogy.) But I hope that casual internet Catholics will find information that will shed some light on what they’re experiencing at funerals. I also welcome the input of those with more theological training than I have. My posture in all this is as a pastoral liturgist. Countless other educated Catholics have the theological background in the OCF. I know many pastors have a deeper experience not only with the rites, but also in the spiritual lives of the dying and the grieving. A thorough grounding in the OCF demands we consider factors beyond the printed page in the ritual book. Or one person’s blogging on them.

Our readers are encouraged to comment, question, and add in any way to the discussion of these matters of death and life. Anybody want to start?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Order of Christian Funerals, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Order of Christian Funerals (OCF)

  1. Liam says:

    I would also suggest that the rite of funerals is the rite where the Church is most frequently likely to find the risks and opportunities of ecumenism under its own roof, as it were.

  2. Tony Barr says:

    I co-authored ‘Death Of A Christian’ with Richard Rutherford (Pueblo/LP). I’m very interested in watching this series unfold and throwing in my 37 cents worth of reflection

  3. I look forward to these posts. And to add to Liam’s thoughts, the risks of and opportunities of evangelizing are so present.

    Risks because I have witnessed so many families, with the best of intentions of having their beloved have a proper Christian funeral, get so upset when the Eucharist is not just about their loved one.

    And the opportunities are obvious – to see the light of faith re-illumined in those who bring their beloved dead to our church and whose hearts are so deeply changed by the liturgy and community that they experience.


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