"For everything there is a season…
a time to be born and a time to die.” ( Eccl 3:1-2).
This quote from the Book of Ecclesiastes reflects what every society and religious tradition recognises: the reality of death. Beliefs about death are expressed in rituals surrounding the time of death, burial and grieving.
For the Christian these beliefs are grounded in the reality of Christ’s Death and Resurrection.
What then do Catholic Christians believe about Death?
Baptism brings the person into the life of the whole Christian community, which we call the Body of Christ. When a member of the faith community dies, the Christian assembly gathers to remember the Christian life of the deceased as this person is entrusted into the loving embrace of God.
What is the Purpose of the Christian Funeral?
The funeral ritual offers comfort at the time of death: its task is to proclaim once more that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our death is transformed into life everlasting.
- We celebrate God’s love which has been shown to us in the life, death and rising of Jesus.
- We celebrate that the person who has died was baptised, and who, in their life, with its joys, sorrows, goodness and sin, tried to love God and their neighbour.
- We celebrate that as a Church we are called to spread this news of God’s love by our daily lives, to a world that suffers sickness, injustice and despair.
The Funeral Liturgy
Given the belief in the Paschal Mystery of Christ (the life, death and resurrection of Christ) which is the foundation of an understanding of Christian funerals, the Funeral Rite is often celebrated with a Funeral Mass.
However, the Church also provides for a Funeral Liturgy outside Mass.
The Rite of Committal
This short ritual takes place at the grave or at the church after the funeral liturgy. This is the last rite in the presence of the body of the deceased.
What is the task of the Parish Community?
The parish community journeys in various ways with the deceased and their family. These may include:
- Preparation for the Funeral Rites with family and Celebrant
- Celebration of the Funeral liturgy and the Rite of Committal
- Coordination with Funeral Directors and parish people
- Visitation of relatives and friends after the funeral, and providing ongoing care