Built of Living Stones 110-114: Christian Funerals

Some parishes celebrate dozens of funerals each year. It makes sense to ensure that the church building is well-designed for those liturgies.

§ 110 § The Order of Christian Funerals mark the final stage of the journey begun by the Christian in baptism. The structure of the current rites dates back to “Christian Rome where there were three ‘stages’ or ‘stations’ [during the funeral rite] joined by two processions”: the first from the home of the deceased to the church and the second from the church to the place of burial.(Order of Christian Funerals (OCF) 42) While the current rite preserves the procession to the church by the mourners who accompany the deceased, a funeral cortege of automobiles is more common than a procession on foot in most places in the United States.

§ 111 § Because the faith journey of the deceased began in baptism, it is appropriate that there be a physical association between the baptismal font and the space for the funeral ritual. “In the act of receiving the body, the members of the community acknowledge the deceased as one of their own, as one who was welcomed in baptism and who held a place in the assembly.”(OCF 131) With the baptismal symbols of water, light, and the pall, the mourning community prepares for the “liturgy in which it asks for a share in the heavenly banquet promised to the deceased and to all who have been [baptized in Christ].”(OCF 131)

The association with the font and funeral ritual is well-considered. Water, candles, and cloth are fine and rich symbols. Considering a font proximate to the church entrance may be tipped when one considers the importance of receiving the body, not just celebrating a Mass surrounding it.

§ 112 § In designing the seating configuration, parishes will want to consider the size and placement of the casket and the paschal candle during funerals as well as the presence of the cremated remains when cremation has taken place before the funeral Mass. Good planning will ensure that doors and aisles are wide enough for pall bearers to carry a coffin easily.

Most new churches provide for BLS 112. I don’t know about the neo-preconciliar efforts so much.

§ 113 § The permission to celebrate the funeral Mass in the presence of the cremated remains necessitates a dignified place on which the remains can rest during the Mass.(OCF appendix 2)To avoid ritual use of makeshift carriers or other inappropriate containers, parishes may wish to obtain a well designed urn or ceremonial vessel and stand to hold the cremated remains during the vigil and funeral.

Most funeral homes provide nice (and expensive) containers. But the parish acquisition of a vessel and stand is well worth consideration.

§ 114 § The funeral rites permit the celebration of the vigil for the deceased in the church.(OCF 55) If this is the practice, it is appropriate to wake the body in the baptistry or gathering area or in another dignified area of the church that will not interfere with the normal liturgical life of the parish.

Show of hands: how many celebrate vigils and wake the body in some part of the church?

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Built of Living Stones, USCCB documents. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Built of Living Stones 110-114: Christian Funerals

  1. Mary says:

    In New Zealand, it’s common for the vigil to be at the church, and for the body to spend the night there – in the place where it’s going to sit for the rest of the funeral ceremony. And yes, this can mean that there will be a body in the church when some other function happens earlier in the day.

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