Dear Parishioner/Family



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Dear Parishioner/Family,

Please accept our condolences on the loss of your loved one. Understandably, right now you are probably feeling confused, sad, stunned, even overwhelmed by your loss. The Roman Catholic funeral ceremony should offer both comfort in this present sorrow and great hope for the future. Each Sunday when we gather together as God’s family to celebrate the Eucharist, we profess our faith in “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” (Nicene Creed) When someone we love dies, we are challenged to say these ancient words with renewed faith and conviction.

In the past, you have loved others, comforted them, and shared their losses. During the hours ahead, it will be your turn, your time to be loved, to be comforted, and to let others share your grief. There will be times when tears come regardless of efforts to control them, but you will be surprised at the wonderful support you will receive from others. The words and embraces of friends and relatives, their prayers, their phone calls, and written notes, their silent presence at the family residence or at the viewing/calling will raise you from the depths and help you to carry on. That is the primary purpose of wakes or calling hours. They make it possible for others to share your sorrow, to lend you support, and to pray for your departed loved one.

Christians, however, find hope in the midst of their many tears. We believe that death is not an end, but a beginning; that a beloved has passed through death from this present, temporary life to a perfect, permanent one; that he or she who saw God in faith on earth now sees the Lord face to face in heaven; that while death separates us now, it is only for a time.



The Funeral Mass expresses our faith in Jesus’ victory over death and our personal share in His resurrection. It does so through prayers and blessings, through songs and readings, through ceremonies and symbols. Take a few moments and read through the following information about some of the things you may see and hear at a Funeral Mass. These may make the liturgy in church more understandable and more consoling.

  • The color of the priest’s vestments We grieve the loss of a loved one (purple or black); we celebrate his/her hope in eternal life through the resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ (white). If you have a preference, you may choose white, purple, or black vestments.

  • Passages from Holy Scripture Among the many resources open to you in the funeral liturgy is a list of more than 40 Scriptural readings. You may select three: one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and one from the Gospels. Commonly used passages are included later in this booklet to make it easy for you to make a selection. Practice from these sheets. During Mass all readings will be done from the Lectionary.

  • Music Music affects our feelings and the atmosphere in which we pray. It expresses well our inner thoughts. Easter tunes which speak of the Lord’s resurrection are particularly appropriate. A list of appropriate and commonly used songs/hymns is provided toward the end of this booklet for your convenience.

  • The Easter or Paschal Candle For 50 days after Easter, the large Paschal Candle stands in the Sanctuary. It symbolizes the Risen Christ; telling us He has conquered sin and death, and now lives in our midst. In the Catholic Funeral service, we place the Paschal Candle before the casket as a reminder that the deceased, through his/her death, shares in that victory of Jesus over the powers of darkness.

  • Sprinkling of the casket. We first share in the resurrection of the Lord through Baptism. At the font, saving waters poured over our bodies made us Christians and sharing in the life of Christ. When the priest sprinkles Holy Water over the casket during the service, it recalls that initial washing in Baptism. It is this which gives us the basis for hope in attaining Eternal Life.

  • Incensing of the body. As Christians, we believe the body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit and one day will be resurrected by God’s mighty power. During the Funeral Mass, the priest walks around the casket and incenses the body as a sign of our respect for the remains; as a symbol of the community’s prayers for the deceased rising to the throne of God; and as a final farewell or commendation of this departed one to God.

  • Placing the Pall. A funeral pall, reminding us of the white garment given at baptism; and, therefore, symbolizing our life in Christ, is draped over the coffin at the beginning of the liturgy. Family members or friends are encouraged to do this. The use of this pall also signifies that all are equal in the eyes of God. (James 2:1-9)

  • Symbols of the Christian life. A small symbol of the Christian life may be carried in the procession by a family member or friend and placed on the coffin. This may be a Bible as a sign that Christians live by the Word of God, and that fidelity to that Word leads to Eternal Life. It might also be a Cross as a sign that the Christian is marked by the Cross in Baptism, and through Jesus’ suffering on the Cross, is brought to the victory of His Resurrection. The priest recites a prayer to accompany this placing of the symbol on the casket.

