‟Nothing can take away the pain we feel when confronting death, but immense comfort can be drawn from the Catholic funeral liturgy and its accompanying traditions. Catholic funeral rites incorporate Scripture, ritual, and symbol to help express beliefs about life, death and the afterlife, and how they are entwined.
In the Catholic funeral tradition we not only comfort the bereaved, but we pray as well for the deceased. The Catholic Church teaches, ‛Though separated from the living, the dead are still at one with the community of believers on earth and benefit from their prayers and intercessions’”
(Order of Christian Funerals, No. 6)
When a death occurs, what is done first?
When a loved one dies, it is a time of great stress and emotion. It may be difficult to make decisions or know what to do, especially if the death is sudden. Making a phone call to the parish, or asking a close friend or medical staff member to make that call, is an important first step. A priest, deacon, or lay bereavement minister can offer not only spiritual support, but also practical guidance about what steps need to be taken next.
Typical initial responsibilities of the immediate family include:
After the death of a loved one, family members often join with a priest to pray the Psalms and Scripture passages from the Office of the Dead in the Liturgy of Hours (the Church's official daily prayer), as an intercession for the one who has just died. When the death occurs in a hospital, especially a large one, the hospital chaplain may offer to lead these prayers.Praying. After the death of a loved one, family members often join with a priest to pray the Psalms and Scripture passages from the Office of the Dead in the Liturgy of Hours (the Church's official daily prayer), as an intercession for the one who has just died. When the death occurs in a hospital, especially a large one, the hospital chaplain may offer to lead these prayers.
Making decisions regarding organ donation
Organ donation is consistent with Church teaching on charity, as long as the body is handled respectfully (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2296). In many places, medical personnel may routinely ask the survivors for permission to use healthy organs. If possible, it is best to know in advance how to respond and abide by the wishes of the deceased.
Notifying immediate family members who are not already present
Even before funeral arrangements are confirmed, someone should telephone those most closely affected by the death. Follow-up calls with details can be done later, either personally or through a trusted friend or relative.
Contacting a funeral director
The priest or church office can suggest a reputable funeral home, if the family does not already have a strong preference. Usually, the funeral home staff will pick up the body from the place of death and take it to their facility. If the death has occurred far from where the funeral will be held, a local funeral director can be invaluable in assessing the options and arranging to transport the body or remains.