Families have many ways to remember someone who has passed away.
The Church’s preferred way of remembering the life of someone who has died is through the funeral Mass with the body present. At the beginning of the rite, the casket is draped with the funeral pall, linking this day with their baptism when they put on Christ for the first time. The funeral Mass contextualizes the deceased’s life in the story of faith as told through the Scriptures selected for the day. The faithful thank God for the gift of their life and the graces He has bestowed upon them in the celebration of the Eucharist. This gift unites the congregation with the Lord, and through Him, to the one who has died.
In the archdiocese, it’s also possible to have a funeral Mass in the presence of the cremains. In this celebration, the urn is placed on a table in front of the congregation, often with a photo of the deceased. Many of the elements of the Mass remain the same as a funeral Mass in the presence of the body. The main difference is that the funeral pall and incense typically are not used, as these are symbols to be used with the body that was a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Another option is to celebrate a memorial Mass. A memorial Mass is specially arranged with the parish where the body or cremains will not be present. Someone may choose a memorial Mass in the case that the deceased donated their body to science or a difficulty scheduling a funeral with a family’s traveling schedule. This has been more important in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic made gatherings difficult, allowing a memorial Mass at a later time.
Families may choose to invite a priest or deacon to a funeral home to celebrate a funeral rite outside of Mass. This may be with the body or cremains or as a memorial service. At this ceremony, the priest or deacon will preside the Liturgy of the Word, lead prayers for the deceased and pray the Prayer of Final Commendation. Families might choose this option for many reasons.
A simple gathering at a cemetery is the briefest option, with the ceremony taking 10 minutes or less. The priest or deacon leads prayers for the deceased and prays the Final Commendation in this ceremony.
These options are presented in order of the Church’s preference, and it’s important that we take time to thank God for who they were in our life and ask Him to receive them into heaven.
This column appeared in a previous edition of the Review.
Father Mayo is pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in St. Louis.