Why do we have funerals?
As Catholics, we don’t ignore death. We let ourselves encounter it in all its difficulty and it is difficult. However, the Church confidently reminds us in the Catholic funeral that there is a greater context to life and death. Death is not the final word but has been conquered by Christ’s Resurrection. It speaks to the hearts of those gathered in grieving with the hopeful promise of eternal life. As Catholics, we believe that the body is an essential part of our human identity, a vessel for our immortal souls. It’s a belief that led Christians in times of persecution to risk their lives to recover the bodies of Martyrs from Romans. It’s why Catholic priests rescue the bodies off of war-torn fields during the war wars and today it’s why we bury our deceased loved ones in consecrated ground. Why do we do this? We’re honoring the fact that the human being is a body and a soul united. When someone dies, and the soul departs from the body, we as loved ones take care of the body while the soul is in heaven until the body and soul can reunite at the end of time. Laying them to rest in holy ground safeguards the bodies against disrespect or discarding, as the memory of the deceased fades throughout generations. The other reason is that this burial allows for an essential part of Catholic tradition, praying for the dead. Second Maccabees Chapter 12:46 says, “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from sins.” The Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end. We keep the body at a location that will be accessible to all Christians for prayers and remembrances. When you are baptized into a Community of Faith, you also die in a community of Believers. And this is why we bury our loved ones. We give them a final resting place. We let go because we are letting them go into God’s arms
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