Sacraments and Rites

Rite of Christian Burial

Our Deepest Sympathy...

We direct these words in particular to those who have lost loved ones. The parish clergy, the pastoral staff and the parishioners of Saint Kilian Parish offer our prayerful support especially at this time of your loss. We want you to know that in the days and months ahead we are willing to be of whatever help we might be to you. We are also aware that we cannot remove your pain, but we hope to be able to assist you in whatever way possible as you attempt to find God's loving presence even in the midst of suffering. In addition to the parish clergy and pastoral staff, there is a bereavement group within the parish which also may be of help to you.

Below, please find information to assist in planning a Funeral Liturgy and celebrating the Rites of Christian Burial. Selections for readings, songs and family member participation in the Mass. You may also download this information for ease of printing by selecting from the following:

Pastoral Principles
The Catholic Church celebrates the Rites of Christian Burial chiefly for two reasons (as given in The Order of Christian Funerals, article four):

  1. "The Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased" and
  2. "The Church ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them with the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Eucharist."

Responding to this directive of the universal Church, Saint Kilian Parish takes seriously its responsibility to minister to those who have died and to their families and loved ones. We do so in several ways, most notably, in the way we celebrate the liturgical rites provided for the deceased.

Within the limits of available pastoral staff and facilities, this parish will celebrate the Rites of Christian Burial for all those who seek them (except those who are prohibited from receiving such rites by the universal law of the Church).

While it is expected that the Rite of Christian Burial be celebrated for baptized Catholics, the Catholic Church also permits the rites to be celebrated for unbaptized children (of Christian families) as well as baptized members of non-Catholic communities of faith.

While the Catholic Church continues to encourage the ancient custom of burying the dead, cremation is permitted (unless it is evident that cremation was chosen by the deceased or the family for reasons contrary to Catholic faith e.g. because of lack of faith in the resurrection of the dead). Where cremation is to take place, the following are the options for a funeral liturgy:

  1. The body may be brought to the church for the funeral Mass and then cremation follows.
  2. Cremation may take place and the funeral Mass is celebrated in the presence of the ashes;
  3. A service of prayer and Scripture reading may take place in the funeral home with cremation following.

Please note that it is the Church's expectation that out of respect for the remains of the deceased, the ashes of cremated persons should be buried or entombed.

Special pastoral care is appropriate in the case of a person who dies as a result of suicide. While the Catholic Church would never condone such action, neither does it pass judgement on such a person. For it is quite possible that the person committing suicide was not in full possession of their rational faculties at the time of the act. Nor are we able to determine precisely the emotional or faith disposition of the person at the moment of death. Therefore, it is the normal pastoral response to provide for such persons all the appropriate rites of Christian burial . These rites are also provided in view of the family's special need for the prayerful support of the Christian community.

The Rite of Christian Burial provides for a variety of prayerful celebrations. While the traditional practice is the celebration of a funeral Mass, circumstances may dictate a preference for a service of Scripture and prayer in the funeral home (and/or at the cemetery). This might be appropriate where the family or loved ones are not of the Catholic faith, or where the deceased has never been a active Catholic. If there are questions regarding this matter, the parish clergy would be happy to discuss them with the family.

At the same time, persons who regularly participated in the celebration of the Eucharist should not be deprived of the funeral Mass simply because few (if any) relatives and/or friends might attend. The number of mourners should not be the determining factor in whether or not a funeral Mass is celebrated.

Occasionally, people will ask whether or not a deceased person will be denied Christian burial because he or she did not receive the "last rites." The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (not "last rites") is the Church's prayer for health and healing. It is not administered to those who have died. Nor is the reception of this sacrament required in order for a person to be buried from the Church.

Parish Policies
We welcome the presence of other priests as concelebrants at funeral Masses. If the family requests another priest to conduct the entire funeral, the family should contact the priest, verify his availability and ask him to contact Saint Kilian Parish to confirm his willingness to celebrate the Rites of Christian Burial at Saint Kilian Parish. Unless we hear from the priest we will not assume his presence.

Normally, the clergy of the parish will visit the family of the deceased in the funeral home sometime before the funeral. If the family wishes the priest to pray with them, they should indicate that. If they wish the rosary to be said, we will oblige, but our preference is for a brief Service of the Word.

Normally the clergy of Saint Kilian Parish do not conduct any type of concluding service in the funeral home immediately before the body is brought to the church for the funeral.

Generally, the clergy of Saint Kilian Parish will accompany the body to the cemetery. However, in some instances, this may not be possible (e.g. because of the number of funerals on a given day, or the distance to the cemetery). In such cases, the parish will provide a "Rite of Committal" which may be used by the funeral director, family member, or others.

If a flag covers the casket when it is brought to the church, it must be removed so that the funeral pall (large white cloth) may be placed upon the casket.

If the family wishes, funeral flowers may be brought to the church for the funeral and left there following the funeral as a memorial to the deceased (usually this is limited to two baskets or arrangements). During Lent and Advent when the churches are not decorated with flowers, they will be removed following the funeral.

Families may participate in Funeral Masses at Saint Kilian Parish in the following ways:

  1. Placing the pall (white cloth) over the casket at the beginning of the liturgy
  2. Placing some religious symbol upon the pall
  3. eading the first or second Scriptural readings
  4. Being part of the procession with the gifts (usually two people)
  5. Making some brief remark at the end of the liturgy
  6. Selecting Scripture readings and hymns to be used during the liturgy

This type of participation is entirely optional and those wishing to do so will find appropriate places to note this on the Funeral Litergy Planning Sheet online or in PDF printable format.