OCF 17: The Family Plans

Involve the family, the rite suggests:

17. Whenever possible, ministers should involve the family in planning the funeral rites: in the choice of texts and rites provided in the ritual, in the selection of music for the rites, and in the designation of liturgical ministers.

These decisions do go to the family in most instances. It can be a careful process, not a means of picking favorites. As for texts, I’ve noticed the discernment often goes along one of three lines: something suggestive of some quality of the deceased, a religious aspect of the deceased’s life (such as devotion to the Eucharist), and some message of comfort for the mourners (such as the oft-used John 14:1-6).

Music likewise, can be steered away from picking favorites, though I have to concede that a person’s or family’s favorites are often chosen because of religious significance. The choice of Communion ministers is often appropriate. I find many families provide their own lectors–common enough for Catholic school Masses, but over the years, I find these people need extra work. Tears for a reading like this happen, but not as often as you might think.

Planning of the funeral rites may take place during the visit of the pastor or other minister at some appropriate time after the death and before the vigil service. Ministers should explain to the family the meaning and significance of each of the funeral rites, especially the vigil, the funeral liturgy, and the rite of committal.

In one parish I served, lay people planned with the family, leaving the visit of the priest to be largely one of comfort and presence. If there’s a sense the parish community is fairly well-catechized about the funeral rites, this would seem to be a workable, pragmatic approach.

The rite seems a little squeamish about something I see fairly frequently these days:

If pastoral and personal considerations allow, the period before death may be an appropriate time to plan the funeral rites with the family and even with the family member who is dying. Although planning the funeral before death should be approached with sensitivity and care, it can have the effect of helping the one who is dying and the family face the reality of death with Christian hope. It can also help relieve the family of numerous details after the death and may allow them to benefit more fully from the celebration of the funeral rites.

So … how many of you out there have your funeral rites planned, including the vigil and rite of committal? What about clergy and pastoral ministers: do you provide the option of planning before death? Is it a good idea to plan a funeral well in advance of death, as many do?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, 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.

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