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CATHOLICS AND DEATH

Death will be a difficult period for your family and not the best time for making serious decisions. The Bay Area Funeral Consumers Association (BA-FCA) assists you in making funeral arrangements now. This reduces the stress and strain at the time of death.

To be a Catholic means to confront death as Jesus did, to face it with courage and faith, eliminating pomp and display. BA-FCA has over 60 years of experience in promoting these simple and economical funerals. 

THE CATHOLIC CONCERN

In all matters concerning funerals, the Church has one thought uppermost: that we be honest about death as about life. The official Roman Ritual states very beautifully that, “Bodies of the faithful, which were temples of the Holy Spirit, should be shown honor and respect, but any kind of pomp and display should be avoided.” Embracing simplicity and directness is the most reverent way a family can celebrate Christian death and give witness to the larger community concerning our belief that Life is not ended, but changed.”

CEMETERY ARRANGEMENTS

BA-FCA does not currently have a list of cooperating cemeteries. However, Catholic cemeteries are non-profit institutions. Every effort is made to keep charges reasonable. Inability to meet burial costs never keeps one from being buried in a Catholic cemetery. A Catholic may also choose not to be buried in a Catholic cemetery.

 
FOUR FUNERAL ALLIANCE PLANS

Traditional Funeral
Plan B-3—Burial with a Funeral Service is perfectly acceptable to Catholics. The family can reduce expenses by simplifying the casket and constraining services used.

Simple Burial & Graveside Service
Plan B-2— A simple graveside ceremony would be scheduled at the cemetery. Generally there is no viewing of the body in church or funeral home, so embalming and cosmetics would not be necessary. Religious services or memorial would be at the discretion of the family, without the body present. The value and consoling power of Catholic worship does not depend upon the body being present. 

Direct Burial
Plan B-1—Direct burial is the simplest plan. It accepts death as death, doing away with viewing, cosmetics, and embalming. The body would be simply buried at the convenience of the funeral home and cemetery, with no graveside service scheduled. Religious and memorial services would be at the discretion of the family, without the body present. 

Simple Cremation
Plan C-1—Catholics are now allowed to have their dead cremated. It is the right of the people. Cremation may, for various reasons, be the most necessary, dignified, and comfortable funeral arrangement. Mass and/or Vigil would generally take place without the body present. It is allowed that cremated remains be present in the church during a funeral service. The Church recommends that cremains should be reverently buried or entombed in a cemetery or mausoleum.

 
CATHOLIC RELIGIOUS SERVICES AT THE TIME OF DEATH

The official Roman Ritual states that, “Between the time of death and burial there should be sufficient opportunities for the people to pray for the dead and profess their own faith in eternal life.”

1. The Church encourages families to pray the Rosary among themselves at home or at the funeral home before or after the Vigil service in the parish church. The body may or may not be present. The Church is, however, placing a renewed emphasis on the use of Scripture at Vigils. Sometimes a Decade of the Rosary is prayed during the Vigil at the special request of the family, but it is not the main part of the Vigil. In the absence of a priest, a lay person may lead the Vigil.

2. The Eucharistic celebration is central to the Catholic way of celebrating death, God’s love for us, and eternal life. Mass is the ordinary way of praying at funerals. While it has been traditional to celebrate the Eucharist on the morning of the burial, the custom is growing of having Mass in the evening. This allows more people to attend than when it is held in the morning. If Mass is held in the evening, then family and friends go directly from their homes to the cemetery the next morning at the appointed time.

3. Personal taste may lead the family to have a single Eucharistic service without the Vigil.

Contact your parish priest about all services.

LIVING MEMORIALS ARE ENCOURAGED
Christians are concerned with life. It is therefore most appropriate that a family should consider, insofar as it is possible, leaving a living memorial which both honors the deceased and benefits the living. Your pastor is ready to counsel you in this matter. Often families ask that friends give not flowers, but money to a chosen memorial fund or charity.

BIBLIOGRAPHY ON DEATH
A Grief ObservedC. S. Lewis
Concerning Death: A Practical Guide for 
the LivingE. A. Grollman
Helping Children with the Mystery 
of DeathElizabeth Reed
On Death and DyingElisabeth Kubler-Ross
On Becoming a WidowClarissa Start
A View from the HearseJoseph Bayly


SCRIPTURAL TEXTS HELPFUL AT THE TIME OF DEATH

Psalms 23, 39, 46, 90, 121, 130
John Ch. 14
Romans Ch. 8
I Corinthians Ch. 15
II Corinthians Ch. 4 and 5
I Thessalonians Ch. 4
Revelations Ch. 7, 21, 22

 
QUESTIONS CATHOLICS MAY ASK ABOUT FUNERALS
Must a body be embalmed? No. In California there is no law requiring embalming except in extraordinary circumstances.

May Catholics be cremated? Yes, and with Church approval, as long as it is chosen from honest motives such as simplicity, economics, or even fear of being buried.

May Catholics donate their bodies and organs to science? As long as reverence for the body is shown, such donation is encouraged.

Is viewing the body necessary and therapeutic? Viewing is something left to the discretion of the family. It may help one family, another it may not.

What is the Catholic point of view on funerals? More than anything else, the Church wants her people to face death as it really is, and celebrate the resurrection through the experience of death. This is why we are encouraged to avoid pomp and display.

Does the Church charge for funerals?
There is no cost. A free-will offering is made according to one’s circumstances. While organ music and singing are optional, these people are professionals and expect remuneration. Ask the priest about such fees.