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National Fallen

Firefighters Foundation

 

 

FUNERAL TRADITIONS

A SUMMARY OF THE PRACTICES OF DIFFERENT FAITHS RELATED TO DEATH AND FUNERALS.

Editors Note: The following is a collection of information collected from different sources. Effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but chaplains should always check with local leaders of faith groups to determine current practices in their area.

COPYRIGHT 2005 FEDERATION OF FIRE CHAPLAINS

 

THE CATHOLIC FUNERAL RITE

Introduction to the Roman Catholic Church

 

Of all the Christian religions in the world, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest, claiming approximately one billion members worldwide. In the United States there are about fifty-five million members.

 

Catholics believe that Jesus Christ was the founder of their Church, since He was the one who brought salvation to the world. They also believe that the Church has preserved the teachings of Christ and that the Holy Spirit guides the Church through its ministry.

 

The Pope is the head of the Church and is the Bishop of Rome. The College of Cardinals serves directly under the Pope and take care of the administrative duties of the Church, as well as electing a new Pope when it becomes necessary. Archbishops serve as heads of archdiocese, which are geographical groupings of the many dioceses across the world. Individual Bishops then preside over a geographical grouping of the hundreds of parishes, with each parish being served by a Monsignor or Priest.

 

In regard to funeral rites, the Roman Catholic Church believes that all Catholics should be buried from the Church with a Mass. There is no actual charge for being buried from the church. The funeral director should be able to guide the family as to the practices if an honorarium is customarily given to the celebrant.

 

The appropriate place to conduct a funeral service is in the church where the individual has received the sacraments over his or her lifetime. Theologically this belief is based on the words of St. Monica, the Mother of St. Augustine. As she lay dying, she sad to her son, "When I die, dispose of my body any way you wish. All that I ask of you is that you remember me at the altar of God".

 

Notification of Clergy

The practice of notifying the deceased clergyman when the death occurred was at one time a common as well as sensible practice. Today however, this practice can in no way be considered the usual practice. Factors such as the time of death, the place where the death occurred, and the relationship between the family and clergy each play a role in the family's decision as to the appropriate time to notify the clergy that the death has occurred. This might especially be true in those cases when the death was expected and where the sacrament of the sick had already been administered.

 

Removal of the Remains

 

Generally speaking there are no Church restrictions that would prohibit removal of the remains at the time of death. In those cases where the deceased was a clergy or the member of a religious order there may be delays in making removal should there be a desire for special prayers by members of the order prior to removal.

 

Preparation of the Remains

 

There are no specific restrictions as to the preparation of the remains of laypersons. Religious articles worn by laypersons should be removed, recorded and replaced after the preparation of the body. The family should then be asked if these religious articles are to be left on the body or removed and returned to the family prior to final disposition. . If the deceased is a clergyman or a member of a religious order, there may be restrictions as to the preparation of the remains. For instance, in some communities it may be requested that the embalming be done in the convent, monastery or rectory rather than in the funeral home. Since the church is considered the family of clergy and members of religious orders, the funeral home should check with the individual within the church, monastery or convent to obtain instructions and authorization to prepare the remains.

 

Dressing and Casketing the Remains

 

A deceased layperson should be dressed in clothing selected by the family. Members of the clergy will be dressed in the robes of the station of their priesthood. Members of religious orders should also be attired in the robes of their position. In some religious communities, the role of dressing and casketing the clergy or members of a religious order may be the responsibility of designated members of the specific order.

 

Religious objects may be placed in the hands, as requested by the family or church officials. The rosary beads are most commonly used, and are usually placed in the decease's hands. A Crucifix, sacred heart or other objects of religious significance may be plated in the head panel, foot panel, on or near the casket.

