funerals at st. john’s
Rest in peace
DEATH IS A CONSEQUENCE of original sin — if we had not sinned then our bodies would go straight to heaven, as Our Lord did in his Ascension, and Our Lady did at her Assumption. However, since Christ has conquered death on the Cross, our sorrow is tempered by the hope of the Resurrection. We trust that on the last day our mortal bodies will rise again to be with Our Lord.
In the Funeral rites the Church celebrates the Paschal mystery of Christ. Those who in Baptism have become one with the dead and risen Christ, at the end of their sacramental life, will pass with him from death to life, to be purified in soul and welcomed into the fellowship of the saints in heaven. They look forward in blessed hope to his second coming and the bodily resurrection of the dead.
After death the effects of sin still remain, and this is why most of us will still have to undergo Purgatory — that place and state where the love of God will work to cleanse us and so make us able to enter into God's presence. We can help the faithful depart to pass more swiftly through Purgatory by our prayers. The greatest prayer we can offer is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. A Mass for the dead is called a Requiem — meaning a Mass offered that they may rest in peace.
When someone we love dies there are many things to arrange, and the most important is the person’s funeral. For Catholics a Requiem Mass is offered as the best way of showing our continued love for the deceased. The following notes will help you to prepare and plan for Funeral rites at St John’s.
Planning your funeral before your death is to be highly commended. It eases your own peace of mind before your death, and eases the hearts and minds, too, of those friends and family members who, whilst mourning your loss, will feel more confident in carrying out your wishes if they are, truly, your wishes. Choosing hymns and discussing readings with the Parish Priest can be done at any time.
Funeral liturgies at St John’s are celebrated according to Divine Worship: Occasional Services, the Ordinariate’s official public liturgy, for members of the Ordinariate only. Funerals for Latin Rite Catholics at St John’s must be celebrated according to the Roman Rite’s Order of Christian Funerals.
WHAT TO DO FOR A DECEASED PERSON AFTER DEATH
The first step is to speak to the Funeral Directors. Tell them that the deceased person is a Catholic and that you wish to arrange their funeral at St John the Evangelist. You should then contact the Parish Priest and fill out a Death Register Form. (All forms can be found below.) The Funeral Directors deal with some costs, but not with those connected to the use of St John’s. Further details are found below.
WHO MAY RECEIVE A CATHOLIC FUNERAL?
Catholic funeral services are a right, not a privilege, of all members of the Church, both the faithful and the catechumens (CIC 1176; 1183, 1). The Order of Christian Funerals also provides for the celebration of funeral rites for children whose parents intended them to be baptised (CIC 1182, 2). The Ordinary permits funeral rites for a baptised non-Catholic who was not opposed to these rites and whose proper minister is not available (OCF, 18; CIC 1183, 3).
The only persons who are denied ecclesiastical funeral rites and a funeral Mass — provided there was absolutely no sign of repentance before death — are notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics; those who had chosen cremation for reasons opposed to the Catholic faith; and notorious sinners whose funeral rites would cause public scandal (CIC 1184, 1185). Funeral rites are also denied to those who have chosen to die through physician assisted suicide or euthanasia. Funeral rites are not denied to those invalidly married, or inactive Catholics.
The celebration of a Funeral Requiem Mass is permitted on any day except Solemnities that are Holy Days of Obligation, Thursday of Holy Week (Maundy Thursday), the Paschal Triduum, and the Sundays of Advent, Lent and Easter.
BURIAL OR CREMATION?
Burial has always been the preferred and normative tradition of the Catholic Church because it expresses more fully the belief in the Resurrection of the Body, and it was the manner in which the Lord was buried. However, cremation is permitted, provided that it is not a deliberate statement contrary to Christian belief. Even if cremation is chosen, it is our preferred practise at St John’s that the cremation take place after the funeral liturgy (whether it be a Funeral Service or a Requiem), so that the funeral can take place in the presence of the body. Cremated remains must be buried, or properly placed in a niche or mausoleum — they are never to be scattered.
A Funeral Service or Requiem Mass is still permitted in the presence of cremated remains. In such cases the urn will be brought into church on the day of the funeral. It is placed on a table in front of the rood screen and covered with a veil. Flowers may be placed next to it.
When a Requiem Mass is to take place in the presence of a body, it is a commendable Catholic practise that the body of the deceased be first brought into church the evening before the funeral, for a short Vigil service. This is usually intended for the closest family members of the deceased person. If you wish this to happen, you should tell the Funeral Directors.
There are two forms of Funeral rites available: either a Funeral Service (in the presence of the body, or cremated remains), or a Funeral (Requiem) Mass (in the presence of the body, or cremated remains). In addition, a Vigil for the Deceased (only available when the body is to be brought into church the evening beforehand) is also offered.
The Funeral Service is shorter and consists of the Reception of the Body (if this has not taken place at a Vigil), one or more psalms, a reading, homily, Apostles’ Creed, the Absolution, and prayers. Up to three hymns may be chosen. The choir, soloists and the organist can also play a part. The Committal may follow.
A Funeral Requiem Mass is highly recommended for those who were practising Catholics. All the usual parts of the Mass are present, readings, hymns, and a musical Mass setting. The Committal may follow.
The texts of the Funeral rites are laid down in the Missal. There are some choices which you may make: the readings and the hymns, though these should be discussed with the Parish Priest, who will inform you of the selection available, before any final decisions are made.
Readings can be chosen, upon the advice of the Parish Priest. Only readings from Holy Scripture are permitted. If family members of friends wish to read during the Mass they should meet the Celebrant of the Mass beforehand so that he can ensure that they know what to do.
Only sacred music may be used in church. Recorded music is never permitted. The hymns should be from one of the two hymn books in use at St John’s — they contain an wide and excellent selection of traditional hymns. No secular music is permitted. The organ may also be used, and a suitable organ prelude and postlude can be chosen.
The parish will produce the order of service. This will include the texts of the liturgy, the hymns and the readings. Phrases such as “Celebration of the life of...” or “Thanksgiving for the life of...” do not reflect Christian belief, and will not be used. Our principal purpose at a Requiem Mass is to pray for the repose of the soul of the deceased person.
It is advised that you select two ushers to distribute orders of service and to direct guests to their places in church.
No eulogies are permitted whatsoever. The Celebrant of the Requiem Mass will preach a homily and may make some brief remarks about the life of the deceased person. However, the main purpose of the homily is to preach the Gospel and to instil in us the hope of the Resurrection.
SYMBOLS USED IN A REQUIEM MASS
Black vestments are worn as a symbol of grief. Six unbleached candles stand around the coffin. The altar is dressed in violet. The coffin is sprinkled with holy water as a reminder of Baptism, and the paschal candle also stands nearby as a symbol of the Resurrection. The coffin should usually have a crucifix on it. It will also be covered with a black pall, which is decorated with the cross. One flower arrangement may also stand on the coffin, but other items should not go there, as they would distract from the Christian symbols and make too much of a distinction between different people.
A donation is always welcome for the maintenance and upkeep of the church, but this is at your discretion. In the case of non-parishioners an offering of $500 is expected to pay for preparation, cleaning, lighting and heating. Please understand that it is not a fee, and it may be reduced or waived in cases of hardship. For musical costs please contact the Parish Secretary.