Dear Parish Family,
As Catholics, we commend our deceased loved ones to God and mourn as a people of hope trusting in the promise of Christ’s resurrection. The Funeral Rites of the Church are the acts that express our belief that we will one day be with Christ and those who have gone before us. Please know of our prayers for you and may you take comfort in the grace and love of God during this time of sorrow.
The Order of Christian Funerals is a three-part ritual, with Vigil (viewing), Funeral Mass, and Rite of Committal (entombment). It is encouraged that the Funeral Rites be conducted in the presence of the body of the deceased. This practice is most in accord with the sacred principles and rituals of the Christian Faith. However, the Mass of Christian Burial may also be celebrated with the cremains present in the church.
The mortuary will contact the parish Funeral Coordinator to schedule a time for the Mass or Service. As a general rule, the Funeral Mass for a Catholic is celebrated in his or her parish of registration. Once the date and time have been determined, a Bereavement Minister will contact you and schedule an appointment to meet. At the meeting, the Bereavement Minister will provide you with a selection of music and readings appropriate for the occasion, as well as answer any questions you may have about the Funeral Mass.
The Vigil for the Deceased
The Vigil is usually celebrated at the mortuary. The Funeral Coordinator will arrange for a deacon to be present and assist with a Rosary or Scripture Service. The mortuary will be able to assist you with any special musical selections or photographic DVD memorials that you wish to play at the Vigil. The Vigil Service is the most appropriate time for a reflection or eulogy, sharing of stories, special music, etc. The deacon will facilitate this at the family's request.
Funeral Masses at St. Thomas the Apostle are celebrated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:30A.M. or 1:00P.M. For the Funeral Mass, Christian symbols (cross, bible, scapular, etc.) may be placed on the casket at the beginning of the Funeral Mass. All secular items, such as flags or Medals of Honor are important, but not part of the Funeral Mass. These secular and important symbols are removed at the church door and a pall is placed over the casket. This symbolizes our unity in Christ through our baptism. Only Christian symbols are used within the church. Flowers are permitted and will be arranged by the Bereavement Minister and funeral home. Photos and other items are normally displayed in the vestibule area with the Book of Remembrance. A small table will be placed in the front of the altar for the cremains. Some families choose to have a picture and or flowers on the table with the urn.
The Rite of Committal
“The rite of committal, the conclusion of the Funeral Rites, is the final act of the community of faith, in caring for the body of its deceased member (Order of Christian Funerals, 1998, p. 108).” The committal should immediately follow the Funeral Mass at the cemetery.
Questions and Answers
Q: We would like to honor our deceased loved one with words of remembrance. Is it permissible to have a eulogy at the Funeral Mass?
A: Paying tribute to a loved one is part of the healing process when dealing with a loss; however, it is most appropriate to eulogize and pay tribute to your loved one at the vigil. This allows us to focus on the Mass and Christ’s death and resurrection. Please speak with the deacon in regard to how and when it is appropriate to eulogize and pay tribute to your loved one at the vigil.
Q: We would like two Funeral Masses. One Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle and another in our home town/state.
A: Only one Funeral Mass is necessary. We recommend that the family schedule a Mass intention at the parish where the Funeral Mass will not be held. This Mass can be announced in the local newspaper so that family and friends may attend.
Q: Can a Rosary be said at the church prior to the Funeral Mass?
A: Please notify the funeral home of your request and the circumstances. When the call is made to schedule the Funeral Mass, your request will be presented at which time the Funeral Coordinator will seek the Pastor’s approval.
Q: Is the funeral home required to transport the cremains to the church and cemetery?
A: The Order of Christian Funerals with Cremation Rite states that “Although cremation is now permitted by the Church, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those rites (1998, p. 391).” In the event that cremains are necessary, yes, the funeral home is required to transport the cremains to the church and cemetery. The Church teaches us that the human body is sacred; therefore, the cremated remains are to receive the same respect as the remains of a body.
Q: We’re considering keeping our loved one’s cremains or scattering them. Is this permitted?
“By virtue of an indult granted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Prot. 1589/96/L), the celebration of the Funeral Liturgy, including Mass, in the presence of the cremated remains of the body of a deceased person is permitted in the diocese of the United States of America under the following conditions: a. That the cremation not be inspired by motives contrary to Christian teaching, in accordance with what is laid down by the Code of Canon Law (canon 1176 § 3). b. That each diocesan bishop will judge whether it is pastorally appropriate to celebrate the liturgy for the dead, with or without Mass, with the ashes present, taking into account the concrete circumstances in each individual case, and in harmony with the spirit and precise content of the current canonical and liturgcal norms. (Order of Christian Funerals, 1998, p.393).”
*Should the decision be made to keep or scatter the cremains, St. Thomas the Apostle will not provide a Christian funeral or service.
Q: We are undecided about the date and location of the committal (entombment). Can we have the Funeral Mass and schedule the committal for a later date?
A: The Catholic Order of Christian Funerals consists of three Rites: the vigil, the Funeral Mass or Eucharistic liturgy; and the committal. All three Rites should take place within a timely manner from each other. Normally the vigil takes place in the evening with the Funeral Mass and burial following the next day.
It is our desire to remain faithful to the Church’s teachings as well as the directives from the Diocese of Phoenix. Because of this, it is our policy to schedule the vigil and Funeral Mass after the committal date has been confirmed. Please notify the funeral home of your situation and the circumstances. When the call is made to schedule the Funeral Mass, your request will be presented at which time the Funeral Coordinator will seek the Pastor’s approval.
*Please note, the Funeral Mass will be scheduled once the Funeral Coordinator has verified the date of committal with the funeral home and cemetery.