The following excerpts are taken from the General Introduction of the Order of Christian Funerals:
Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life which has now been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just. The Mass, the memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection, is the principal celebration of the Christian funeral.
Canon 1176 from the Code of Canon Law states, “Deceased members of the Christian faithful must be given ecclesiastical funerals according to the norm of law.” Others who are eligible for an ecclesiastical funeral include:
Children whom the parents intended to baptize but who died before baptism, and
“In the prudent judgment of the local ordinary, ecclesiastical funerals can be granted to baptized persons who are enrolled in a non-Catholic Church or ecclesial community unless their intention is evidently to the contrary and provided that their own minister is not available” (canon 1183.3).
“The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine” (canon 1176.3).
While the Church continues to hold a preference for corporeal burial, cremation has become part of Catholic practice in the United States and the around the world.
The Church’s reverence and care for the body grows out of a reverence and concern for the person whom the Church now commends to the care of God. This is the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life. This is the body whose hands clothed the poor and embraced the sorrowing. The human body is so inextricably associated with the human person that it is hard to think of a human person apart from his or her body.
Guidelines for Words of Remembrance (some suggestions):
Thank you for accepting the responsibility of speaking Words of Remembrance on behalf of the family and friends of the deceased. Here are some points to guide you in the preparation of what you will say. Out of respect for the Church’s prudential wisdom and teaching in this regard, please read and observe these guidelines carefully.
You have been asked to offer “Words of Remembrance,” not a eulogy. A eulogy tends to tell the story of a person’s whole life and accomplishments, and can become lengthy. Words of Remembrance provide briefly some insight into the faith and Christian values of the deceased as seen in one or two representative example from his/her life. The Words of Remembrance, then, become words of encouragement and comfort to those who are present.
Since they occur within the Church’s worship of God and of prayer for the deceased and those who mourn his/her loss, the Words of Remembrance should be no more than 5 minutes (a single type-written page, approximately 450 words). Keeping your remarks brief and to-the point recognizes not only the integrity of the liturgy, but also the fact that people have often made a sacrifice to be present. Brevity is the kindest and most appreciated consideration you can give them.
There may be some in the congregation who did not know the deceased, but have come in support of the family. Therefore, “inside” stories about the deceased may not be understood. Save such remembrances for the more personal moments with the family, especially during the painful days and weeks after the funeral. The time for the Words of Remembrance is not a time for lengthy story-telling. Your comments should show respect and sensitivity for the deceased and those who are present to pray.
Write out your remarks in full. Writing out the complete text will insure that you stay within the time limitation. The priest, deacon or a member of the parish staff may be available to preview your remarks and make helpful suggestions. Rely on their judgment and experience.
Before the Funeral Liturgy begins, ask the priest, deacon or a member of the parish staff to show you exactly where you are to speak. Familiarize yourself with the location and, if possible, listen to yourself say a few words into the microphone.
The priest or deacon will introduce you at the proper time, so that you will know exactly when you are to come forward. Approach the podium or lectern with great confidence. To begin with expressions like “I’m not used to this sort of thing,” or “I hope I can get through this,” defeats you before you ever begin.