Is there a loved one in your life who has recently departed?
We Christians recognize that by Baptism we are washed free of sin, as well as configured to Christ and incorporated into His Body. This is why, at our deepest reality, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Burying the Dead is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. We recognize that the communion of Saints is the Church Militant (we who are here on earth), the Church Suffering (those souls in purgatory), and the Church Triumphant.
When a person dies in a state of grace (right relationship with God) they may immediately enter into glory or experience some purgation. At the Mass of Christian burial we the Church here on earth pray for the soul that has passed into new life to assist him/her during the time of preparation for glory. We pray for the deceased but we also pray for those who mourn the passing of a loved one that they may be comforted by our faith in the love and mercy of God.
The Mass of Christian burial (The Funeral Mass or what was formerly the Requiem Mass) is evocative of Baptism. Holy Water is used to sprinkle the coffin, the Pascal candle is lighted, the pall (white cloth) is draped over the coffin. During the Mass incense is used to reverence the body of the deceased as it was a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Typically the Funeral Director will contact the parish to make arrangements for the Funeral Mass. You will be asked to choose from some selected readings for the Mass and some hymns. The loved ones may act as lectors, pallbearers, and gift bearers.
It is important that the family take care to ensure that the remains of the deceased are properly reverenced. This means that remains ought to be interred in a Catholic cemetery with the souls of other believers as a sign of our communion of faith. If the remains are cremated, they ought to be placed in a cemetery niche or columbarium. It is understandable that we might want to keep the cremated remains at home with us because of our love for the deceased. Unfortunately, this practice can lead to great disrespect for the person we love if, because of death, old age, or simply the passage of time, the remains are discarded or misplaced. We need a place that is dignified and permanent to go to pay our respect and offer prayers for the dead.