If you have become too comfortable in the Novus Ordo what you are about to read may seem totally foreign to you, but rest assured it is the Catholic way, the way funerals were conducted for nearly 2000 years for 'Christian Burial' means 'Catholic Burial.' It does not include or recognize the Protestant church down the street that calls itself Christian yet will not accept all the Truths and Traditions of the Church Jesus Christ founded.
The ceremonies for burial include services in the church. They vary from the very elaborate to the simplest. Holy water and lighted tapers express our desire to see the departed cleansed and admitted into the kingdom of light. Incense symbolizes our wish to have prayers ascend to God.
For burial, the body of the departed should be washed, dressed modestly, and laid out neatly. This means laying out the body in a dignified and becoming manner, but leaving out all worldly vanity that savors of paganism. This includes incessant eulogies by family members and friends during the service, something the Novus Ordinarians have embraced with unbelievable novelty. We must remember that the body of the departed is sacred; it is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Something that should be of concern to many is that the Church has always sanctioned burial only up until the release of the revised Codex Juris Canonici of 1983. How many realize that it was the modern Church - the Conciliar Church that legalized cremation; something that the Pio-Benedictine 1917 Code of Canon Law strictly forbid? Canon 1240 of the latter stated clearly: "Unless they gave before death a sign of repentance, the following are deprived of ecclesiastical burial." Article 5. of six articles under this heading reads "Those who ordered that their body be handed over for cremation;" Conversely the exact corresponding heading for the new and revised Code of 1983 reduced six points to three points, the second being: "persons who had chosen the cremation of their own bodies for reasons opposed to the Christian faith." Huh?
This is more of the notorious ambiguity of Vatican II. What are "reasons opposed to the Christian faith"? They could be anything and they could be nothing and therefore cremation, once condemned by the Church has now conveniently been taken off the verbotten list. Why? Many Catholics are puzzled by this and the confusion mounts as they prepare to bury their dead in accordance with what the Church truly teaches. Another reason the 1983 Code is suspect is because among the six points for refusal of a Christian burial in the 1917 Code was prominently number one: "Notorious apostates from the Christian faith, or those who notoriously give their name to heretical sects or schismatic or masonic sects, or other societies of this sort;" Now the 1983 Code is guilty by its obvious elimination of the "masonic sects, or other societies of this sort." Instead they couch it with more ambiguity: "notorious apostates, heretics and schismatics." How convenient and how confusing. You'll note as well that around the same time the Oath Against Modernism in which St. Pius X clearly condemned "masonic sects" was also dropped even though up until after Vatican II it had been mandatory for every ecclesiatic of the Church!
It is with this serious concern that we return to what Bishop Morrow outlined and which, when in doubt, we urge you to adhere to what Pope Saint Hadrian II decreed, "The first requirement of salvation is to keep the standard of the True Faith." Therefore, we will resort to what the Church taught as true and final regarding Christian Burial below in which His Excellency intimated modern times were a threat to these vital traditions that assisted the departed after their lifelong preparation for eternity by living their Faith.
What a mockery of Christian ideals do we find only too often today, when everything possible is done to eliminate thoughts of death! The face of the deceased is rouged and retouched; the lips are painted berry red; the body is perfumed and powdered; the nails are varnished. Are we or are we not Christians? Do we honestly believe that cosmetics can help our beloved dead, that at that moment must already be suffering in Purgatory?
After the body is washed and clothed, often the family will place a crucifix between the folded hands on the breast. One or two lighted candles are set on each side of the coffin. The room should be as quiet as possible, in order that friends who can call may be able to pray. It is well to ponder on the truth, as we look at a dead face without cosmetics, that we too will some day have to arrive at our journey's end, and stand before the throne of God divested of all worldly decorations and masks. Therefore we would be wise not to worry about how we look to those we leave behind, but rather how our soul looks in God's eyes.
At all times funerals should be conducted with dignity and devotion; they should not be extravagant and beyond family means. One of the biggest problems that mushroomed in the latter part of the last century, and one where quite possibly the modern Church compromised on allowing cremations, were the exhorbitant costs of funerals and the greed of funeral parlors and casket sellers to charge through the nose for a simple burial.
Some have the tendency to have pompous funerals for dead members of their families, asserting tht it is the last thing they can give for their dead. This feeling is understandable; but it certainly shows a lack of proportion if this generous feeling results in the payments of large amounts of money for expensive caskets and grand funeral coaches, while the offering of prayers and especially of Masses is neglected.
If a family has means, suitable offerings should be given to the priest who attended the deceased during his illness, and adequate fees paid for the funeral services. Donations should be made to the Church (if one knows they are truly going to further the Faith and uphold the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church and not for more social programs, or worse, to pay off victims for scandals committed by uncommitted clergy) and alms should be given to the poor, for the repose of the soul of the deceased; charity and Masses will avail the dead person's soul more than gold caskets and truckloads of wreaths and a marble granite elaborate tombstone.
There are very solemn services accompanied by many ceremonies. There are also very simple services. God will hear the prayers during the simple as during the elaborate ceremonies, according to the devotion of those who pray.
