Guidelines for Receiving Holy Communion
Catholic Funeral Rites
One of the most beautiful ministries that we have at our parish is the ministry that takes place when one of our members goes home to the Lord. So many people who take part in Funeral Masses here at Our Lady of Fatima comment on the beauty of the music and the careful preparation of the Mass. Our music and solemnity, helps to give expression to our faith in eternal life as well as the human grief that is always a part of loss. The death of one whom we love is always a solemn moment that deserves to be marked with the celebration of the most sacred rites of the Church. The way that we treat the end of human life says something about the value we attach to all human life. It seems that upon the death of loved ones, many now ask for services at funeral homes instead of having a Funeral Mass celebrated in church; I know that making those kinds of decisions are difficult and personal to each family. We try to accommodate those who ask for services at the funeral home. However, such services really do not express the fullness of our Catholic Funeral Rites. As the Eucharist is the very center of our lives, the celebration of the Mass for those who have died is an important aspect of our celebration of rites to commend the souls of the faithful departed to Almighty God. According to the Order of Christian Funerals:
At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in funeral rites with the comforting word of God and the sacrament of the Eucharist (n. 4).
As the Church is the place where we come to celebrate the most important moments of our life on earth, all of which are centered around the Lord, so too do we come to our parish church to commend the departed to the loving care of the Good Shepherd.
When Funeral Rites are celebrated at the Funeral Home, it is always important to schedule a Memorial Mass for the deceased in the church and to have Masses celebrated for those whom we love. The Mass is the most powerful means that we have to pray for those souls who are in need of our prayers. According to the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of Vatican II:
Our union with the Church in heaven is put into effect in its noblest manner especially in the sacred Liturgy, wherein the power of the Holy Spirit acts upon us through sacramental signs. Then, with combined rejoicing we celebrate together the praise of the divine majesty; then all those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and gathered together into one Church, with one song of praise magnify the one and triune God. Celebrating the Eucharistic sacrifice therefore, we are most closely united to the Church in heaven in communion with and venerating the memory first of all of the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, of Blessed Joseph and the blessed apostles and martyrs and of all the saints (Gaudium et spes, 50),
The liturgy celebrated here on earth reminds us that we are participating in a foreshadowing of the heavenly liturgy and remain united to all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.
Download the Funeral Handbook here
On November 14, 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the following guidelines on the reception of Communion. These guidelines replace the guidelines approved by the Administrative Committee of the NCCB in November 1986. The guidelines, which are to be included in missalettes and other participation aids published in the United States, seek to remind all those who may attend Catholic liturgies of the present discipline of the Church with regard to the sharing of Eucharistic Communion.
As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21).
All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.
We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.
© 1996, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
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