 

Pre-service Considerations

 

At the time the casketed remains are ready for viewing, they are placed in the funeral home stateroom or chapel, the church or some other appropriate place. In addition to the casket, vigil candles are normally placed at each end of the casket. A prie dieu is placed in front of the casket and a crucifix behind the foot panel of the casket. A Mass Card stand should be placed at a convenient position near the register stand or in the chapel. Prayer cards may also be provided by the funeral home. Depending upon the location chosen for visitation and viewing, the playing of music and the displaying of flowers may or may not be used

 

The Wake

 

A Rosary Service or Wake will usually be held in the funeral home, family home or church the evening before the funeral Mass. The purpose of the Rosary or Wake is to, provide the community the opportunity to share with the family a series of prayers. It is meant to offer a time of reflection on the meaning of life, death and eternal life. A priest, a layperson, a member of the family, or even the funeral director may lead this service. If a priest is to lead the service, the time should be set only after direct communication has been made with the priest. This service is normally scheduled by the family and approved by the church during the funeral arrangement conference. The priest is free to substitute various scripture readings where circumstances indicate a different reading would be timelier. The people in attendance may recite portions (responses) or for simplicity the priest may conduct the whole service. The wake service is not meant to replace the funeral Mass.

 

Pre-Mass Consideration

 

The funeral Mass will normally take place at the church. There are several options that may determine the activities of the funeral home staff, the family and those who will be attending the funeral Mass. If the family chooses to meet at the funeral home prior to the Mass they may be led in a series of prayers prior to leaving for the church. If a priest is in attendance he may lead the prayers. However, a layperson, family member or the funeral director may also lead the prayers. At the appropriate time, the funeral director may announce the departure to the church and dismiss the friends, allowing them to pay their last respects before moving outside to their automobiles. After the friends have gone, the family can then be given time for a final private farewell. After the family returns to their automobiles, the funeral home staff can close the casket, placing the Crucifix on top of the casket head panel and prepare to move in procession to the church.
 

The Catholic Funeral Rite

 

(The following is the Rite outlined and promulgated by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States of America.  This Rite will have variations according to Conference of Catholic Bishops in their particular country.)

The following information was taken from the Order of Christian Funerals with Cremation Rite, published by Catholic Book Publishing Company 1998.

 

Vigil for the Deceased

 

Introductory Rites Greeting

Opening Song Invitation to Prayer

Opening Prayer Liturgy of the Word

Old or New Testament Reading

Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

Homily

Prayer of Intercession

Litany

The Lord's Prayer Concluding Prayer

Concluding Rite

Blessing

 

Transfer of the Body to the Church or the Place of Committal

 

Invitation

Scripture Verse

     Litany

The Lord's Prayer

Invitation to the Procession

Procession to the Church of to the Place of Committal

 

Funeral Mass

 

Introductory Rites

Greeting

Sprinkling with Holy Water (recalling the deceased Baptism)

[Placing of the Pall]

Entrance Procession

[Placing of Christian Symbols]

 
 

Liturgy of the Word

Old Testament Reading Responsorial Psalm

New Testament Reading Gospel

Homily

General Intercessions

Liturgy of the Eucharist

Final Commendation Invitation to Prayer

Silence

[Signs of Farewell]

Song of Farewell

Prayer of Commendation Procession to the Place of Burial

 

Rite of Committal

 

Invitation

Scripture Verse

Prayer over the place of Committal

Committal

Intercessions

The Lord's Prayer

Concluding Prayer

Prayer over the People

Special Rites (e.g. Military, Fraternal Organizations, etc.)

 

Note: The above is an outline of current practice. It is important to contact the priest who is to celebrate the funeral prior to making Departmental arrangements, It is also a good idea to bring a copy of the Federation Funeral Rite for the priest to review and use.

Other publications of interest regarding celebrations: Sourcebook of Funerals and Sourcebook of Weddings. Both are published by Communication Resources, Inc. 4150 Belden Village St. NW, Canton, Ohio 44718 www.ComResources.com

 

Guidelines for Cremation

 

            The Church, through the centuries, has followed the practice of burial or entombment after the manner of Christ's own burial entombment -out of respect for the human body and faith in the resurrection. It is still the express will of the Church that this hallowed and traditional practice be maintained. However, recognizing particular circumstances and varying cultures and customs in different parts of the world, the Church issued an instruction in 1963 on cremation which allows some latitude under certain conditions for those Catholics who request their bodies be cremated.

 

It is evident that the Church no longer prohibits cremation, as long as cremation is not chosen out of any anti-Christian motive or antagonism. However, because the Church will allow cremation does not mean the Church has no exceptions as to how cremation will fit into the scheme of the Catholic Funeral Liturgy.

