My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Each November, the rich tradition of the Church encourages us to remember especially our deceased loved ones who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and who rest in the sleep of peace. We renew our prayers for our beloved dead, asking the Lord, through His mercy, to grant them eternal rest and peace in Him.
The Preface for the Dead, prayed at the Mass of Christian Burial, reminds us that for the Lord’s faithful people, in death “life is changed not ended.” As believers in the corporal resurrection of Jesus, we see this life as a preparation for eternal life, life forever with God. “For life is to be with Christ, where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom” (St. Ambrose as cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1025).
Our union with Jesus Christ begins in this life at Baptism and reaches its earthly culmination in our reception of the Eucharistic Christ in Holy Communion, which prepares us for eternal union with Him. “Having passed from this world to the Father, Christ gives us in the Eucharist the pledge of glory with him. Participation in the Holy Sacrifice identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints” (Catechism, no. 1419).
Noting then the centrality of this most august Sacrament in our earthly journey en route to the heavenly Jerusalem, I wish to express my serious concern about the number of Catholic funerals that omit the most essential part of the Order of Christian Funerals, namely the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Only in the most extraordinary circumstances should the funeral rites proceed without Mass. It is particularly disheartening when a good, faithful, practicing Catholic is deprived of Holy Mass at the time of his or her funeral because those preparing or arranging the funeral have not given due consideration to this essential celebration upon one’s return to the Lord. Thus, it is so necessary that one’s desire to have Holy Mass celebrated according to the Order of Christian Funerals be clearly stated in writing and made a part of one’s Advance Directives.