HOW TO PLAN A FUNERAL:
• Contact the Funeral Home of your choice.
• While with the Funeral Director, they will contact St. Elizabeth at (413) 583-3467 to determine the availability of a priest to celebrate the funeral.
• Make sure the Funeral Director sends all pertinent information to St. Elizabeth Parish.
• Someone from our Bereavement Ministry will plan to meet with the contact person to plan the liturgy, indicating at that time various preferences, including the inclusion of music.
If you have ever wondered why Catholics have certain rituals and practices at the time of death, then you are not alone. Our faith in the Paschal Mystery (the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) reveals itself through the dying and death of each Christian. The following points are designed to invite reflection upon the meaning of what we do and believe at the time of a Christian’s death. We also hope that this section will act as a guide for you to better understand and appreciate our beliefs and practices.
In facing death, we are reminded that God has created each person for eternal life. We celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a person’s life, which has now been returned to the Author of Life. At the death of a Christian, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased. We are confident in the conviction that death is not the end nor does it break the bonds of family, friendship and community that are forged in life.
The Church, through its funeral rites, commends the dead to God’s merciful love and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins. The celebration of the Christian funeral brings hope and consolation to the living. In the Eucharistic sacrifice, the Church celebrates Christ’s Passover from death to life and our participation in this great mystery. The faith of all the baptized is renewed and nourished in this celebration. The intimate connection between the baptism of the Christian into the death and resurrection of Christ and the Eucharistic celebration is one of the main reasons for offering the Mass for the deceased.
In summary, we believe that in celebrating the funeral rites, we affirm and express the union of the Church on earth with the Church in heaven in the one great communion of saints. Though separated from the living, the dead are still at one with the community of believers on earth and benefit from their prayers and intercession. In the gathering of the community of believers with the community of saints in heaven, we offer our prayers through the person of Jesus Christ in the greatest prayer of the Church, which is the Eucharist.
WHY CATHOLICS BURY THEIR DEAD WITH DIGNITY?
When we are baptized, we believe that our bodies are marked with the seal of the Holy Trinity.
Since we are temples of the Holy Spirit, we respect and honor the bodies of the dead and their places of rest. The customs associated with the preparation of the body of the deceased are always marked with dignity and reverence and never with the despair of those who have no hope. Therefore, in the presence of the deceased, we turn to prayer. In this time of sorrow, it is through prayer that we receive the necessary grace and consoling assurances of our faith.
For the final disposition of the body, it is the ancient Christian custom to bury or entomb the bodies of the dead in a consecrated and holy place.
IS CREMATION ALLOWED IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?
While the Church encourages burial of the body, after the manner of Christ’s own burial, out of respect for the human body and belief in the resurrection, cremation may be chosen for a sufficient reason, such as hygienic or other reasons of a public nature; transfer of the remains to/from a distant place; avoidance of considerable expense.
When cremation is designated, the funeral rites are conducted in the usual way with the body present and cremation taking place after the celebration of the Funeral Mass at the church.
In unusual circumstances when the bodily remains are cremated before the Funeral Mass, we still celebrate the Mass with the cremated remains present in the church and with the appropriate ritual adaptations. The cremated remains are always buried or interred. They are not buried on private land but in consecrated ground in a cemetery. It is not proper to scatter or pour the cremated remains over the sea, water, or on the land. This action does not give due respect to the remains of the deceased, nor does it allow for the closure and healing of family and friends. Likewise, housing the remains with family or friends and not placing the deceased in the ground, does not offer loved ones a specific and sacred place to visit the Christian. Visiting the deceased in a holy place provides believers with a space to offer prayers, commune with those who have gone before us in faith, and reminds us to await the resurrection of our own bodies.