The Order of the Mass of Christian Burial
Reception at the Church
Since the church is the place where the community of faith assembles for worship, the Rite of Reception of the Body at the church is significant. The Rite takes place at the beginning of the Mass, at the entrance to the church. The casket spray or flag is removed from the casket in preparation for the placing of the pall, which reminds us of the white garment given at baptism, signifying life in Christ. After the celebrant greets the family, he sprinkles the casket with holy water and a designated person places the pall on the casket.
"The marriage preparation course at Saint Peters was a great experience for my fiancée and me. As a non-Catholic I was unsure of what to expect going into the program, but Father Linsky did a great job of warmly answering questions and explaining concepts to those of us unfamiliar with many aspects of the Catholic Faith and how they relate to marriage. The topics he covered from week to week almost always led to meaningful discussions between my fiancée and me where we learned more about one another's beliefs and preferences. In many ways the program strengthened our relationship, and I truly believe that any couple preparing for marriage would benefit from the program. I will be a better husband, a better father, and a better Christian because of the time we spent with Father Linsky preparing for our marriage."
- A groom, 2020
The order of entrance is as follows: altar servers, celebrant, casket, pallbearers, followed by the family. The same order is used when leaving the church.
Special note: If an Honor Guard is present, the celebrant will designate their location for the procession and during the Mass of Christian Burial.
Liturgy of the Word
The reading of the Word of God is an essential element of the celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial. The readings proclaim the paschal mystery, teach remembrance of the dead, convey the hope of being gathered together again in God's Kingdom, and encourage the witness of Christian life.
When the family of the deceased meets with the celebrant to plan the funeral, you will choose your reading for the Mass. When possible, we prefer there be different readers for the Old and New Testament readings. We desire lectors from the Basilica of Saint Peter or family members who are trained and familiar with liturgical procedures proclaim the readings. Families are encouraged to provide lectors or to advise us if this is not possible. (Note: Non-Catholics may read at Mass if they are willing to do so as written.) The Responsorial Psalm, which is sung, is chosen in conjunction with the celebrant or Organist / Choirmaster and is led by the Cantor.
The homily, based on the readings and deceased's life, is given after the Gospel. The homilist will dwell on God's compassionate love and on the Paschal Mystery of the Lord as proclaimed in the Scripture readings. Eulogies, poems, letters, etc. are not part of the Mass of Christian Burial and are therefore not permitted. These may be given at the funeral home or after the committal at the cemetery.
The Universal Prayer is to be read by one of the lectors, the priest or a deacon. At Saint Peter's, we use the approved intercessions from the Rite.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist
The Liturgy of the Eucharist takes place in the usual manner at the Mass of Christian Burial. Members of the family or friends of the deceased may bring the gifts to the altar. Please notify the celebrant if you desire a gift procession.
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion from the Basilica of Saint Peter may distribute the Eucharist, if needed. However, at most funeral Masses, only the celebrant distributes the consecrated Host.
Procession to the cemetery and burial (The Committal Rite) usually follows the Mass of Christian Burial. The celebrant or a deacon will officiate at the committal. Visitation with friends is more appropriate after the committal rather than immediately after the Mass of Christian Burial.