  • Reconciliation. People who are alienated from God, the church, family members, or others often are touched by the experience of death and wish to become reconciled. The parish priest will be happy to assist in that process. If you think this would be helpful, contact the local priest to make arrangements.

  • Funeral homily and family remarks. The priest or deacon will give a brief homily based on your choice of the Scripture readings. While this is not meant to be any kind of eulogy, the homilist will, nevertheless, find it helpful to speak with you about the deceased’s life so he can better integrate those particular texts and the reasons for your selections into his message.

Following the prayer after Communion and before the final commendation, one member or one friend of the family may speak briefly (3-5 mins.) in remembrance of the deceased. This is an occasion to cite some of the ways in which the departed has inspired us and deepened our faith through his/her life on earth. (Please see the gold paper at the end of this packet.) Mass is not the appropriate time to share funny anecdotes about the deceased or to reminisce about family vacations, etc. Those wonderful stories should be shared; however, this can be done at a family gathering, funeral luncheon, or during calling hours.

  • Presentation of Offertory Gifts The church encourages family members or friends at the Funeral Mass to bring to the altar the bread and wine. Flowers may also be brought to the Blessed Virgin Mary at this time. A vase will be placed there for you, should you wish to present flowers.



  • Holy Communion. This is the most perfect way to share in the Funeral Mass. The church encourages you and those present to do so. However, it is important that those intending to receive Holy Communion during the Funeral Mass actually be in communion with the church – i.e., a practicing Catholic; and in the state of grace. Although it is our desire that we are all united in Christ, the reality is that we are not. The words of Jesus in St. John have great meaning here: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has life eternal, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6:54)

  • Final Commendation and Committal. The last ceremony after Mass and at the cemetery is called a Liturgy of Final Farewell or Commendation and Committal. In some ways, this is the most difficult time, for it is a final good-bye to one we have loved through life. But, again, the support of friends and the comfort of faith tell us that it is and it isn’t final - a separation, yes, but only a temporary one; an end, yes, but more, a beginning. The following prayer, one of several which conclude the graveside service, summarizes these thoughts:

Our brother/sister N. has gone to his/her rest in the peace of Christ. May the Lord now welcome him/her to the table of God’s children in heaven. With faith and hope in eternal life, let us assist him/her with our prayers.

Let us pray to the Lord, also, for ourselves. May we who mourn be reunited one day with our brother/sister. Together may we meet Christ Jesus when He, who is our life, appears in glory. (#216, Order of Christian Funerals)

  • Personalized memorial cards and participation booklets/programs. If you have the time and the desire, you may wish to prepare more individualized memorial cards to be handed out before the Mass and/or programs to help people participate during the service. This takes some effort and involves a bit of a rush.

One of the ways we profess our belief in the resurrection is to celebrate a Mass of Christian Burial for our beloved deceased. The Catholic liturgy provides courage and comfort for those mourning the death of one they loved. However, the more the family, relatives and friends actively plan and participate in the ceremony itself, the deeper will be the consolation and strength they experience.

This booklet has been designed to facilitate such active involvement in preparing for and taking part in the Funeral Mass of Christian Burial.

Please know that you and your family are in our thoughts and in our prayers at this difficult time.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of Saint Helena, bless you and keep you.

Msgr. Joseph J. Nicolo

Saint Helena Church, Blue Bell, PA

MASS OF CHRISTIAN BURIAL

FIRST READING (from the Old Testament)

Choose One

1. He acted in an excellent and noble way as he had the resurrection of the dead in view.



2 Maccabees 12:43-46

A reading from the second Book of Maccabees:

Judas, the ruler of Israel, took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this, he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.

The Word of the Lord.

2. I know that my Vindicator lives.

Job 19:1, 23-27a

A reading from the Book of Job:

Job answered Bildad the Shuhite and said:

Oh, would that my words were written down!

