Pastoral Letter

Christ's Victory, Our Salvation

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers [and sisters], about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
— I Thessalonians 4:13

For it is in Jesus that we find the definitive answer to sin and death.  We know, following upon the words of St. Paul above, that by God we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus.[1]  At Holy Mass, when the priest offers Eucharistic Prayer IV, he addresses the Father in these words: And you so loved the world, Father most holy, that in the fullness of time you sent your Only Begotten Son to be our Savior…To accomplish your plan, he gave himself up to death, and, rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life.  We hear proclaimed in this prayer, and throughout Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Tradition, this foundational truth: the Passover of Jesus Christ through death to risen life is our Passover as well. 

Christ is risen!  And he invites us to share in his victory. The salvation won by Christ for all of us becomes a gift for each of us by virtue of our Baptism:

Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.[2]

We know that our union with the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, established in Baptism, is perfected in the Eucharistic sacrifice, as we eat the holy Bread of eternal life and drink from the Chalice of everlasting salvation.[3] The Banquet of Christ’s Body and Blood is our Passover meal, renewing and amplifying the graces of our Baptism, and causing us to share to the fullest degree possible in the dying and rising of Jesus, who is the Bread of Life[4], the resurrection and the life[5], and the way, the truth, and the life.[6]

These points concerning Original Sin, salvation in Jesus Christ, Baptism, and the Holy Eucharist are essential in helping us understand more deeply our Catholic funeral rites.  For in the funeral liturgy all of these essential elements of our faith come together with great poignancy, and we express in a most powerful way our hope in Christ’s resurrection. 

In other words, the Church’s funeral rites are about salvation. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council sought to make this clearer even in the composition and structure of the rites, as they determined that, The rite for the burial of the dead should express more clearly the paschal character of Christian death.[7]  Therefore, the first purpose of this pastoral message is to help all of us understand more deeply the truth that the funeral liturgy renews and strengthens our communion with Jesus in his dying and rising.

The second purpose of this message is to introduce some practical steps by which we can more perfectly express our faith through the funeral rites of the Church. These practical steps are presented in the accompanying document Directives for Catholic Funerals: Questions and Answers and its appendix, and are to guide the work of all throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit who are engaged in the planning or celebration of these sacred rites.

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[1] Romans 3:24.

[2] Romans 6:3-4.

[3] Roman Canon.

[4] John 6:35.

[5] John 11:25.

[6] John 14:6.

[7] Sacrosanctum Concilium, 81