In the event of the death of your loved one, please contact the parish office at 608-271-7421 and we will help you plan the Catholic Funeral Mass for your loved one. The Funeral Mass is the Church’s greatest gift for the one who has died and a great source of support and consolation for the family and friends who are left behind.
Visitation & Luncheon
Along with the funeral home that is helping you, we can also provide for a time of Visitation at our church, if that is what you desire. We would also be honored to help you with a luncheon after the funeral and cemetery service. Call the parish office for details.
We have prepared three documents that will provide you with information concerning the Church’s Order of Christian Funerals:
Order Of Christian Funerals (Part 1)
Understanding the Catholic Approach to the Funeral Rites
In 1989, the English translation of the Order of Christian Funerals (OCF) was promulgated for use in the United States. The term “Funeral Rites” is a general name for all the liturgical celebrations that are possible at the time of death. The funeral rites commend the dead to God, bring to our immediate awareness our faith in the resurrection of the dead, and provide hope, support and consolation to the bereaved.
The Funeral Rites have three principle times of prayer for the family and community: the Vigil, the Funeral Liturgy, and the Rite of Committal.
Usually the visitation time before the Vigil is the first opportunity the community at large has to come and offer condolences, lend support, and share in telling the stories of the life events of the one who has died. Such remembering is an important part of the grieving process. Time is set aside during such visitation for prayer together as a community to support the bereaved and to pray on behalf of the one who has died.
This prayer service is called the Vigil. The format of the Vigil is usually Scripture readings, intercessions, the Our Father, concluding prayers and blessings.
The Funeral Liturgy
The funeral liturgy is the community’s central liturgical celebration for the deceased. The community gathers with the family and friends of the deceased to take heart from the Word of God, to give thanks and praise to God for Christ’s victory over sin and death, and to be nourished in the reception of Holy Communion. The participants in the funeral liturgy have a foretaste of the heavenly banquet that awaits them (OCF, 128, 129, 154).
The symbols and symbolic actions of the funeral liturgy are:
- The welcoming of the body into the Church—calls to mind the welcome into the Church which first occurred at Baptism.
- The sprinkling with holy water—reminds us of the saving waters of Baptism.
- The Easter candle—sign of Christ’s presence and his victory over sin and death.
- The funeral pall—draping the white cloth over the casket signifies the white garment all Christians received at their Baptisms. It is a sign of Christian dignity.
- The presence of the Christian community—by their prayer and song they bring support and consolation and give witness to our hope in the resurrection.
- The proclamation of the Word of God—reveals God’s loving presence; the Word gives strength, provides consolation and hope in the resurrection.
- The Eucharistic sacrifice—the thanking for, the offering of and the sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ is a foretaste of the eternal banquet of Heaven.
- The final commendation—this last act of farewell acknowledges the reality of separation and affirms that the community and the deceased share the same destiny, that is, resurrection on the last day.
- Blessing with incense—the incensation of the body signifies respect and honor for the body. The rising incense is a sign of the community’s prayers for the deceased rising to God.
- There is also the option of placing Christian symbols on the coffin, once the white pall has been draped over it. The two most common symbols are the Bible and the cross.
Rite of Committal
The Rite of Committal is the final act of the community in caring for the body of its deceased member. This prayer is all about bringing the earthly remains of our loved one to his/her final place of rest. This rite may be celebrated at the grave, tomb, or crematorium. This rite may be used also for burial at sea (OCF, 204).
The Rite of Committal is composed of Scripture, a prayer over the place of committal, intercessions, the Lord’s Prayer, concluding prayer and a prayer over the people.
A gesture or sign of leave-taking—often the sprinkling with holy water—concludes the rite. This final time of prayer is important and needs to be celebrated so that we may have the courage and energy to say our final good-byes to the bodily presence of our loved ones, believing that their spiritual presence is always with us.
Order Of Christian Funerals (Part 2)
The Catholic Approach to Cremation and Details from the Diocese of Madison
The ORDER OF CHRISTIAN FUNERALS (abbreviated OCF) is the universal Catholic Rite for Funerals from Rome. Below are pertinent statements regarding the Roman Catholic Church’s convictions and preferences, along with updates pertinent to Catholic funerals in the Diocese of Madison.
The Body of the Catholic Christian
- The mystery of life and death encountered through the body (OCF 411)
“…the body which lies in death naturally recalls the personal story of faith, the loving family bonds, the friendships, and the words and acts of kindness of the deceased person.”
- Reverence for the sacredness of the human body (OCF 412)
“The body of the deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of Life.”
- Body destined for future glory at the resurrection of the dead (OCF 412)
This conviction is expressed in the Creed. It is also expressed “in a sustained and insistent prayer that commends the deceased person to God’s merciful care so that his or her place in the communion of the just may be assured.”
- Is a Temple of the Holy Spirit (OCF 412)
In baptism the body becomes the temple of the Spirit. See the many references in St. Paul’s writings (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19, 2 Cor. 6:16, Eph. 2:20-22).
Presence of the Body at the Funeral Liturgy
- “Although cremation is now permitted by the Church, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those rites.” (OCF 413)
- If cremation is chosen, it is highly encouraged to do the cremation after the Funeral Liturgy. (OCF 418)
If Cremated Remains are at the Funeral Liturgy
If cremation does occur before the funeral liturgy, accommodations in the rite are made. There are differences in the funeral liturgy with the presence of cremated remains. The honors given the body in a funeral liturgy are not done because the body is not there. When cremated remains are present for the funeral liturgy, the following occur:
- The use of a pall is omitted. (OCF 434)
- Prayers which make reference to the body are not used. (OCF 423) The accommodated prayers would use the term “cremated remains.”
