According to point 1683 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Church who, as Mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey’s end, in order to surrender him into the Father’s hands.”
Moreover, point 1187 states: “The liturgy is the work of the whole Christ, Head, and Body. Our High Priest celebrates it unceasingly in the heavenly liturgy, with the Holy Mother of God, the Apostles, all the Saints and the multitude of those who have already entered the Kingdom.”
So, it is the Church that is at the funeral and burial of the deceased — or urn of ashes in the case of cremation –, represented by the Minister and the community attending — in the number and the way that is proper to those ceremonies. Yes, the Church as such, an essential aspect is this to understand what we say in this article, and to be certain that the divine grace that accompanies the funeral rites is present, apart from the circumstances in which the said ceremonies are held.
Funeral Rites during the Pandemic
The funeral rites of the Roman Liturgy foresee three types of celebration of funeral rites in keeping with the place: the home, the church <and> the cemetery. The ritual will be one or the other depending on the importance the family gives it, the local customs, culture or popular piety.
In any case, the ritual should include four main moments: the reception of the community, the Liturgy of the Word, the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the farewell (“to God”) to the deceased.
Given the multitude of deaths in the pandemic that we are living, on many occasions, the funeral rites can’t be celebrated as we’d like, or with the attendance of many relatives and dear one of the deceased as we would like, or following the ritual that we would have liked to celebrate.
So, the deceased is buried — or his ashes are deposited — in conditions that we could say are adverse for his family and relatives. This because of the lack of time or sufficient logistics to attend to so many deceased, understanding well that the civil normative doesn’t prohibit it, with due precautions — in Spain and other countries, which permits the entourage to take part in the burial and farewell for cremation of the deceased person, although, to avoid contagions, such participation is restricted to three family members or relatives, in addition to the Minister. Although moved by creative affection, those family members and relatives can join the ceremony through the recording on the mobile phone of one who is attending in person.
Grace Continues to Be Present
A basic principle of any economy of Salvation and of the salvific action of divine grace in our souls, is that of “God’s infinite mercy.” A principle that in the period of the pandemic alleviates greatly when we find ourselves with cases in which it has not been possible to attend the deceased spiritually as one would have liked, as they well deserved it.
In His mercy, the Lord dispenses the necessary graces to nourish with His infinite love the liturgical celebration that for untimely causes and of force majeure cannot be celebrated as we would like or be witnessed — prayed — by all those that would like to attend them. Moreover, as we said, it’s the Church herself that celebrates that ceremony, the whole of her, present in spirit.
Naturally, as civil legislation also points out, once the pandemic ends, the corresponding funerals can be held, now multitudinous and without the strict restrictions imposed by COVID-19, who were unable to accompany the burials at their due times – or deposits of ashes – of our dear deceased.
We should do this by attending primarily at the Eucharist, which can be offered for the deceased person, Mass of the Dead, in intercession for their soul
Father Alejandro Vazquez-Dodero Rodriguez, Priest, Doctor in Canon Law and Chaplain of the Tajamar School of Madrid
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester