One of the first calls I received when starting to work at the Chancery ten years ago was from an individual who was concerned because her friend had died and her family was not going to have the funeral at the parish church where her friend had attended Mass almost daily for the past 30 years.
The family was opting to just have a service at the funeral home, mostly for their own convenience she stated. Sadly this is becoming a more frequent occurrence both in our diocese and nationally.
A recent report by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) stated “the number of Americans who feel it is important to have religion as part of a funeral was down from 49.5% in 2012 to 39.5%”.
In the Order of Christian Funerals General Introduction, we hear the following: “the Church through its funeral rites commends the dead to God’s merciful love and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins. At the funeral rites, especially at the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the Christian community affirms and expresses the union of the Church on earth with the Church in heaven in the one great communion of saints.”
At the Vigil for the deceased we hear the following invitation to prayer: “My brothers and sisters, we believe all the ties of friendship and affection which knit us as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death.”
As we enter this month of November and pray for the souls of those who have preceded us in death, I would strongly encourage us to make the arrangements necessary to assure the Church is a part of your funeral preparations. Each of us in death needs and desires the prayers of our Catholic community, as we believe the spiritual bond still exists between the living and the dead. Our faith community also needs and desires an opportunity to grieve our absence from the community.
Deacon Roger Heidt is Director of Cemeteries for the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls.