Thursday, February 23, 2012

Last Days of a Community Member

The last days of any person are important but to a Christian it should be even more so. It signals the completion of a life of faith and the beginning of eternal life. Because of this, we have in Catholicism the sacrament of the sick to prepare for death, prayers during the last moments of life, the funeral Mass, the office of the dead, and the prayers at the grave.

A priest writing for priests mentions that in his  pastoral work he has felt uncomfortable by the way death is seen in the parishes. Death is not seen as having a connection with the community, but is considered as involving only the death of a family member. When mostly family, relatives, and friends of the deceased are involved and not the larger community, how can we, he asks, call our parishes communities?

In the article, the priest is not happy to see the responsibility for preparing for the funeral and burial in the hands of the parish purgatorial societies. He would like the parish council to take the responsibility. The head of the pastoral council should be, he believes, the first to express condolences to the bereaved family on behalf of the parish community. In addition, the different committees of the parish council should offer their services to the family.

Why, he asks, do we have the choir very much concerned with marriages but not with funerals?  Each parish council member should get involved. Those responsible for  small communities within the parish should notify all the parish members of the times for the office of the dead. In short, the funeral should be a community event and not only a family concern.

With the parish council involved, the community as a whole can participate more easily. And we will most likely see the end of the difference between the rich and the poor that often becomes displayed in these services. This will also encourage us to become more aware of what community life in Jesus means; we will be living the teachings we have received.

Implementing this change doesn't only depend on the Christians. It depends also on the pastor who offers the funeral Mass, consoles the family, and is present at the office for the dead. This has not always been the case. We might ask ourselves, is there anything more important  for a pastor to do than be involved in the ceremonies at the death of a community member?                                                                  

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