Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why can't everyone receive Communion?: Parish Bulletin: 10-26-14

Have you ever wondered, “Why can’t everyone who comes to Mass receive Communion?”  I have met this question on many occasions, especially in the context of preparing for a wedding or funeral that features a mixed crowd of believers (Catholics and Protestants) and unbelievers.
While we have often been accused of being unloving or unwelcoming in asking non-Catholics to come up for a blessing instead, quite the opposite is true.  The Second Vatican Council ensures we have a deep respect for those of different faiths, religions or personal convictions.  We indeed have people at weddings, funerals and Sunday liturgies who believe differently in the Eucharist (and we are glad you join us!).
            The key to the above question is in one powerful word we say several times during Mass: amen.  Two of these are especially important.  The first comes collectively in the Great Amen which the congregation sings (or says) after the priest elevates the Body and Blood of Christ while proclaiming, “Through Him and with Him and in Him, O God almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours forever and ever.”  The second is stated individually after the minister of Communion says, “The Body/Blood of Christ.”  In both cases the amen is equivalent to affirming: “Yes, I believe this is Jesus’ Body and Blood!  Yes, I believe in the Catholic Church!  Yes, I follow the Pope as Christ’s voice on earth!  Yes, I believe in Catholic Church teachings! 
While it may seem loving or welcoming to invite everyone forward during Communion it actually is not.  In fact, doing so would be to put brothers and sisters under false oath, proclaiming belief in something of which they may not actually believe.
            It is also important to know that receiving a host at Mass is not necessarily the same as receiving grace.  While consuming a small wafer only requires an open mouth, receiving God’s grace in the Eucharist requires having an open soul.  Someone who abstains from Communion at Mass (a Catholic who is in a state of mortal sin or a non-Catholic who joins us to worship) may indeed receive more grace than the Catholic who receives Christ absent-mindedly.
            The general guidelines for receiving communion include being baptized, being in a state of grace, going to Confession after committing mortal sin and believing that the Eucharist is Jesus’ Body and Blood. 
            To anyone who believes the Eucharist is Jesus’ Body and Blood who is not Catholic, please join us in our official steps of welcoming by coming to RCIA!  To our Catholics who come to Mass weekly or daily, approach this gift of the Eucharist seriously!  To those who join us who abstain from Communion, know we ask this because we love you and respect your own faith or personal convictions.
            God Bless!

What does it mean to love your neighbor?: 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

(Listen to this homily here.)           

            Last week I preached about some thoughts about our mission from the book Rebuilt.  I mentioned that our mission is simple: to love God, love our neighbor, seek the lost and make disciples.  Providentially, the Gospel today is one of Jesus’ mission statements: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
            Today I would like to speak about what it means to love our neighbor.
            Starting with the book of Exodus, we may observe that the Old Testament founded what it meant to serve and showed how serious God takes outreach to the poor: “Thus says the LORD: ‘You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.  You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.  If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.”  Why were the Israelites to care for those in need?  Because they were themselves in slavery and destitution for 400 years.  Because of this, the Jewish religion always proclaimed justice for the foreigner, poor and destitute.
            The Golden Rule—to love our neighbor as ourself—was actually an instance of Jesus quoting the Old Testament.  It was first uttered in the book of Leviticus.  This is a book many find boring or skip.  While it is full of precepts and legalities which are foreign to us, it describes the heart of biblical religion which is relevant today.
            The prophets were great champions for the needy.  Their major theme—justice.
            The life and teaching of Jesus consistently were directed to the marginalized.  He reached out to sinners, tax-collectors, prostitutes.  He healed the blind and the lame and fed the hungry.  One of his most well-known parables—the Good Samaritan—was an answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”  The true neighbor was neither the priest nor the Levite who walked away from a broken man.  The neighbor was the one who showed compassion and went out of his way to care for someone in need.  When you see someone that is homeless, different or in need, do you simply walk by?  Or do you, at the very least, acknowledge their presence as a person, give them a smile and say hello?
            The apostles followed Jesus’ lead and focused their ministry on healing the sick and feeding the hungry.  They held all of their possessions in common, giving their personal earnings to support the faith. 
This pattern has been followed consistently in our 2000 years of existence.  At the close of the 19th century Pope Leo XIII gave the Church a revolutionary document on social concerns in Rerum Novarum.  Speaking of personal property (which we have a right to), “When the demands of necessity and propriety are met, the rest belongs to the poor.”  What do you give to the poor?
In the past forty or fifty years, there have been many movements in the Church focused on social justice.  Many of these focus heavily on political action and are wedded to the extreme left.  This has left many on the right sour about the very term—social justice. To be clear, the Church does not fully endorse either the left or the right, but it has always endorsed social justice—or rather social charity.
I have personally experienced division between Catholics in these camps while I attended college at St. Scholastica.  On the one end there were those who sought social change outside of faith.  On the other were Catholics inspired by faith, prayer and the sacraments that didn’t often serve. 
I observed a great example of growth on both sides when I worked at St. Scholastica the past two years as a part-time chaplain.  I worked with a man named Nathan Langer who I knew years ago while I attended college.  As a punk in college (with long hair!) Nathan and I didn’t get along well.  I was in the faith camp, he was in the social justice camp.  Yet when we worked together years later, we realized we had both grown.  I had grown to love our Church’s Catholic social teaching and reaching out the poor.  Nathan grew in understanding how important traditions in the faith were to students.
What originally drew you to live a Catholic life?  Are you inspired to make a difference in the world and are active in service?  Don’t forget to pray!  Works without faith is no different than a humanitarian.  Are you drawn to the beauty, truth and sacramental life featured in Catholicism?  Don’t forget to serve!  Get out of the pews and make a difference!
Both paths—service and faith—meet at the cross, where the Catholic Church has always stood.  This is the place where love of God and love of neighbor come together in perfection.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Unity through common mission: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

(Listen to this homily here.)

            I’ve mentioned before that I am grateful for the rectory in which I get to live.  The space itself, coupled with a beautiful lawn and the woods make it a peaceful place.  My favorite feature of my home, though, is that I have a chapel with the Eucharist.
            Every night since moving here I have prayed my Holy Hour at the close of the day.  I first pray for you.  I was struck by St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as he writes, in a more eloquent way than I, the basic prayer I offer for our parishioners, students, school, faculty and staff: “Brothers and sisters: I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
            In our Gospel we hear a famous in striking line from Jesus: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”  To be clear, Jesus is not endorsing all division.  Some division is good—separating ourselves from sin and evil, living as a new man rather than the old (as St. Paul frequently encourages) and remaining free from a society of relativism where anything goes.
            Other division is bad, and I have observed division in our parish’s history and current life.  Consider what happened when the remodeling was done ten years ago—many people took sides and fractured our parish.  While most of our parishioners are sources of unity, there turf wars, gossip and backbiting still remain.  Sadly, some resort to these means to carve out their own agenda and space.  This is not a good division and it needs to stop!  And the way it does is for us all to focus on the breadth, length, height and depth of Jesus’ love.  When our mission is to live in this love, unity is fostered.
            I firmly believe our daily Mass crowd is the heart and soul of our parish.  You are the witnesses to God’s immense love and set the pace for remaining on point with our mission to love God, our neighbor and make disciples.
            May we live in the love of Christ to live in a common mission to end all division here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

To whom much is given, much is expected: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 (School Mass)

(Listen to this homily here.)

            Can someone tell our adults here what this is?  The candy basket!  And how do you earn a piece of candy from the basket?  By memorizing something from the Bible.  Our staff gets upset with me because I make them memorize a verse to get candy as well!
            Jesus tells us this morning that those who are given much are expected much.  So first, what does God give us?  Snacks.  Pets.  I love the simple faith of our students—indeed, God does give us everything! 
            This is my basket, correct?  Yes.  Every so often I go to the store and take your requests (I finally found Skittles last week) to fill the basket.  To illustrate Jesus’ command, I want to entrust my candy basket to someone for the rest of the homily.  So what should this person do?  Protect it!  Yes, please protect the candy from the adults and fend them off if you need to!  Also, I don’t want to see a basket of wrappers when I’m done.  N, would you please protect the candy basket for the rest of Mass.
            N, what else should you do with this basket?  Share it with others.  Wow, great idea.  Since we’re at Mass, though, we’ll save sharing from the basket for your verses later.
            God has given us everything—our life, our parents, our friends and all of creation.  With respect to our faith, what else has God given us?  Jesus.  Yes!  And where is Jesus right now.  In heaben.  True, but he is here now.  See that gold container up front—the tabernacle—Jesus is here now!  He gives us the gifts of faith, hope and love.
            And what should we do with these gifts?  Like the candy basket, we should protect it, share it and be obedient to God.
            Thank you, N, for watching over my candy basket.  For your efforts, you can take a piece, but don’t eat it until after Mass.
            Let’s stand now and continue to share in God’s great gift of Mass.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Greatest Story Ever Told Session #4--Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

Here is the fourth installment of The Greatest Story Ever Told.  We review Leviticus (which is a pause from the Genesis-Exodus narrative), Numbers (which takes the Israelites through the wilderness and on the brink of the Promised Land) and Deuteronomy (Moses' retelling of the Israelite's story).

Podcast available on iTunes

You can now subscribe to my podcast on iTunes.  Simply go to the iTunes store and search for "Fr. Ben's Biblical Podcast".  Hit the subscribe button and the individual podcasts will automatically download into your iTunes Podcast list.

Hope you enjoy!

A good word to describe Mass--peace: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

(Listen to this homily here.)

            There are many words we can use to describe Mass: mystery, forgiveness, sacrifice or liturgy.  One word we should not forget in relation to Mass is peace.
            St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: “For he is our peace, he made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his Flesh…”  Added to this, we just prayed with the Psalmist, “The Lord speaks of peace to his people.”
            Think about how many times we use the word peace in Mass.  “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days…”; “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, peace I leave you, my peace I give you…”; “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.”
            One of the moments we explicitly focus on peace is in the Sign of Peace.  As a child who loved sports, I saw this as half-time of Mass in which I could punch my brother, give a high-five and take a break from what the priest was saying.  Yet this is a time we are to offer reconciliation and peace to those in our family, friends and parish community.  We are to move past grudges and past hurts, symbolically by offering a sign of peace to those around us.
            In a world filled with violence, war and terrorism, we all desire peace.  This desire must start in our own hearts, and it is in the Mass that we experience the grace, love and mercy of the Prince of Peace.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Life is more than possessions: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, October 20th, 2014

(Listen to this homily here.)

            This morning Jesus reminds us that, “one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
            This fact is important to remember in a society which puts a premium on money, new cars, big homes and IRAs.  Recently I have noted a ton of retirement commercials on TV—what is my life expectancy?  what is my money expectancy?—they ask.  Now it is good to be responsible about long term planning, but we must be careful about focusing excessively on such matters.
            In his insightful parable, Jesus speaks of someone who chased security for years.  This individual said to himself after accumulating a lot: “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”  Yet through this teaching Jesus gives this caricature a blunt reminder: “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” Indeed, I have never seen a U-Haul at a cemetery!
            The Church endorses the right to private property, and abundance of itself can be a great gift.  The focus we want to maintain is detachment from material possessions in order to be rich “…in what matters to God.” 
            A good way to discern how you are doing in this regard is to consider how much time you spend worrying about money, your home, your vehicle or other material matters.  Do you spend as much time in prayer or in building your relationship with God?
            May we be grateful for the many gifts God has given us, grow in detachment to material possessions and grow in richness in what matters to God.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Give to God what is God's! (Thoughts on the book Rebuilt): 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

(Listen to this homily here.)

           This week I have been reading a book called Rebuilt by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran.  I highly recommend it as I can hardly put it down and I have ordered copies for our staff to read.
            This book tells a success story of the Church of the Nativity in Maryland.  Facing a declining population and economic struggles, this parish has flourished in numbers, finances and excitement.  And they say we can do the same!
The authors first share mistakes they made as they attempted to bring excitement and life to their parish.  While they put on many great programs—free dinners coupled with Mass, activities to draw in young people, music ministry—they admitted they saw no results.  They attributed this to forgetting that it was God Who needed to be in charge, not them.
            I want to share a few thoughts on which I have been reflecting for us at St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Columban.  A consistent emphasis in Rebuilt is to focus always on the mission at hand.  This desire came after hearing a diocesan official actually claim, “Jesus never left us with a mission.”  Fr. White’s response: “What?!”
            Jesus did give us a mission.  In the Gospel according to Matthew Jesus states: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And in his last words to his disciples he commands them: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…
            Our mission is simple: love God, love your neighbor and make disciples.  No matter what your place is in our parish family—as a daily or weekend Mass attendee, leader or member of a parish organization, staff or faculty—examine how well you are doing in this mission. 
            Part of this mission includes seeking the lost because this is what Jesus did.  This isn’t just my job as a priest—it is yours!  Did you know that one in three people who were born Catholic have left our Church?  Here in International Falls, I have heard many people tell me we have former Catholics in several other churches in town.  Do you reach out to reinvite these men and women?  Are you open to sharing your faith with those who are experiencing brokenness or addiction?
            In Rebuilt the authors explain that we must work both with insiders or churchpeople but welcome outsiders and the unchurched.  God calls us to be fruitful and He needs us to welcome many more disciples who are currently on the fringes of society. 
            Another point made in this book is something similar to what my cross country coach always told us: “When you’re through improving, you’re through.”  As time moves on, every individual, family and parish changes.  It either changes for the better or for the worse.  God is our boss and wants us to continually change for the better to bear more fruit.  Please be open to changes I make whether small or big, because this is my motivation.
            All of the above begins with what Jesus teaches in the Gospel today: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”  If we want to grow into a dynamic parish it is essential that we each give to God what is God’s.  And here I am speaking about something deeper than money—I’m referring to our attachments.
When I look in the mirror I know there are times when I give Caesar what should be God’s in how I spend free time, satisfy desires or seek pleasure.  I bet you would admit some of the same.  It is crucial that we each decide to give God what is His.
I promise you that if you make this choice, our parish will be better.  This decision will not be public—it will be in those private moments at home when facing temptation or laziness or addiction.  Will you give what is God’s to Caesar or God?
Give God what is God’s and watch how He will work here!

Prepare for death well: Parish Bulletin--10-19-14

             Last week I preached about the dignity that surrounds Catholic funerals and burials.  My inspiration for addressing this topic came both from the readings and from the theme of our annual clergy conference—funeral rites.
            Additionally, we had a lawyer speak to us about a topic we don’t often discuss—how are decisions made if we become incapacitated or die?  With no legal background, I will confess that this lawyer’s presentation was way over my head!  What I came away with is the need to prepare for illness and death in two avenues: healthcare, should making decisions be impeded, and temporal affairs.  I am currently working through both myself and encourage you to do the same.
            As I spoke in my homily last weekend, death isn’t something which we necessarily want to talk about, especially when it comes to our own.  That said, no one knows when the Lord will call us home, and it is important for us to make responsible decisions ahead of time to prepare our loved ones for our passing.  Every adult, especially those with children, should plan ahead.  Her talk inspired me (even though I am only 30 and, please God, have many years ahead of me!) to make such preparations.
            With respect to your health care, I encourage you to consider having an advanced healthcare directive and assigning a medical proxy to fulfill your medical wishes.  There are many great resources available to assist you with this process, both within the Church and at most medical centers.
            With respect to temporal affairs, it is important to have both a will and an executor assigned to carry out how you would like to distribute your estate.  This can be as simple as a written and signed document, or extend to the hiring of a lawyer for your assistance.
            Sadly, terminal illness or a death has caused division in many a family.  Good communication and responsible decision making ahead of time can be a great gift to you and your loved ones to ensure your wishes are followed.  
            While death is a reality, never forget that death has been conquered by Jesus Christ: “O death, where is thy victory?  O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).  With great hope in Jesus Christ, consider blessing your family by planning ahead of time for your own passing.  While neither easy nor fun, such a gift will be treasured by your family as you enter eternal life, whenever God should call you home.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jesus, the sum of all things: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, October 16th, 2014

(Listen to this homily here.)

            St. Paul has a powerful statement in the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians: “In all wisdom and insight, [God the Father] has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.”  Note that Christ is not said to sum up some things, but all things.
            What are these things?  Nature…humanity…salvation history…the Old Testament…the New Testament…the Jewish sacrificial system…our Sacraments…morality…theology…philosophy…and on and on and on.
            As Catholics, we do not follow a dead book.  We do not follow an idea.  We follow a living Person—Jesus Christ!
            The challenge for us to consider is how well our lives are summed up by Jesus.  When people see you, do they see Christ?  Does your family feature Jesus?  While no one of us can do this perfectly this side of heaven, consider how your life can be more focused on Jesus Christ today and during the rest of the week.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why do we have priests, bishops and a pope?: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 (School Mass)

(Listen to this homily here.)

