OCF 109-111: Gathering in the Presence of the Body

Assuming the family is not present at the time of death, this short rite provides for gathering them and praying as the domestic (and extended) Church.  It may take place either before or after the body has been prepared:

109. This rite provides a model of prayer that may be used when the family first gathers in the presence of the body, when the body is to be prepared for burial, or after it has been prepared. The family members, in assembling in the presence of the body, confront in the most immediate way the fact of their loss and the mystery of death. Because cultural attitudes and practices on such occasions may vary, the minister should adapt the rite.

There is a certain Western squeamishness toward death. This gathering is not necessarily the place to confront that head-on. A sensitive minister should know when to push and when to pull back. The rite presumes contact with the body of the deceased: ritual references as well as a sprinkling of the body. Otherwise this time becomes a prayer after death–no more.

110. Through the presence of the minister and others and through the celebration of this brief rite, the community seeks to be with the mourners in their need and to provide an atmosphere of sensitive concern and confident faith. In prayer and gesture those present show reverence for the body of the deceased as a temple of the life-giving Spirit and ask, in that same Spirit, for the eternal life promised to the faithful.

The Holy Spirit is invoked in these rites. Presiders should look for the options that mention the Spirit, keeping the focus trinitarian.

111. The minister should try to be as attentive as possible to the particular needs of the mourners. The minister begins the rite at an opportune moment and, as much as possible, in an atmosphere of calm and recollection. The pause for silent prayer after the Scripture verse can be especially helpful in this regard.

A presider must be comfortable with silence. As a lay presider in rural Iowa a decade ago, I had to really watch how I used silence, and make sure I was attentive to the needs of mourners, not my own comfort level. “Attentive” is a great quality for ministry of any kind.


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.

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