For a truly Catholic funeral the body should be taken to the church for the blessing, and if possible, should be present at a Requiem Mass. How sad today that we do not have the security of knowing that we can rely on a true Requiem Mass when we pass from this earth. The ceremonial of the Church, up until the past several decades, was always touching and significant, and when rightly understood, benefited the living and the dead. It still is a devotion calculated to help the departed soul, who has left the Church Militant to join, for whatever time God deigns by how the soul lived his life, the Church Suffering before basking in the Beatific Vision for all eternity as a member of the Church Triumphant. The devotion the Church had sanctioned taught us all salutary lessons to those left behind.
After the ceremonies in the church, the body of the departed Catholic is borne in procession to the cemetery. At a funeral it is wrong to laugh or converse (something Novus Ordinarians are totally unaware of because of the lax ways they have been taught by even more lax leaders in whom they trusted). We should pray for the repose of the departed and and offer Mass cards for the bereaved family. There is no greater gift.
Those who accompany a funeral procession to the cemetery should observe great recolletion, and a serious demeanor. The playing of "jazz" pieces by a band during the funeral is to be condemned. Note the Bishop wrote this before Folk Masses and Rock and Roll aberrations came into prominence. If jazz was condemned, you know all other music other than the approved hymns and Gregorian Chant are likewise condemned despite the fact that the present pope relishes sharing the limelight with the likes of Bob Dylan and Aerosmith without admonishing them for the sinful ways they are advocating through their own example and music. If you doubt this, if you think we are being too prudish, we strongly recommend you read Michael Matt's Gods of Wasteland which will truly open your eyes to the satanic influence of rock and roll and how it has penetrated the modern Church. Suffice it to say, the decorum in song, speech and manner should be reverent and proper at all times. Unfortunately some people follow funerals as if they were in a worldly function, talking aloud and gossiping. A salutary thought would be to reflect that they might be the next to go that way to the cemetery.
Catholics should be buried in a Catholic cemetery, if there is one; at least the grave should be blessed. This is another of the fallout following Vatican II. For prior to the council, virtually every parish had their own cemetery or shared a large plot with other parishes. Of course the schools were full, vocations were plentiful and nuns taught the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church. So what happened? How did we forget so much so soon?
The facts are that many Catholic cemeteries were converted to the highest bidders, or went untended as old churches were abandoned and centralization took place. Fewer Catholics started to take death seriously. Evidently many thought they would live forever, but the truth is no one will get out of this world alive. One sad fact was, as we noted above, the strange and novel introduction of permitting cremation. So burial plots went the way of the Latin Mass. Sadly many fail to truly realize that a grave should be blessed because some day in God's time the bodies will rise in glory, and be united with their souls in Heaven. With that in mind is it befitting their final destiny to bury them like animal carcasses in unconsecrated ground? Worse yet, is it befitting their final destiny to have the body cremated and ashes sprinkled hither and yon? That will truly take a Heavenly miracle to reunite the scattered bodily remains with the soul!
For those who still hold burial sacred, a cross should be erected over the place of burial. Generally, the letters R.I.P. (Requiescat in pace - May he rest in peace) are engraved on the headstone. And here a word about graves and mausoleums. The holy Saint Monica, mother of Saint Augustine, said: "Bury this body wherever you please. One thing only I ask of you, and that is, remember me at the altar of the Lord."
A simple grave, an elaborate mausoleum, - it is all the same to those departed. It is, of course, natural for those who can afford it to build mausoleums where all the members of the family can be buried together. What is to be avoided is the erection of ostentatious structures that appear more like gaudy showhouses than sepulchres of Christians. Remember a simple tomb was suitable for Our Lord, it should be good enough for us. The cross should be prominent; the inscriptions should be liturgical, not taken from popular songs or sentimental rhymes, or commercialized. Living relatives must not forget to pray, to have Masses said, to give alms to the poor, as an offering for the departed soul.
Non-Catholics, Freemasons, those excommunicated as deliberate suicides, duelists, and those who ordered their bodies cremated, are denied Christian burial. There it is again, in accordance with what the Church always taught...until the postconciliar Church obliterated that line as well with the revised Canon Law to cover up so much and justify the wreckovation of the Faith.
Finally, some advice on how to console the survivor of a loved one. When someone dear to us dies, we should seek consolation from God, Who is our eternal Healer, Comforter and Friend. Nothing on earth can give lasting comfort to bereaved hearts. But if we live our Faith, the death of a beloved one should not drive us into despair; for one who goes in God's grace, "to die is gain", to die is to attain eternal union with God. For the just who die, death is truly no more. How beautiful is that? What is more of a consolation than that?
Our Blessed Lord assures us: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, even if he die, shall live; and whoever lives and believes in Me, shall never die" (John 11: 25-26).
To the bereaved, God in His infinite mercy extends, through our Mother Church, the consoling assurance of Purgatory. This knowledge, which Protestants refuse to acknowledge and believe, bridges the chasm yawning between us and our dear departed; it makes us feel that death has not cut the bonds of love uniting us with them. Instead of desolation for our loss, we find surcease for sorrow, and a practical expression of our affection in prayers and good works offered to God in behalf of our beloved dead, who may still be in Purgatory.
This is one reason for the necessity of understanding thoroughly the doctrine of Purgatory (see Installments 48 through 56 on Purgatory) As Saint Paul said: "We would not, brethren, have you ignorant concerning those who are asleep, lest you should grieve, even as others who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4: 13). Even if all souls must spend some time in Purgatory to purify us to behold the Beatific Vision, it is worth the wait. One thing that Purgatory assures: Heaven awaits!
For previous installments, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH Archives