            Now I want to see everyone on your best behavior as we come to Mass this morning!
            I asked the first and second graders earlier this week what a diocese is.  N, what did you think a diocese is?  The day you die.  That’s a very good guess, but a diocese is a group of Catholic churches in an area.
            What are we celebrating for our diocese now?  Our birthday!  On October 3rd, 1889, we were formed, making us 125 years old!
            Who is in charge of our diocese?  God.  You.  Yes, God is the boss of everyone and no, I am not!  The person in charge of a diocese is a bishop and our bishop’s name is Bishop Paul Sirba.  Who is the leader of the whole Church?  The pope!  And what is the pope’s name?  St. Francis.  Pope Francis is our pope.
            Now why did God give us priests, bishops and popes?  He did so to ensure that everyone receives the gifts of the Spirit listed in our first reading: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”  Now who is the Spirit referred to in this reading?  God.  Yes, but specifically what is His name?  Remember the sign of the cross—“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  My only goal as a priest is that you grow closer to God, and one of the ways you can think about growing to God is being open to the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
            For you adults, it is good to examine yourself based on these fruits.  What fruits do you experience most?  Which ones can you work on becoming more open to?
            As we strive to be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we continue to pray here at Mass.  Let us stand as we offer our prayers to God. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Greatest Story Ever Told Session #3--Exodus

Here is the third installment of our Bible study.  We look at the second book of the Bible--Exodus.  This book falls in the Old Testament wing of the Bible considered as a library, and in the first row of books--the Pentateuch.


True Freedom: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

(Listen to this homily here.)            

            A crucial question for our country to answer is, what is true freedom?  As the land of the free and home of the brave, our country was formed so we could all have the inherent rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
            Today our society has experienced a distorted notion of what freedom is.  Today, many would describe freedom as follows: doing whatever I want, whenever I want, so long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.
            It is interesting that nobody really lives out this definition on a daily basis.  For instance, if you get mad at your boss, you don’t punch him or her in the face.  You don’t drive seventy miles per hour in downtown International Falls.  An athlete can’t pick up the puck and skate or carry a basketball down the court.  It is curious that morality is the only venue in which freedom has become relativistic in our country.
            As Christians, we have a different vision of freedom.  St. Paul writes, “For freedom Christ set us free…”  While part of basic freedoms includes freedom from something (tyranny, injustice, etc.) it is more about what we are free for. We are summoned to be free for Christ, for excellence, for virtue.
Our Catholic church doesn’t impose morality, but proposes it to modern man: “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”  I pray that you each live in the freedom of Christ who has conquered sin and death.  In so doing, may we be good examples of what freedom truly entails in our country.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Jesus, the opposite of Jonah: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, October 13th, 2014

(Listen to this homily here.)  
            “Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”
            Jesus refers to the prophet Jonah and his ministry to the Ninevites.  Biblical scholars note that Jonah was meant to be funny.  Here was a prophet who ran from God’s will, got thrown into the sea and swallowed by a fish, half-heartedly prophesied God’s Word, waited for Nineveh to be smote with fire and then whined that it was too hot.
            The sign which Jesus refers to in the book of Jonah is that he spent three nights in the belly of the fish.  So, too, would the Son of Man spend three nights in the tomb.
            But that is where the similarities between Jesus and Jonah end.  In fact, Jesus did the exact opposite of Jonah.  Jonah ran away from God’s will—Jesus fulfilled his Father’s will his entire life.  Jonah was not in control of his ministry and God had to use supernatural forces to get him on course.  Jesus was in control and consistently submitted his will to God.  Jonah preached sullenly, expecting (and almost hoping) the Ninevites would be destroyed.  Jesus proclaimed God’s Word with passion and offered his very life for the conversion of sinners.  Jonah lived; Jesus died.
            Jesus referred to Jonah to point out the fact that the Ninevites did convert.  He challenged those who did not believe in him, even though “…there is something greater than Jonah here.”
            The question to us today—will we be converted more fully to God?  His greatness surrounds us, especially at Mass.  Will we be hard-hearted and follow our own will, or experience conversion and follow God’s will?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Funeral Rites: 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

(Listen to this homily here.)            

