Thinking about your own funeral leaves most people feeling a little uneasy, but more adults are finding that planning their own funeral arrangements offers great emotional and even financial security for them and their families. Death inevitably brings with it feelings of loss and sadness for family and friends. During this time of grief, unexpected pressures can often result in hasty decisions which may be contrary to the faith and wishes of the deceased. With pre-planning, families find comfort in knowing that the funeral reflects what their loved one wanted and gives them peace of mind at a stressful time.
Our formation into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus begins with baptism. Caring for our members calls us to be schooled in death throughout the changing seasons of our lives. From the days of early childhood, many losses are encountered – some as a result of death, others simply as a consequence of daily living. Grieving these losses leads us to a fuller appreciation of the abundant life made possible when we are able to embrace death. It is through this lens that our ministry flows, inviting all who participate into a deeper experience of abundant life centered on the ‘oneness’ of life and death. Through this perspective, ‘pre-need’ planning offers multiple opportunities for formation and growth.
When death becomes an integral part of life, our members can confidently envision their earthly mortality and embrace the practical realities of planning for the time of death. Our ministry response at this time comes through the perspective of pre-need planning. The focus of this discussion extends far beyond the tangible act of securing a place of entombment, as it ultimately provides the context for continued growth in the understanding of the rituals supporting death and the traditions of the Catholic Church.
At a time when many people truncate or forego altogether the rituals supporting death, our pre-need conversations address the importance of the ritual movement in the first few days of grief surrounding death. This discussion is a vital support to understanding how each ritual – the Prayer Vigil, the Mass of the Resurrection or Liturgy of the Word and the Rite of Committal – has its own focus and task in supporting and strengthening the bereaved during this time of leave-taking.
When cremation is chosen, the entire ritual movement of the Order of Christian Funerals should still ideally be celebrated, including the Prayer Vigil, the Funeral Liturgy and the Rite of Committal. Preserving the threefold movement of the ritual allows for the greater expression of our Catholic beliefs and values, particularly the sacredness of human life, the dignity of the person and the proclamation of risen life in Christ that is now shared. The Church instructs us to treat cremated remains with the same respect as the body, including the manner in which they are reverenced and the attention given to their transport and final placement. The opportunity for early dialogue on these matters provides a context for well-informed decisions at the time of death.
The pre-need appointment is also a wonderful vehicle through which to share our multi-faceted ministry. An awareness and appreciation of our ministry provides families with peace and comfort. Many apprehensions are appeased when people feel confident that their family members will be cared for spiritually at the time of death, and that their grief journey will unfold with the compassionate support of our faith community.
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