Friday, November 22, 2019 - Updated: 1:03 pm
QUESTION: I have noticed lately that there are a lot of funeral “services” (not Masses) held for people who I know were faithful Catholics all their lives. What is this all about?
ANSWER: One possibility is that the Catholic Church does not permit funeral Masses on holy days of obligation or during the sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday). This means that some families who desire a funeral on those days choose to have a funeral service in the funeral home. But this reason only applies to a few days a year; there are also more complex reasons for funeral services that take place.
One reason might be that the deceased has requested it. People have their own reasons for doing so, and usually the family honors that request. It may also be at the specific wish of the family (some saying that “... the deceased was not a churchgoer during life, why take him/her there now?”).
It might also be that the children of the deceased are inactive Catholics or have left the Catholic Church and no longer practice any religion at all. They might be simply looking for a dignified way to conclude the funeral for their parents or relatives and choose a service in the funeral home because they have little personal inclination for anything in church.
There are some too who have left the church and belong to some religious group that is blatantly anti-Catholic. In some of these cases, and despite the long and faithful membership of the deceased in the Catholic Church, they are buried with a “service” conducted by a minister of another faith precisely because of the wishes of their children.
There are still other families who choose a service because they mistakenly believe that a funeral in church is “more expensive.” Most funeral directors are aware that Catholic parishes will bury the dead even if the family is unable to provide any offering for the organist or the church.
In the cases cited above, there are options for family members, neighbors or friends of the deceased who wish to have a Mass celebrated in memory of the deceased. Catholic parishes accept requests for special intentions at Masses celebrated with the parish. These requests are usually made to the parish office staff who will try to accommodate such requests. In this way, despite the funeral service that might have been conducted, the deceased is remembered at the Eucharist that is a foretaste of the banquet prepared for us in heaven.
Given the above, it seems very clear that people should have carefully written wills that state clearly their wishes at the time of death. Equally important is to seriously consider pre-arranging for one’s funeral now. Almost every funeral home will be of assistance in this matter. In this way, each person is assured that their expressed wishes are carried out no matter what the current faith disposition or personal preference of their children or other family members.
While a funeral service may be a good option for some, the Eucharist (a funeral Mass) is an important part of the Catholic Church’s prayer for the dead.
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.