I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
— John 11:25-26
I want to conclude this pastoral message by asking you to recognize in the journey of the Christian funeral a privileged opportunity for evangelization and for being evangelized. The testimony of many of our own pastors here in the Archdiocese of Detroit confirms the wisdom of the Church, that the events of death and Christian burial are opportune occasions for sharing the Good News of our salvation. For those who believe in Jesus Christ, death and burial are sacred events, in which God draws very near to us and invites us to draw near to him.
Every aspect of preparing and celebrating the rites of Christian burial, from the offering of condolences and prayers, to the planning of readings and music, to the celebration of the Vigil for the Deceased, Funeral Mass, and Rite of Committal, all provide opportunities to share Christ with one another.
We must help each other to recognize God’s presence in each of these moments, and to entrust ourselves and our beloved dead to his unfathomable love and mercy. We should help especially those who either are not Catholic or who do not practice their faith, that they might come to recognize the occasion of a Christian funeral as a profoundly grace-filled moment. We have a sacred responsibility to do all we can to help others to know the faith and hope that are our great consolation in the face of death—faith and hope in the power of Christ’s resurrection—and to see that the graces they experience during a funeral are meant to help them embrace the fullness of life in Jesus Christ and his Church.
For all Christians, the Church’s funeral rites are essential to the life of faith, hope, and charity to which God our Father calls us. In these rites, our heavenly Father joins us by the power of his Holy Spirit to the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, binding us more closely to Christ and to each other in the Communion of Saints.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, and St. Joseph, the Patron of a Happy Death, may we always be grateful for these precious gifts of salvation, and be led without stumbling through the darkness of death to the dawn of everlasting life.
With prayers for you and joining you in prayer for all the faithful departed of the Archdiocese of Detroit, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit