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HomePerspectivesCatholic Funeral and Cemetery Services of ColoradoWalking with Christ through grief in the Order of Christian Funerals

Walking with Christ through grief in the Order of Christian Funerals

When I was 14, one of my closest friends passed away. I was confused and angry. I didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, I had my parents to walk me through and support me through the journey.

I can remember vividly walking into the funeral home as a 14-year-old boy. I showed no emotion; my mind was swirling. I was thankful to see my friend one last time and found some joy when we were led in prayer by a priest and were able to share stories. During that time, I spoke about the times we went camping and the mentoring he provided me as a young scout.

We went to the Catholic church to celebrate the Mass the following day. I can remember my friend’s casket being wheeled into the church, down the long aisle.

As the Mass went on, my feelings all came to a head, and this 14-year-old strong boy started to cry – really cry. I finally allowed myself to surrender in the presence of God to all the emotions I was feeling.

As he was carried out of the church, I can clearly remember singing the hymn “On Eagles Wings” and asking God to help strengthen me.

We left the church and began the procession to the cemetery. At the cemetery, the crying continued, but I received comfort when the priest explained we were going to entrust my friend to God.

Because my friend’s parents wanted to witness his final placement privately, everyone began to leave after we finished the prayers. One of the last to go, I walked up and tapped on his casket twice, asking God to care for my friend and to strengthen me. It was not long after that final goodbye that the tears dried up. I went to the reception, where we continued to share memories of my friend.

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Unbeknownst to me then, I experienced the beauty of the Order of Christian Funerals and its three parts.

The Church has the tradition of walking individuals through three distinct parts as they bid farewell to their loved ones: the vigil, the funeral liturgy (typically a funeral Mass), and the committal. These parts represent a journey from the home to the church and then to the cemetery and include time for prayer and, to varying degrees, time to remember the individual who passed away.

Each of these traditions is designed to help individuals spiritually and psychologically move through the experience of losing someone and transitioning to a new way of life without that person.

Built on many years of Tradition, Scripture and Church teaching, the practices of the Order of Christian Funerals are full of beauty and wisdom.

Even still, our world today does not always embrace these traditions. As a society today, we often want things done quickly. I often see families combining the three parts so that they take place back-to-back. In other cases, individuals will skip one or more parts. In doing so, individuals are often not only robbing themselves of opportunities to grow through this process both spiritually and psychologically, but in many cases, they are forgoing graces for themselves and the deceased.

I am so thankful I was able to experience the Order of Christian Funerals when my friend passed away. I was able to say goodbye to my friend, grow in love for God and embrace a faith-filled community. It was truly an experience of filling the void of loss with faith.

Deacon Marc Nestorick
Deacon Marc Nestorick
Deacon Mark Nestorick is the Outreach Manager of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services of Colorado.
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