            This past week I attended our annual clergy conference in Two Harbors.  This is always a fun time as we priests gather to pray, celebrate Mass, learn and grow in fellowship.
            This year the theme was the funeral rites.  It was a dead topic.  (Just seeing if you’re awake this morning!)  It was nice to review what I learned in seminary about the noble ways in which we prepare for sending someone home to the Lord. 
My friend and I talked about how we can teach and/or preach about this important issue.  Most people don’t ever experience the rites for a funeral until a loved one has passed away, yet death is a reality of life and a crucial moment in the life of the Church. 
Providentially, our readings offer an opportunity to reflect on this topic.  Our first reading is commonly used at funerals.  Isaiah prophesies that on God’s mountain He prepares a feast and wipes away the tears of those who mourn.  Our responsorial Psalm—Psalm 23—is also used frequently.  Indeed, God walks with us through the shadow of death as He sent his son to die for our sins.  In the Gospel, Jesus compares heaven—the goal of all of our lives—to a wedding feast in heaven.
In light of the clergy conference and our readings, I would like to share with you this morning our Church’s vision for the ideal funeral.  In so doing I hope to educate you on the dignity we offer to you and the deceased.
Before this, remember that someone near death should be anointed.  The Anointing of the Sick provides forgiveness of sins and may be coupled with both Confession and final Eucharist (Viaticum—food for the journey).  What you may not know is that there are additional prayers we can offer as someone dies.  I love the fact that our Church walks with us every moment of our lives—from the baptism of babies to someone on death’s door.
The way we approach funerals follows from what Jesus Christ himself experienced.  He died, was anointed and buried in a tomb.  Our funeral process follows in a similar vein.  Once someone has died, the funeral should take place soon after the death.  Ideally a funeral Mass is offered at the church, though some circumstances allow for a funeral outside of Mass.  The funeral features prayers for the deceased and their family, celebration of the gift of Christ’s death and resurrection and the person who has died and moments to remember of your loved one.  The rites assume that the body of the deceased is present.  Immediately following the funeral a burial occurs in order to place your loved one in their final resting place.
I would like to offer a few points for consideration about some common questions we get about funerals.  Perhaps the most common deal with cremation.  The Church does allow for cremation, especially after a traumatic death, to prevent the spreading of an infectious disease, or other extraordinary circumstances.  Yet she always prefers the burial of a body and I personally recommend this from my experience of funerals.
At the very least, please consider having your loved one’s body present at the funeral.  While it is not easy to see the body of the deceased—it can be scary, awkward or drudge up difficult emotions—it greatly helps to grieve well and experience closure.  In many cases, it is helpful to see your loved one at peace, especially after a debilitating illness.  Seeing the casket closed is also a powerful experience (though very difficult, and I know this from experience) to say goodbye.  While it may be easier to look at an urn, we do not have to be afraid of death!  We come to a funeral full of hope that Jesus, who died for us, leads the deceased to his kingdom.
If cremation is chosen, remember that cremains should always be buried.  They should neither be spread nor kept at home.  (If this has occurred in your home or family, please let me know so we can remedy this situation.)  Today there are all sorts of crazy things happening to cremains—you can even make jewelry out of your loved one—yet we must always uphold the dignity of a body that was the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Every person deserves to be buried as a sign of respect and honor. 
And I have found a burial—whether of a body or cremains—is actually better for the family.  A few years ago my family went to Holdingford for a family reunion.  While we were there we walked through the cemetery and I was amazed to see many headstones with my last name—Hadrich—inscribed.  I never knew these men and women, but was afforded an opportunity to remember my relatives and ancestors.  Having a particular place to visit loved ones helps us remember those who have gone before us, and this opportunity can be had even in later generations.
I offer these reflections, not to cast judgment on decisions you have made in the past with respect to the death of a loved one.  I share them in order to show how dignified our funerals and burials are and how they can help you grieve well and honor your loved one.
We never have to be afraid of death.  We can be full of hope that God walks with us through tragedy and will wipe our tears away.  In the meantime, know you can always trust in the Church’s process to honor the dead!