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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

Are funerals necessary? Who was the first saint? Was Mary an only child?

When a person dies is it necessary to have a funeral?

     According to the introduction of the Church’s ritual book called Order of Christian Funerals, “At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting word of God and the sacrament of the Eucharist.” Through these rites, the Church recalls the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in faith and hope, praying on behalf of the deceased and consoling those who grieve for the deceased.

     Funerals themselves, while they often include the participation of the faithful in receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist, are not in themselves sacraments.  Rather, funerals are sacramentals that contain elements like the sacraments that provide benefit for the recipients as given by the Church. Another way to consider a funeral is as a “corporal work of mercy,” wherein the Church carries out a work on behalf of the deceased and their loved ones. Thus, there is no required rule stating funerals are necessary; however, it is both very proper and in some ways expected that the Church offer funeral rites for any and all who die and who themselves do not object to having a funeral (unless one’s life was lived in a manner contradictory to the faith such that having a funeral could cause scandal). For each person should be given a funeral so as to be assisted by the prayers of the Church in their final journey and for the sake of their loved ones who remain in this world so to be consoled in their grief with the message of hope that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Who was the first saint?

     Admitting that this question is probably offered in innocence, I risk to say that it is more of a matter of trivia than an answer that is easily known – though God knows who was the first human being to be admitted into heaven after Jesus Christ.  What is more important to know is that prior to Jesus, the righteous who had died were not yet able to enter heaven in the way that those who die today in Jesus Christ can immediately enter heaven if their soul is rightly ready for that perfect union and communion in God. Thus, to venture a guess of who the first saint or saints may be, such individuals as John the Baptist or Joseph of the New Testament come to mind while the many righteous ones of the Old Testament (Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc.) may also be among the first.

Is Mary an only child?

     It is accepted truth (based on early, non-scriptural sources) that Mary is known to be the only child of her parents, Saints Joachim and Anne. These sources tell us that St. Anne had been childless until she was blessed later on (though within “normal” childbearing years) to conceive and give birth to Mary. It is significant that Mary (who is the Immaculate Conception – conceived without original sin) would be an only child insofar as that she is believed to have been dedicated to the Lord by her parents at a young age as an act of thanksgiving – (which we celebrate every year on November 21). That she is Immaculate is shown to us in the Scriptures, particularly in the name she is called at the time of the Annunciation (Luke 1:28) by the archangel Gabriel, who calls her “Full of Grace,” (which is literally to be lacking in nothing in the order of grace).


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