As an institution grounded in the fundamental truth of faith, the Roman Catholic Church is resistant to change. Sometimes, however, there are shifts that make a difference in how the Church does things. In 1959, for instance, Pope John XXIII announced the creation of the Second Vatican Council, the first ecumenical council in nearly 100 years. This gathering, known as Vatican II, was an assembly of Roman Catholic religious leaders working to settle doctrinal issues. 16 documents came out of Vatican II, forming the basis of the modern Church’s operation.
These documents covered many topics, like allowing Catholics to pray for Christians of other denominations, encouraging friendships with non-Christian faiths, and permitting the use of languages other than Latin during Mass. It also had an impact on the modern Catholic funeral.
At the Second Vatican Council, it was established that those individuals who take their own lives are not responsible for their actions. Rather, it was acknowledged, “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture” diminish the person’s responsibility. Because of this, the Church does not despair of eternal salvation for that person but rather prays for all who have taken their own lives. Prayers were also added for children who die before baptism, to comfort their families and intercede for the children’s salvation.
Catholic funerals changed further in the 1960s when it was determined that Catholics would be allowed to choose cremation as the final dispensation of their earthly bodies. Unlike many religions, however, the Catholic Church does not allow for ashes to be scattered, made into remembrance items, or kept at the family home. Rather, the cremated remains of a Catholic must be buried, preferably in a Catholic cemetery.
The Catholic funeral has certainly evolved with changing cultural sensibilities, but how far will that go? Some modern advancements, like water cremation, are still prohibited in the Catholic Church. Further, the trend of forgoing a funeral in favor of a “celebration of life” is not permitted. Catholic funerals use very specific liturgy and music, allowing families only a little leeway in their options. While a family’s focus may be on the story of the person who has died, it’s important to note that the focus of a funeral Mass will always be on the story of faith and the belief that after suffering and death there will be resurrection.
No matter how the Catholic funeral may change in years to come, the Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of San Jose will always be proud to be a part of the Catholic Community in San Jose, California. Committed to providing a sacred place where families can remember loved ones in a peaceful and hope-filled setting, we welcome you and your family to visit our properties and experience the peace of these prayerful places. If you have questions, we’re happy to answer them. We have three locations: Calvary Catholic Cemetery in San Jose, Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Los Altos, and St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Milpitas. If you’d like to know more about our properties, or you need to know where to send flowers, you can contact us through our website, or call Calvary at 833-428-0379, Gate of Heaven at 833-304-0763, or St. John the Baptist at 833-428-0379.