From time to time, the Liturgy Office receives inquiries from pastors asking when the special inserts for the commemoration of the deceased in Eucharistic Prayers II and III may be used. This question may arise from the phrasing of the rubric which precedes the inserts in these Eucharistic Prayers: “In Masses for the Dead. . . .” This wording could lead a celebrant to believe that these inserts can be used only when celebrating one of the Masses for the Dead from the Roman Missal (e.g., funeral Masses, Masses on the anniversary of death, etc.).
In response to this question, it should be noted that when the new Eucharistic Prayers were introduced in the late 1960’s, the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship indicated at the time that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM] allows for these inserts to be used at any Mass which is celebrated for a deceased person or in which a deceased person receives special remembrance (Notitiae 5 : 325, n.5; cf. GIRM, 365b). In its commentary, the Congregation explained that this feature of Eucharistic Prayers II and III is intended to foster the traditional practice of having Masses offered for the deceased while still allowing priests to celebrate the Mass of the day. The GIRM indeed indicates that Masses for the Dead should be celebrated “in moderation, for every Mass is offered for both the living and the dead, and there is a commemoration of the dead in the Eucharistic Prayer” (355).
The question as to whether the Church permits funeral Masses to be celebrated in the presence of cremated remains is also frequently asked of the Liturgy Office. While the Church strongly prefers that the body of the deceased be buried or interred, it also allows for cremation, so long as this practice is not chosen for reasons that are contrary to Catholic teaching (CIC, 1176 §3.) When a body is to be cremated, family members should be informed by the parish priest and the funeral director of the Church’s preference that the funeral Mass (or funeral Liturgy outside Mass) be celebrated in the presence of the body prior to cremation. The Order of Christian Funerals explains the reasons for this practice:
The Christian faithful are unequivocally confronted by the mystery of life and death when they are faced with the presence of the body of one who has died. Moreover, the body which lies in death naturally recalls the personal story of faith, the loving family bonds, the friendships, and the words and acts of kindness of the deceased person. . . . The body of the deceased [also] brings forcefully to mind the Church’s conviction that the human body is in Christ a temple of the Holy Spirit and is destined for future glory at the resurrection of the dead.
When the body has been cremated prior to the funeral, a funeral Mass or Liturgy outside of Mass may still be celebrated in the presence of the cremated remains. In this case, the appropriate texts in Appendix II of the Order of Christian Funerals should be used. Lastly, family members should be reminded that cremated remains are to be buried or entombed in an appropriate container and should not be scattered, kept at home, divided up, or worn as jewelry for any reason.