OCF 119-120: Transfer of the Body to the Church or to the Place of Committal

The body of the deceased may be transferred to the church at relatively early time, or, if there is no funeral liturgy, just before the committal. Within that flexibililty, the following two instructional paragraphs describe the purpose of the rituals concerned with moving the body.

119. This rite may be used for prayer with the family and close friends as they prepare to accompany the body of the deceased in the procession to the church or to the place of committal. It is a model, for adaptation by the minister according to the circumstances.

120. The procession to the church is a rite of initial separation of the mourners from the deceased; the procession to the place of committal is the journey to the place of final separation of the mourners from the deceased. Because the transfer of the body may be an occasion of great emotion for the mourners, the minister and other members of the community should make every effort to be present to support them. Reverent celebration of the rite can help reassure the mourners and create an atmosphere of calm preparation before the procession.


Again, the purpose of liturgical adaptation is not for the convenience or whim of the minister, but for the pastoral needs of the mourners. When adapting these rituals, it is vital for the minister to know their intended purpose. For example, when the ritual suggests the transfer of the body is the beginning of the separation process for the mourners, any adaptations should focus on that. Telling stories may not be the most productive use of time. Improvised prayers or music might look instead to leaving the deceased in the care of God. The OCF is not insensitive, however, to the occasions of “great emotion.” The pastoral presence of the clergy, ministers, and community are intended to support them personally and emotionally.

I like the emphasis on reverence as a calming influence. Adapting a rite doesn’t mean improvising. Some ministers may have to prepare in advance what they do and say and how they lead a family. “Making it up” might mean a whole lot more advance work. Any thoughts on that?


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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