Would that they were inscribed in a record:

That with an iron chisel and with lead they were cut in the rock forever!

But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust;

Whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another’s, shall behold him;

And from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing.
The Word of the Lord.

3. As sacrificial offerings, He took them to Himself.



Wisdom 3:1-9 (Long version)

A reading from the Book of Wisdom:

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction, and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.

For if before men, indeed they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality;

Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace, He proved them, and as sacrificial offerings He took them to Himself.

In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; They shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their King forever.

Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.

The Word of the Lord.

OR

Wisdom 3:1-6, 9 (Short version)

A reading from the Book of Wisdom:

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction, and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.

For if in the eyes of men, indeed they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality;

Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them, and found them worth of Himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.

Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.

The Word of the Lord

4. An unsullied life, the attainment of old age.

Wisdom 4: 7-15

A reading from the Book of Wisdom:

The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years.

Rather, understanding is the hoary crown for men, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age.

He who pleased God was loved; he who lived among sinners was transported –snatched away, lest wickedness pervert his mind or deceit beguile his soul;

For the witchery of paltry things obscures what is right and the whirl of desire transforms the innocent mind.

Having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness.

But the people saw and did not understand, nor did they take this into account.

The Word of the Lord.

5. He will destroy death forever.



Isaiah 25:6a, 7-9

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples.

On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever.

The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken.

On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”

The Word of the Lord.

6. It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.



Lamentations 3:17-26

A reading from the Book of Lamentations:

My soul is deprived of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is.

I tell myself my future is lost, all that I hoped for from the Lord.

The thought of my homeless poverty is wormwood and gall; remembering it over and over leaves my soul downcast within me.

But I will call this to mind, as my reason to have hope:

The favors of the Lord are not exhausted; His mercies are not spent;

They are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness.

My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.

Good is the Lord to one who waits for Him to the soul that seeks Him;

It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.

The Word of the Lord.

7. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.

Daniel 12:1-3

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel:

In those days, I, Daniel, mourned and heard this word of the Lord:

At that time, there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people;

It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.

At that time, your people shall escape; everyone who is found written in the book.

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake;

Some shall live forever; others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament.

And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.

The Word of the Lord.

FIRST READING (from the New Testament during the Easter Season only)

(Note: During the Easter Season, one of the following four readings is used as a first reading instead of a passage from the Old Testament.)


Choose One

8. He is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.



Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43 (Long version)

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles:

Peter proceeded to speak, saying:

“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him. You know the word that He sent to the children of Israel as He proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the Devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that He is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who Believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins through His name.”

The Word of the Lord.

OR

Acts of the Apostles 10:34-36, 42-43 (Short version)

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles:

Peter proceeded to speak, saying:

“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him. You know the word that He sent to the children of Israel as He proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that He is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins through His name.”

The Word of the Lord.

9. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.

Revelation 14:13

A reading from the Book of Revelation:

I, John, heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” said the Spirit, “let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.”

The Word of the Lord.

10. The dead were judged according to their deeds.

Revelation 20:11-21:1

A reading from the Book of Revelation:

I, John, saw the large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from His presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death.) Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

The Word of the Lord.

11. There shall be no more death.



Revelation 21:1-5a, 6b-7

A reading from the Book of Revelation:

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be His people and God Himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”

The One who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be My son.”

The Word of the Lord.

MASS OF CHRISTIAN BURIAL

SECOND READING (from the New Testament)

Choose One

1. Since we are now justified by His Blood, we will be saved through Him from the wrath.



Romans 5:5-11

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans:

Brothers and sisters:

Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by His Blood, will we be saved through Him from the wrath. Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by His life. Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

The Word of the Lord.

2. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.



Romans 5:17-21

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans:

Brothers and sisters:

If, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression, condemnation came upon all; so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous. The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Word of the Lord.
3. We too might live in newness of life.

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