“We would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
If you have experienced the death of a loved one, we, the pastoral staff at Immaculate Conception Parish would like to express our sincere sympathies to you and your family. Our Catholic faith teaches us, through the resurrection of Jesus, to mourn with great hope. Still, grieving the death of a loved one is a traumatic experience that takes time and must be fully processed. When we grieve, no one can understand the depth of our loss, but please know that you are not alone. We are here to help you prepare for the next few days leading up to the funeral liturgy, as well as support you as your mourn in the weeks and months ahead.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
To make funeral arrangements, please contact the Parish Office at (641) 228-1071.
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:
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.
The Catholic Approach to Cremation
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.
The Body of the Catholic Christian
Presence of the Body at the Funeral Liturgy
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:
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
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:
Music at Funerals
Music chosen for funerals:
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.
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). 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 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 Immaculate Conception Parish, we have the annual Mass of Remembrance close to 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.