 

Because of the structure of the Roman Catholic liturgy and the long-standing tradition of honoring the body of the deceased, the Church presumes that cremation is a process that takes place after the funeral mass and final commendation. It is an alternate option to burial or entombment.

 

There are always exceptions to every rule or guideline but the norm for Roman Catholics who choose cremation over burial or entombment, is to follow the scheme set out in the Order of Christian Funerals.

 

1.    Wake service (with the body present)

2.    Funeral Mass (with the body present)

3.    Final Commendation to take place at:

                   a.    Cemetery for earth burial

                   b.    Mausoleum for entombment

                   c.    Cemetery for cremation

                   d.    Church for cremation.    Crematory chapel for cremation

 

When cremation is chosen there is a fourth step beyond the final commendation. The remains (cremation ashes) are to be buried or entombed in consecrated ground or a columbarium.

 

Under no circumstances are they to be left with the funeral home or crematory, taken home or scattered. They are to be given the dignity of a Christian burial. With the practice of cremation before funeral ization, the Mass is discouraged. It is not permitted to bring the ashes to Church for the funeral mass.

 

Cremation is an exception to the normal practice of Christian Burial, Post cremation Memorial Masses are an exception to the rule and are not to be confused or seen as a substitution for a Mass of Christian Burial.

THE EPISCOPAL FUNERAL RITE

Introduction to the Episcopal Church

 

The Episcopal Church is one of the traditionally liturgical denominations. With its roots in the Catholic tradition around 314 AD., the Anglicans (so called because of their decendancy from the Church of England) were separated from the Pope by declaration of King Henry VIII in the 16th century.

 

Although a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, only the churches in the United States and Scotland use the word Episcopal, which comes from the Greek word episkopos meaning bishops. This emphasizes the roles of the bishop as the chief symbols of unity and continuity with the church of all ages, and as the chief pastors.

 

The Episcopal Church has both Catholic and Protestant ties. They retain all of the ancient sacraments, creeds and orders of the Catholic Church while rejecting the idea that the Bishop of Rome (Pope) has authority over the Church.

 

Formed in the United States in 1789, there are approximately three million Episcopalians in the United States today.

 

Notification of the Clergy

 

Although it is not necessary to notify the clergy prior to or at the time of a death, it is generally accepted and usually appreciated by the priests that they are notified in a timely manner.

 

Removal of Remains

There are no restrictions for the removal of the remains of lay members. However, there may be restrictions for certain members of the clergy or different orders.

 

Preparation of Remains

There are no guidelines as to the type or amount of preparations that are to take place. Since members of the denomination accept internment, entombment, and cremation as viable means of disposition, the use of embalming may or may not be desired.

 

Pre-Service Considerations

For those families choosing a traditional funeral, it is customary to hold visitation at the funeral home.

 

The Funeral Service

 

It is strongly encouraged that the funeral service be held in the Episcopal Church. With the exception of the altar, flowers are generally not displayed when the funeral id held in the church. The service begins with the processional of the pall-covered casket, led by the crucifier and followed by the bishop or priest, the casket bearers and casket, and the family.

 

The Episcopal Church is classified as a liturgical protestant church and, as such, will follow a prescribed order of worship that will be less consistent throughout the country or world. The order is found in the Book of Common Prayer.

 

Prior to or during the service, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (communion) may be observed. The celebration provides observers an opportunity to thank God for His Blessings and to pray for the soul of the deceased.

 

The focus of the sermon is to teach the church's beliefs concerning death that centers on the view that death is the beginning of a new life, re-united with God. No eulogy as such is normally given as it is considered the prerogative of God to judge and commend.

 

The use of hymns is commonly practiced with the congregation singing songs dealing with the resurrection and God the Son's victory over death. At the conclusion of the service, the casket is taken from the church in a recessional and the pall removed prior to being placed back in the funeral coach. An American flag or flowers may be placed on the casket at this point.

 

The Committal Service

If internment or entombment is chosen as a final means of disposition, the committal service will likely be held at the cemetery or mausoleum. The service will be composed of prayer, a short scripture reading, and the symbolic committal of the casketed remains to its final resting place. The priest will often use sand or flower petals to make the sign of the cross on the closed casket.

