Diocese of Orange
Liturgical Norms For The Celebration of Catholic Funeral Rites
The Catholic Funeral Rites, as found in the Order of Christian Funerals, are celebrations that enable the Christian community to mourn, as well as to hope, by focusing on the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ.
These liturgical norms are offered to assist Pastors, Parochial Vicars, Deacons, Ministers of Bereavement, and Funeral Directors in preparing the funeral rites with individuals and families according to the ritual traditions and teaching of the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Orange.
The Order of Christian Funerals, 1989 edition (OCF), is the only canonically approved liturgical rite in English. In Spanish El Ritual de las Exequias Cristianas 2001 edition is approved for use in the dioceses of the United States of America. All previous editions of the Order of Christian Funerals should be retired. Ministers serving in communities with other diverse languages should use the current approved translation of the Latin, Ordo Exsequiarium.
The Order of Christian Funerals describes the church’s ministry to the deceased and their family in these words:
At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting word of God and the sacrament of the Eucharist‛ (OCF, General Introduction, no. 4)
From The Cathechism of the Catholic Church
All the sacraments, and principally those of Christian initiation, have as their goal the last Passover of the child of God which, through death, leads him into the life of the Kingdom. Then what he confessed in faith and hope will be fulfilled: “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”184
1684 The Christian funeral is a liturgical celebration of the Church. The ministry of the Church in this instance aims at expressing efficacious communion with the deceased, at the participation in that communion of the community gathered for the funeral, and at the proclamation of eternal life to the community.
1685 The different funeral rites express the Paschal character of Christian death and are in keeping with the situations and traditions of each region, even as to the color of the liturgical vestments worn.187
1686 The Order of Christian Funerals (Ordo exsequiarum) of the Roman liturgy gives three types of funeral celebrations, corresponding to the three places in which they are conducted (the home, the church, and the cemetery), and according to the importance attached to them by the family, local customs, the culture, and popular piety. This order of celebration is common to all the liturgical traditions and comprises four principal elements:
1687 The greeting of the community. A greeting of faith begins the celebration. Relatives and friends of the deceased are welcomed with a word of “consolation” (in the New Testament sense of the Holy Spirit’s power in hope).188 The community assembling in prayer also awaits the “words of eternal life.” The death of a member of the community (or the anniversary of a death, or the seventh or thirtieth day after death) is an event that should lead beyond the perspectives of “this world” and should draw the faithful into the true perspective of faith in the risen Christ.
1688 The liturgy of the Word during funerals demands very careful preparation because the assembly present for the funeral may include some faithful who rarely attend the liturgy, and friends of the deceased who are not Christians. The homily in particular must “avoid the literary genre of funeral eulogy”189 and illumine the mystery of Christian death in the light of the risen Christ.
1689 The Eucharistic Sacrifice. When the celebration takes place in church the Eucharist is the heart of the Paschal reality of Christian death.190 In the Eucharist, the Church expresses her efficacious communion with the departed: offering to the Father in the Holy Spirit the sacrifice of the death and resurrection of Christ, she asks to purify his child of his sins and their consequences, and to admit him to the Paschal fullness of the table of the Kingdom.191 It is by the Eucharist thus celebrated that the community of the faithful, especially the family of the deceased, learn to live in communion with the one who “has fallen asleep in the Lord,” by communicating in the Body of Christ of which he is a living member and, then, by praying for him and with him.
1690 A farewell to the deceased is his final “commendation to God” by the Church. It is “the last farewell by which the Christian community greets one of its members before his body is brought to its tomb.”192
The Byzantine tradition expresses this by the kiss of farewell to the deceased:
- By this final greeting “we sing for his departure from this life and separation from us, but also because there is a communion and a reunion. For even dead, we are not at all separated from one another, because we all run the same course and we will find one another again in the same place. We shall never be separated, for we live for Christ, and now we are united with Christ as we go toward him . . . we shall all be together in Christ.”193