The order of Christian funerals


(Editor’s note: Deacon Frank Agnoli presents the 13th in his series of articles on the healing sacraments. He is director of liturgy and of deacon formation for the Davenport Diocese.)
Why do we have funerals? The “Order of Christian Fun­erals” (OCF) gives three reasons: in its funeral rites “[1] the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased … and [2] ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them … with the comforting word of God and the sacrament of the eucharist” as well as [3] offers “worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life which has now returned to God” (OCF 4-5).
In order to do all three of these well, we need to remember: funerals are not about the deceased (or those who mourn them).  Just as weddings are not about the couple (or the bride); just as baptisms, first Com­munions and confirmations are not about the kids or teens. They are not the center of attention, the focus, of the liturgy. Now, before you all start writing letters to the editor, hear me out! I am not saying that we ought to ignore the deceased or the bereaved, couples or kids; that they are not important; that funerals or weddings ought to be generic. What I am saying is that our focus in the liturgy must always be on Christ, and on his Paschal Mystery. It is Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, who mediates our encounter with the Father.

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