OCF 247-263: Vigil for a Deceased Child

I’m not going to rehash the structure of the funeral vigil in this post. I refer you to the discussion on OCF 69-97 if you are new to the site or wish a recap. Instead I’d like to point out moments of possible adaptation, plus add a few comments on changed texts.

As with adults, a vigil celebrated at church (OCF 247) will include a rite of reception (then omitted at the funeral Mass). Otherwise a greeting (248) will be followed by an invitation to prayer (253). An original text composed for this rite includes this greeting as the first option of four:

May Christ Jesus, who welcomed children and laid his hands in blessing upon them, comfort you with his peace and be always with you.

These greetings may be rendered “in similar words,” not being at the core of the rite.

For a reception at church, there is a sprinkling with holy water (249), unless the child was unbaptized. In that instance, there is a brief address, in “the following or similar words” …

My brothers and sisters, the Lord is a faithful God who created us all after his own image. All things are of his making, all creation awaits the day of salvation. We now entrust the sould of N. to the abundant mercy of God, that our beloved child may find a home in his kingdom.

As with adults, placing the pall (250) may happen. The entrance procession will (251) and at its conclusion, symbols of Christ may be placed (252). In any location, the introductory rites conclude with an invitation to prayer (253) followed by the opening prayer (254). Most of these orations have allusions or even direct quotes of Scripture (e.g., “Take him/her into your arms and welcome him/her into paradise where there will be no sorrow, no weeping nor pain …”)

The Liturgy of the Word is celebrated (255ff) including a “brief homily on the readings” (259).

The Prayer of Intercession includes a litany which touches on the points of the Lord Jesus’ life:

You became a little child for our sake, sharing our human life. To you we pray: Bless us and keep us, O Lord.

You grew in wisdom, age and grace and learned obedience through suffering …

You welcomed children, promising them your kingdom …

You comforted those who mourned the loss of children and friends …

You took upon yourself the suffering and death of us all …

You promised to raise up those who believe in you, just as you were raised up in glory by the Father …

This is an effective rendering of a litany, progressing with a certain logic and bringing the images of Scripture to the minds of the worshipers. The Prayer of Intercession continues with the Lord’s Prayer (261) and a concluding prayer by the minister (262). The concluding rite (263) includes a blessing and an optional song and/or silence.

In my reading of these rituals, my assessment is that the adaptations are appropriate, generally shortened prayers and readings, but not dumbed down. It’s more likely that if children are present for the vigil, they will be siblings or very close friends. Most will be friends of the parents and adult relations. There is an art to writing succinctly. These rites also capture an appropriate amount of Scripture–passages that have been heard or will be heard at Mass, as well as images that will be recognizable to those who regular read the Bible.

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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