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Father Muench Says...

The power, beauty of a Catholic funeral

April 22, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I would like to take a moment this week to consider with you the Catholic funeral. Our funeral ritual is truly excellent. 

I was thinking of this funeral ritual this week because I was asked to celebrate a funeral for a 92 year old man in the parish.

Over the years, I have celebrated many funerals and I continue to find the ritual spiritually meaningful.

Each funeral for me is a time of meditation on my own mortality.

I learned very early in my priesthood what an important responsibility a funeral is.  The time of death for a family is a time for us priests to walk down that difficult road with this family. 

As we assist a family in preparing the funeral liturgy, we have the opportunity to help them through this profound change in their future. 

This is an important time in the ministry of any priest.

The time of the funeral begins with the wake service.  These wake services are good, even important. 

Here in the North Country, our communities are close and we wish to be with a family in their time of grief as a support and show our concern for them.

Often, the wake is a time when communities are reunited. Many folks have moved away and now come back to be friends at the time of a death.

The funeral Mass at the parish Church is an important opportunity for a family and a community to unite in prayer as they seek the healing of the Lord in the Blessed Eucharist.

The funeral Mass begins with bringing the deceased person’s body to the Church. 

The Church building is one of the first buildings built in a community and serves as a place of refuge for a parish.
The Church building is a place for a community to join in prayer.

It is a place where an individual can find a special place to draw closer to God in peace and silence, praying alone.

The Church building may be the place where many come to shout – to yell at God possibly, at times of crisis. 
The Church building then is a home – a home for a community, a home for a family, a place to be at home with our God.

This Church building is then a perfect place for us to be brought – to bring this body of ours – as we return to home with the Lord.  So, our body is brought home to our parish Church as a family and community remember and honor us.  This body that was brought to new life in Baptism in this Church is now brought home to return to the Lord. 

As a parish, everything that we do at this Church building is called a celebration.  Each sacrament is a celebration. Parents bring a child to the Church for Baptism and there is a celebration of new life. 

Each marriage is a celebration of the beginning of a new family blessed before the Lord. Each time a parish community unites together for Mass as there is a celebration of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through the Blessed Eucharist. The funeral is a celebration – a celebration of someone’s life at a Mass.  The funeral is a time for a family and friends praying together in celebration, a family celebrating the memory of a loved one.
Central to our prayer at each funeral is the spirit of the resurrection of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We are a resurrection people. 

In faith, we believe that we will share in the resurrection of Jesus and have new life with the Lord.  So, we pray for our loved one in the faith that they will certainly be with the Lord, experiencing new life in resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection of Jesus – our resurrection truly has already begun; the resurrection continues each and every day.  With the Lord each day is an opportunity to find new life, a time for resurrection.

From John’s Gospel:
“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus assured Martha.  “I know he will rise again,” Martha replied, “in the resurrection on the last day.”  Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die.” 

“Do you believe this?”

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