  

THE LUTHERAN FUNERAL RITE

 

Introduction to the Lutheran Church

 

The Lutheran Church began in 1517 as a protest by Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, who refused to abide certain demands of the Pope and the Catholic Church, marking the beginning of the protestant movement. Today there are over nine million Lutherans belonging to different synods, or branches of the Lutheran Church. Within each synod the local churches are self-governing, electing synod leaders who serve a limited term of office.

 

The primary differences between various synods are those of observable rites and ceremonies. The doctrines upon which the churches are founded remain similar. Because of the differences, the funeral rite may vary between synods and even churches.

 

Notification of Clergy

 

Unless otherwise expressed by a local pastor, it is usually not necessary to notify clergy at the time of death. The family's relationship with the church and pastor will often determine the appropriate point of clergy contact.

 

Removal of Remains

 

There are no restrictions or requirements imposed by the church when a member dies. The funeral home staff can expect to make removal when released by civil authorities.

 

Preparation of Remains

 

Preparations are usually based on family choice. Embalming is permitted if desired.

 

Dressing and Casketing Remains

 

There are no special requirements as to clothing or casketing.

 

Pre-Service Considerations

 

Traditionally the funeral was held in the church and this is still a preference among most Lutherans. It is not however, a church requirement and location is left up to the family. Since Lutheran churches are liturgical in their worship style, the location may play a role in the type of funeral held. Flowers.

 

The Funeral Service

 

If the funeral is held in the church, much of the religious paraphernalia that accompanies liturgical services will be used. With the altar as the focal point of the church, the use of acolytes, a cross, candles, a pall, and in some cases incense are a part of the funeral service. Rubrics will be found in the hymnal and other readings may be used.

 

The use of the pall dictates a closed casket service and often results in viewing the deceased in the narthex of the church before the service. The pall is placed on the casket just prior to the processional into the church. The cross bearer would lead the procession followed by the pastor, the casket bearers and casket, and the family. Communion may be offered as a part of the service. A recessional will return the party to vehicles and final burial. Cremation is discouraged but may be used in some cases. Funerals held at a funeral home may more closely resemble non-liturgical services.

 

The Committal Service

 

Internment and entombment are the most often preferred means of final disposition. The service will usually include prayer, scripture reading, and the committal of the body to its final resting place. Flower petals or earth may be used to make the sign of the cross on the casket.

  

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE FUNERAL RITE

 

Introduction to the Church of Christ Scientist

 

The Church of Christ, Scientist is rooted deeply in protestant Christianity, whose followers are members of a religious movement that stresses spiritual healing. Christian Science is based on the teaching that God is wholly good and all-powerful and that man is created by Him. Everything eternal, spiritual, and good is called reality. Whatever is unlike God - injustice, sin, sickness, or grief is called unreal. The principle text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by Mary Baker Eddy in 1875, contains the full statement of Christian Science beliefs. Mrs. Eddy founded the church in Boston, Massachusetts in 1879.

 

Included among the good and real is health, and among the unjust and unreal, disease. Because healing is brought about through spiritual understanding, members of the Church of Christ, Scientist, normally do not seek medical help, including the use of hospitals and physicians. Death is viewed as one more phase of the immortal existence of man.

 

Notification of Clergy

 

The Church of Christ, Scientist has no clergy or ministers. The Reader or Practitioner may be the officiate of any service of the Church, including a funeral service. However, any member of the Mother Church (the original church in Boston) may also serve as officiate according to Church By-Laws.

 

Removal of Remains

 

Due to the ul,emhers beliefs toward sickness and healing, most deaths of Church of Christ, Scientists will come under the jurisdiction of a Coroner, Medical Examiner, or Justice of the Peace and will take place somewhere other than a medical facility. The circumstances

surrounding the death will determine whether or not any restrictions will be placed on the immediate removal of the remains.

 

Preparation of Remains

 

Embalming and public viewing are based on individual customs and wishes of the deceased and family. There are no beliefs within the Church to either encourage or discourage member from being embalmed.

