In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the Resurrection. The rite of committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven — the deceased passes with the farewell prayers of the community of believers into the welcoming company of those who need faith no longer but see God face to face.
— Order of Christian Funerals, paragraph 206
This part of the journey is a leave-taking. We acknowledge a change in the relationship with the deceased because of a physical separation, but we proclaim an unchanging bond in the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.
The journey to the cemetery brings the deceased to the final earthly destination and brings the funeral rites to full closure.It is not simply reciting the prayers of committal, but being in the place of committal that is important.
Our Catholic Cemeteries themselves proclaim our faith in the Resurrection of Christ. Here, the deceased wait for the second coming of Christ who will call us forth to rise to a glorious new life. "[Jesus Christ] will give new form to this lowly body of ours and remake it according to the pattern of His glorified body" (Philippians 3:21).
"In some areas the practice of accompanying the deceased and the family to the cemetery for the rite of committal has become less common and periodically the burial of the body is not witnessed at all. Regional issues such as climate are often cited as limiting factors; however, those ministering to the family and assisting in the funeral ritual preparation should be aware of the value of communal presence at the committal of the body and the potential for healing that being present for the burial may bring to the bereaved" (Catholic Bishops of the State of Wisconsin, Draft Statement on the OCF, 1999 [never published]).
Farewell, Leave-Taking, Separation
As the last rite of the public liturgy of the Church, the Committal is for all, not solely for family. During this time, short scripture passages and intercessions are read, music is encouraged and clear signs of leave-taking are displayed. Since we no longer can see or touch the deceased, gestures are directed toward the casket or urn. A bow, a touch, a traced cross, especially a kiss communicates our leave-taking. A family group or couple may stand together in making such a sign. The graveside may have options not available in the chapel, and vice versa. Cultural and ethnic backgrounds are important and need full expression. Flowers, printed memento or other keepsake serve as reminders of the committal and the deceased. This moment operates at the liturgical as well as the emotional level; both need to be acknowledged.
Now the journey with the deceased is complete. The Catholic Cemeteries' sacred and solemn impact is unavoidable as believers join their current sadness to the comforting strength of all those already buried at the cemetery who have gone before in hope of the Resurrection. This shared Christian faith of the generations is memorialized on thousands of markers, crypts and niches. Your Catholic cemetery represents an unmistakable sign of the communion of saints - the unity of faith, the continuity of Christian discipleship in those who have died, in those who live and even in those yet to be born! This place proclaims God's inseparable love. What will separate us from the love of Christ?
For I am convinced that neither death nor life
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).
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