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Chapter 13. Our Eternal Destiny • 159

tion and care to help them live their last moments in dignity and peace.

They will be helped by the prayer of their relatives, who must see to it

that the sick receive at the proper time the sacraments that prepare them

to meet the living God” (CCC, no. 2299).

Not only do we care for the dying to help them pass their final

moments in dignity and peace, but we also maintain reverence for their

bodies once they are deceased. “The bodies of the dead must be treated

with respect and charity, in faith and in the hope of the Resurrection.

The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy [cf. Tb 1:16-18]; it

honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit” (CCC,

no. 2300). The rituals accompanying respect for the dead include the

funeral vigil (wake), the funeral itself, and the burial of the body or

the cremated remains of the deceased at the cemetery. Participation in

these rites enables friends and others to demonstrate reverence for the

deceased, to pray together for the eternal repose of the deceased, and to

give the family of the deceased prayerful support.


The Christian funeral liturgy tells us that life is changed, not ended.

Funerals are acts of faith. In the dialogue between Martha and Jesus

just before the raising of Lazarus, Jesus tells her, “Your brother will rise

again.” She replies, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the

last day.” Jesus then identifies himself as the Resurrection and the Life,

and asks her, “Do you believe this?” She responds, “Yes, Lord, I have

come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (cf. Jn 11:17-

27). We express this same belief at Christian funerals. Jesus, who walks

with us through all our other events in life, is present at our funerals,

the liturgy of the passage from death to eternal life. Arrangements for a

funeral need to include a Mass and burial in a Catholic cemetery when-

ever possible.

It is preferable that the body be buried in a Catholic cemetery or

columbarium (repository for cremated remains) consecrated for this

purpose. We bury the body or the cremated remains of a person once