- In the Diocese of Madison, there is no incensing of cremated remains.
Reverent Care of the Cremated Remains
The cremated remains are to be treated reverently, placed in a worthy vessel, carried and transported with care. “The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum….appropriate means for recording with dignity the memory of the deceased should be adopted, such as a plaque or stone which records the name of the deceased.” (OCF 417)
Catholic Understanding of the Funeral Liturgy
- The purpose of the funeral liturgy is “to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life which has now been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just.” (OCF 5)
- In the funeral liturgy, the Church “commends the dead to God’s merciful love and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins.” (OCF 6) This is the greatest act of charity for the deceased.
- In the funeral liturgy, the Church also ministers to the bereaved and offers them the consolation found in the Word of God and the Eucharist. (OCF 4)
- The sorrowing are encouraged to turn to God in this time of loss and to rely on the Christian hope of the resurrection.
Speaking in Remembrance of the Deceased
The funeral liturgy is a sacred event at a sacred time in the life cycle of the one who has died and in the lives of the ones who are bereaved. Such sacredness is to be held in high regard. For this reason, the Church has written the following:
- “At the Funeral Mass there should usually be a short Homily, but to the exclusion of a funeral eulogy of any kind.” (#382 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, as found in the Third Edition of The Roman Missal, 2011)
- “A brief homily based on the readings should always be given at the funeral liturgy, but never any kind of eulogy.” (OCF 141)
- In the Diocese of Madison, any family members or friends wishing to give a speech about the deceased are welcome to do so at the funeral luncheon, at the visitation (but not during the Vigil Prayer Service) or at the cemetery after the Rite of Committal.
Music at Funerals
Music chosen for funerals:
- Needs to be related to the “paschal mystery of the Lord’s suffering, death, and triumph over death and related to the readings from Scripture.” (OCF 30)
- “Should support, console, and uplift the participants and should help create in them a spirit of hope in Christ’s victory over death and in the Christian’s share in that victory.” (OCF 31)
Because the funeral liturgy is a sacred event, all music selections are to be explicitly sacred.
Any requests for non-sacred pieces of music would be referred to the funeral luncheon, or background music at the Visitation, or perhaps in videos of the deceased being shared at the Visitation.
Order Of Christian Funerals (Part 3)
The Community’s Ministry of Consolation
All are one in the Body of Christ. If one member suffers in the body of Christ which is the Church, all the members suffer with that member (1 Corinthians 12:26).
According to St. Paul, those who are baptized and share in the Table of the Lord are responsible and privileged to be in community with each other. Thus when a member of the Body of Christ dies, the community is called to the ministry of consolation.
Christian consolation is rooted in our belief in the death and resurrection of Christ. We face the reality of death; we admit the anguish of grief and trust that the Risen Lord has power over sin and death. Death is not a finality; there is life in the Risen Lord (OCF, 8).
The Church calls each member to participate in the ministry of consolation, namely to care for the dying, to pray for the dead, and to comfort those who mourn.
Principal Way to be involved in the Ministry of Consolation
According to the Order of Christian Funerals, the community’s principal involvement in the Ministry of Consolation is by active participation in the funeral rites (OCF, 11). All members of the Church are called to be of prayerful support.
Attending the Vigil, or stopping in for the Visitation, speaks quite clearly to the mourners of our prayerful support. It is our presence that is remembered.
Those who are able and free from other obligations during the day are encouraged to attend the funeral liturgy, praying for both the deceased community member and the grieving family and friends.
The presence and prayer of community members at the committal service at the graveside or mausoleum lets the mourners know once again the support that is being offered.
Other Ways to be Involved
As a faith community, we provide the Resurrection Choir, adult servers, and communion ministers. Sometimes we need to provide lectors.
Song leaders could lead music at the Vigil (opening song, responsorial psalm, closing song) and even at the Rite of Committal (a closing song). Music allows the community to express convictions and feelings that words alone may fail to convey. Music has the power to support, console and uplift the mourners (OCF, 30).
Also members of the community are always needed to help serve the funeral luncheon and provide salads and desserts.
What More Can We Do?
We can feel helpless and inadequate in expressing our sympathy to the bereaved family. A simple clear expression of “I’m sorry” is very appropriate. Asking how we can be of help allows the bereaved to name what they need and gives us a direction in doing acts of kindness. Most beneficial is our attentiveness and listening to those who are grieving. Often the telling of their stories about the loved one is a way for the mourners to move through the loss while holding on to joyful memories.
As the weeks and months go by after the funeral, we can keep in touch. Making contact with a card, phone call, or visit lets the grieving community members know that they have not been forgotten, that both they and their beloved dead are being remembered in our prayer. We often include a prayer in our intercessions for those who are grieving.
At St. Maria Goretti Parish, we have the annual Mass of Remembrance on All Souls’ Day in November. At this Mass we remember in a special way all parishioners who have died in the last twelve months. All parishioners are invited and encouraged to come to this Mass and pray both for the dead and for those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. It has been a significant community experience for our parish.
The Faith of the Community
The faith of the Christian community in the Resurrection of the dead is at the heart of our ministry of consolation. It is the sharing of this faith that brings the greatest support and strength to those who suffer the loss of a loved one. We will rise again on the Last Day.
Sr. Denise Herrmann, CSA
Pastoral Associate & Director of Liturgy and RCIA
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