 
 

Dressing and Casketing the Remains

 

The clothing to be worn by the deceased and the casket to be used are left up to the individual preferences of the family. Because of its view toward death, and the fact that a church of laymen without clergy to express official opinion, it appears that the individual and family preference determine most activities involved when death occurs.

 

The Funeral Service

 

Funerals for members of the Church of Christ, Scientist are similar to those of other protestant denominations, with a few notable exceptions. The funeral service itself may be held anywhere except the Christian Science Church. Most often this would be in the funeral home or the cemetery, either in a chapel or at the actual gravesite. Since the officiate will either be a Practitioner or a Reader, the funeral director should check with that person to determine the order of service.

 

The Committal Service

 

The method of disposition is again left up to individual preference. Earth burial, entombment, or cremation are all possible.

 

THE MENNONITE

(AMISH FUNERAL RITE)

 

Introduction

 

The Mennonites are a denomination of evangelical protestant Christians who settled in the United States in 1683. There are several major bodies within the Mennonites but all are very similar in views. They have been most widely known for their views on issues such as separation of church and state, refusal to take oaths, refusal to take up arms against others, and protest of slavery.

 

Notification of Clergy

 

The clergy consists of Bishops or elders, ministers who are pastors, or evangelists and deacons who take charge of congregations in the absence of the minister or Bishop. The family will determine appropriate timing fro notifying clergy.

 

Removal of Remains

 

There are no restrictions or requirements for removal of remains.

 

Preparation of Remains

 

There are no special requirements for preparation of remains. Embalming is allowed.

 

Dressing and Casketing

 

The deceased should be dressed in white underwear and stockings. Males may be dressed in a long gown r white shirt with white trousers and vest. Females will be dressed in a long white gown and cape. In some areas the sons may be responsible for dressing their fathers, and daughters for their mothers.

 

Pre-Service Considerations

 

Visitation for friends and neighbors may be held for one or two days prior to the funeral. Visitation and funeral may take place in the home or the church. If held in the church, a procession from the home to the church is traditional. With some groups the procession will use a horse drawn hearse, with the family and friends following in their horse drawn buggies.

 

The Funeral Service

 

In some older groups the service may be conducted in German. Some may have men seated on one side of the church or home and women seated on the other. Following the procession to the cemetery, the coffin may be placed in a container or wooden box for burial. After the service, the family and friends will return to the church or home for a meal.

 

THE ORTHODOX FUNERAL RITE

 

Introduction

 

The Orthodox Church goes by many titles and names, usually based on locality. An independent council of bishops called a synod governs each church. The term orthodoxy means right belief or right worship, hence the claim that the church teaches the true doctrine of God and glorifies Him with the true worship.

 

Notification of Clergy

 

There are no requirements of the church.

 

Removal of Remains

 

There are no restrictions or requirements of the church.

 

Preparation of Remains

 

There are no restrictions or requirements, A traditional funeral is normal, so embalming

is often used.

 

Pre-Service Considerations

 

In most cases the rites of a member of the church begin with the Trisagion. It is usually held in the funeral home the evening before the funeral and again the following day immediately before the service. Normally candles will be placed at each end of the casket, a cross behind the casket, and an icon at the foot.

 

The Funeral Service

 

A procession brings the casket and family into the church where they are met by the priest. The priest will bless the casket with holy water before the procession moves down the aisle, If the church has a Cantor, he will accompany the priest. The casket is led feet first down the aisle and placed in the Solea with the foot nearest the altar. The casket is usually left open during the service. The service will follow a liturgical order with readings, prayers, and hymns from a special booklet titled the Parastas or Great Panachida. The final part of the service may include a eulogy.

 

After the eulogy, the casket is turned so that it is parallel to the Iconostasis and the priest anoints the body with earth and olive oil. In icon is placed at the foot end of the casket and those seated on that side may pass by and kiss the icon. The icon is moved to the other end and the practice repeated for the other side of the church.


 

The Committal Service

 

Cremation is considered objectionable in the church so earth burial or entombment is normally used. The Priest will lead in the processional to the burial site. The service will include a litany of readings and prayers by the Priest or Cantor finished with a closing prayer.