Preparing your funeral in advance takes burden off of your loved ones

  • November 4, 2012

When facing death there is a lot a family must manage: grieving, estate finances and, often overlooked, the funeral service arrangements.

“Pre-planning is one of the most thoughtful gifts that you can give to your family,” said Amy Profenna, spokesperson for Catholic Cemeteries — Archdiocese of Toronto. “When arrangements are made in advance of need, it allows one to focus on the important things at a time of death.”

While pre-planning is preferred by Profenna, she understands that health issues and sudden deaths — as well as people not accepting that their time is near — often leave the task to those close to the deceased. This reality is what prompted the Catholic Cemeteries’ team to publish Life is Changed, Not Ended: Planning and Preparing a Catholic Funeral in 2008.

“We worked with Novalis to customize this booklet which was created to help family and friends prepare a Catholic funeral,” said Profenna. “It contains all the readings for the funeral Mass from which the reader can choose, and offers all the themes for the vigil celebrations.”

The booklet opens by addressing a variety of common questions surrounding children’s role in the Mass, prayers for victims of suicide and, one of the most popular misconceptions, preparing the eulogy.

“Although the Catholic funeral Mass is an opportunity to remember the person who has died, it is a celebration of the saving mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection,” reads the booklet. “That is why a eulogy, which is a speech praising someone who has died, is not part of a Catholic funeral. It is important in the grieving process, however, for people to share memories.”

It recommends doing so at the wake, the vigil for the deceased or in private with close friends and family. Additionally the booklet explains, using similar reasoning, “why secular readings and songs don’t belong in a Catholic celebration — not even a favourite poem or song.”

Knowing all of this in advance can help reduce tension when sitting down to plan a funeral.

“Plan to take time to sit down with the parish priest or a member of the pastoral staff to discuss the details of the rites,” reads the booklet. “Share information freely and discuss any special wishes you may have.”

Profenna admits that spending a couple hours talking about your own funeral service, or that of a recently deceased loved one, can feel morbid, depressing and even terrifying, but the end result is almost always worth the discomfort.

“After people have made their arrangements the feeling is generally the same, the feeling of satisfaction, like a weight is lifted and the feeling that they are glad they did it,” said Profenna. “The most important part is that peace of mind people feel after making their arrangements.”

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