Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 30, 2006
Furneral remains important Catholic ritual for the dead
More and more people laid to rest without a service
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"Do not worry where you lay my body; remember me in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass."
- St. Monica
Father Raymond Guimond of Wainwright says having a funeral Mass is necessary to help relieve the deceased from purgatory. "There is nothing more valuable for them than to have a Mass celebrated for them."
Guimond said nobody is perfect and so most of us end up in purgatory purifying our souls after we die.
"As the Book of Revelation says 'nothing defiled enters into heaven.' But when we offer the Mass, because it is the sacrifice of Christ, we (help to) relieve them from purgatory."
Many bypass the funeral Mass chiefly because of ignorance about its importance, the priest said. "Sometimes the children of the deceased don't go to church themselves so they don't really understand how important it is to have a Mass."
There has always been a tradition of having a Mass said for the dead, said Father Don Stein of Sacred Heart Parish in Red Deer, using the example of St. Monica to illustrate his point.
When St. Augustine asked his mother, St. Monica, when she was dying where she wanted to be buried, she said, "Do not worry where you lay my body; remember me in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass."
"It's a Catholic tradition (and therefore) it is very important," Stein said, noting that it is in the funeral Mass where the community offers the life of the deceased to the God who created him or her. The Mass also helps bring closure to the family.
Stein said the majority of Catholics do request funeral services. "For Catholics it's a tradition that we have a funeral service and remembrance of the deceased."
Important as it is, the funeral Mass "is not absolutely necessary," Stein said.
"We can still have a funeral service using the word of God, finding the strength through God's word," he said.
"It is not an obligation (to have a funeral Mass) because sometimes there is a good reason why we don't have it. In some countries where there are no priests they have to bury the dead right away."
Another Catholic tradition is the prayer vigil or wake that is held the night before the funeral. This is a time when family prays for the deceased and also to remember his or her life.
"They are certainly to be recommended but they are not absolutely necessary," Guimond said of the vigils.
"The Irish used to call them wakes and people would drop in and say the rosary and then they would have a coffee and talk to the people and then maybe read some Scriptures and it would be an all-night vigil, which the Irish don't do too often anymore," recalled Stein.
He said prayer vigils are still popular among Catholics. "We actually use these prayer (vigils) to tell stories about the person and to pray and to celebrate that person's life because at (the funeral) Mass we don't go through the life of the person."
Drewicki doesn't think the prayer service the night before is a must but he said, "If it helps the family then I am in favour of doing it." The problem is most people request a priest at these services, which "in today's world is a bit too much."
Drewicki runs six parishes and missions and can't find the time to attend all prayer services for the deceased, which are also popular in his area.
"For the most part we are continuing to have them but with the lay people very, very much involved in the leadership of those prayer services."
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