Sadly, there have been funerals recently in our parish. Throughout the funeral services, as I helped with setting up the Church, I kept reflecting on the power of a funeral Mass. And that led to further thoughts on the importance of our sacramentals.
In many Protestant churches, they no longer have funerals…instead, there is a private burial service, and a month or so after the death, they have a memorial celebration to honor the person who has died. But, after going to both memorial services and funerals, I realize this: although honoring and celebrating the life of those who have died is important, a Catholic funeral service is monumentally more important. We are offered a powerful blessing.
The imagery is important: the casket is draped in white to remind us of the purity that was given to us at baptism. The casket sits in front of the Church during the Eucharist to remind us that we are joining together for this last holy meal, and the deceased is now receiving our Lord in a different way.
The funeral is an opportunity to cry together and to be strengthened in faith. Immediately after a death, we crave reassurance….to know that this stillness is not the end. There is life eternal in a place of bliss! Beauty, Love and Immortality are the gifts that come only after death.
When we join together to reassure each other, when we walk through the reality of Christ’s suffering and resurrection in the Liturgy, and when we receive the grace of the Eucharistic sacrament, our grief can be transformed.
I was stuck too, when the casket was closed and a family member cried out…it’s the moment of recognition that we won’t see that person again on earth. That’s when we treasure our photos and our videos. We don’t want to lose the memory of our loved ones. We hold close those images because our humanness is sensory—we want to see that person again.
It is sad that other Christians don’t have the Sacraments and sacramentals. The experience of these funerals has made me look again at the statues and paintings of Jesus, Mary and the saints. The medals, scapulars and rosaries…are sensory. They help us connect in a physical way to the very real world beyond this world.
What is not able to be seen and touched in the physical world, can be approached through our sacramentals, our sacraments and our prayers. Then the world of eternity opens before us. We know that our faithful loved ones who have died, are united with Jesus and Mary in heaven or in purgatory. Thus, when we touch our sacramentals, we are touching them! There is comfort in that. There is beauty.
And I am grateful for our Church.
Copyright 2012 Judith Costello