When a loved one has died, immediate notice to the parish office is helpful for making funeral and burial arrangements through St. Patrick’s. If the office is closed you may leave a message on our emergency message system by calling 763.753.2011 and press “0″ when prompted to leave a message in our general voicemail mailbox and a staff member will contact you as soon as possible. Many people choose to have a time of visitation at a funeral home the evening before the funeral and then close the evening with the Vigil Prayers. “Vigil” means to “keep alert, to keep watch, to guard” and it comes from the days when people would stay and pray for the soul of the deceased throughout the night in the presence of the body. Today our “vigil” is a brief prayer service of about 20 minutes. In place of this prayer service the rosary may be said. A time of sharing can be very comforting and this is a fitting option following the rosary or vigil service.
The Mass of Christian Burial is the central liturgical celebration of the Christian community to offer prayers for the soul of the deceased. Two forms of a funeral liturgy are available. Most often the funeral is celebrated within the prayers of the Mass. For pastoral reasons there may be times when we celebrate the funeral without Mass either here or at a funeral home. In that case I look for a time on our calendar when we can offer a Mass for the deceased. At St. Patrick’s we generally have a one hour visitation in the gathering area before the funeral liturgy.
We are frequently asked, “What funeral homes do you work with?” The answer is, we work with all funeral homes. If a family is not familiar with the local funeral homes we will list them by location. It is up to the family to make this decision. In planning a funeral liturgy at St. Patrick’s, it is not necessary to make specific plans ahead of time. This can be covered in a planning session lasting about an hour. Sometimes when death is expected, the dying person wants to pick out songs and readings. If this is the case, we are happy to assist in anyway possible.
Today, cremation has become more popular. People frequently ask what the position of the church is on cremation. There was a time when the Church forbid cremation, but this is no longer the case. The position of the Church was in reaction to those who used cremation as a public statement against our belief in the resurrection of the body. Today there is little concern that anyone is trying to make this kind of statement. Typically, it has more to do with economics.
It is strongly preferred that the body be present for the funeral. There is frequently a therapeutic value in celebrating the funeral with the body present. When death is unexpected the presence of the body can help people to come to terms that their loved one has actually died. Cremation, if it is chosen, is to take place following the funeral. If it is necessary to have cremation prior to the funeral, all the usual rites which are celebrated with a body present are celebrated in the presence of cremated remains.
Since the human body was the temple of the Holy Spirit during life, was fed at the Eucharistic table, and will share in the bodily resurrection, there are some contemporary practices that are not acceptable for Catholics. Cremated remains are not to be scattered to the wind or the waves, used in jewelry, left on the mantel, divided among relatives or shot into the sky with fireworks. We would not treat the body this way, nor are we to treat it this way when it is in the form of ashes.
Whether burial involves the full body or cremated remains, with reverence we gather together and through the prayers of the Rite of Committal, commit our loved ones’ remains to a permanent and final resting place. For the rest of their lives, surviving relatives have a specific place to come and grieve, to give honor and to remember. This is an important benefit that burial in a cemetery provides. Cremated remains are to be treated as we would treat the body. They are to be sealed in a dignified container and buried in the ground in a cemetery or placed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The Church recommends that the place of burial be permanently memorialized with a memorial stone, marking the name and dates of birth and death of the deceased person.
St. Patrick’s is blessed to have a beautiful cemetery. If you are not familiar with the cemetery, I encourage you to drive through it. It is located just beyond the trees east of the church. For information on St. Patrick’s Cemetery please use this link or contact the parish office at 763.753.2011.
The Procession to the Place of Committal for burials at St. Patrick’s Cemetery is a short walk. This final procession of the funeral rite mirrors the journey of human life as a pilgrimage to God’s kingdom of peace and light, the new and eternal Jerusalem. As we walk, the tolling bell rings representing the years of life our loved one spent here on earth.
The Rite of Committal is the final act of the community of faith in caring for the body of its deceased member. It may be celebrated at the grave or tomb. In the Rite of Committal, we bless the grave as it will be the resting place of the body until the resurrection of the dead. Through this rite the community of faith proclaims that the grave or place of interment, once a sign of despair, has been transformed by means of Christ’s own death and resurrection into a sign of hope and promise. Through Christ even the grave becomes a sign of hope!