(Insert in Tab R of Handbook for Parish Pastoral Leadership)
In order to prepare each of the rites of the Order of Christian Funerals (OCF) worthily,
it is necessary that presiders and planners read and become thoroughly familiar with the General
Introduction to the Order of Christian Funerals found at the beginning of the OCF and each
of its rites.
The Order of Christian Funerals (1987) is the current and normative rite. It is also
important that presiders and planners obtain a copy of the NCCB 1997 Appendix on Cremation. No
previous version of the rite may be used. Please check to make sure the parish is using the
current version. According to the OCF, there are three rites that correspond to the three principal
ritual moments in the funeral of Christians. They are: 1. Vigil for the Deceased, 2. Funeral
Liturgy, 3. Rite of Committal.
Vigil for the Deceased
The Vigil for the Deceased is the normative rite in the time following death and before the
funeral liturgy, or if there is no funeral liturgy, before the rite of committal. It should
not be omitted or replaced by devotional prayers. Devotional prayers may be offered in addition
to the celebration of the Vigil for the Deceased either at the time of the Vigil itself, or
at another time.
The Funeral Liturgy is the central liturgical celebration of the Christian community for the
deceased. There are two forms of the Funeral Liturgy: the Funeral Mass and the Funeral Liturgy
outside Mass. At the Funeral Liturgy the community gathers with the family and friends of
the deceased to give praise and thanks to God for Christs victory over sin and death,
to commend the deceased to Gods tender mercy and compassion, and to seek strength in
the proclamation of the paschal mystery. Presiders are reminded to follow the guidelines for
reception of Holy Communion by non-Catholics (USCC, 1996).
The OCF is very clear that "a brief homily should be given at the funeral liturgy, but
never any kind of eulogy" to replace the homily (OCF, 141). This does not mean that
the deceased cannot be spoken about in the homily, but that the Word of God must be primary.
The homilist speaks the scriptural word that helps the assembly understand that the mystery
of the death and resurrection of Jesus is operative in the life and death of the deceased.
Each parish should determine its own policy regarding whether speaking in remembrance of
the deceased will be permitted at the funeral liturgy. Visiting priests are expected to adhere
to the parish policy. After the prayer after communion, a member of the family or friend
may speak in remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation begins. This needs
to be arranged with the presider a day or two ahead of time, not minutes before the funeral
If a remembrance is permitted by the parish, the following guidelines should
The person giving the remembrance should be Catholic.
Only one person may speak (unless the words must be translated into an additional
language for the benefit of the assembly).
The remembrance should be brief; no more than 5 minutes.
The remembrance should be well prepared by the friend/family member ahead of
time so that it is focused, and does not exceed 5 minutes. If possible, a copy of the remembrance
is to be given to the presider in time to review it before the funeral liturgy.
The Order of Christian Funerals also permits speaking in remembrance of the deceased
at the Vigil for the Deceased. In fact, this is a better time to offer remembrances for the
deceased than in the funeral Mass. Encourage families to make use of this option.
Rite of Committal
The Rite of Committal is the final act of the community of faith in caring for the body of
its deceased members. There are two forms to this rite:
Rite of Committal used when the final commendation is celebrated as part
of the conclusion of the funeral liturgy.
Rite of Committal with Final Commendation used when the final commendation
does not take place during the funeral liturgy or when no funeral liturgy precedes the committal
Norms Governing When Funeral Masses May Be Celebrated Funeral Masses are not normally celebrated on these days. Every effort should be made to
avoid scheduling funeral Masses on these special days.
Triduum - Funeral Masses are not permitted
on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Funeral rites on these days make use of a
liturgy of the Word, closing with the rite of farewell (OCF, 177-203) Readings should be chosen
to reflect the nature of the day.
Sundays Funeral Masses may not be
celebrated on the Sundays of Advent, Lent and Eastertime (IGRM, 336). Funeral rites on these
days make use of a liturgy of the Word, closing with the rite of farewell (OCF, 177-203) Readings
should be chosen to reflect the nature of the day.
Masses are permitted on Sundays of Ordinary Time and Sundays of the Christmas season (GIRM,
Holy Days - Funeral Masses may not be celebrated
on holy days (GIRM, 336). Funeral rites on these days make use of a liturgy of the Word, closing
with the rite of farewell (OCF, 177-203). Readings should be chosen to reflect the nature of
the holy day.
Ash Wednesday - Funeral Masses are permitted
on Ash Wednesday (GIRM, 336)
Solemnities Funeral Masses are permitted
on solemnities (GIRM, 336).