Under what circuмstances may a Requiem Mass be celebrated using a catafalque?
If I could, I'd like to have that done for my father.Good Morning and a Blessed Second Sunday of Advent,
I am defiantly not a rubricist, but as I’m not unread on liturgical history, I was a pre VII altar server, and I work for a funeral home, this question made me curious.
There was a simplification of some of the liturgical rubrics about 1960, which were incorporated into the 1962 missal … this could be a confusing time for a young alter server when serving Mass between older and younger priests. I am thinking, from some context, that the use of a catafalque was eliminated with the 1960 rubrics, though I can’t cite “chapter and verse” and I could be wrong. I’ve never seen a catafalque other than in pictures and I can’t say if the parish I grew up in had one, as I never saw one used after becoming an altar server, which would have been about 1962.
I’ve thought that a catafalque was usually used before the 1960 rubrics at what might be referred to as a “memorial requiem Mass” … i.e. a Mass offered for a deceased faithful after the funeral requiem Mass on the day of burial, but also it could be used at the “funeral requiem Mass” when the body could not be present for some reason.
Citing “The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described”
by Fathers Adrian Fortescue and J. B. O’Connell (I have a copy of the eleventh edition from 1960, the first edition was published in 1917), there is this statement:
This is the rule when the body is present physically or morally (that is, at the funeral ceremony when, for some exceptional reason, the body cannot be brought to the church). When the body is not present, either physically or morally, the foot of the catafalque is always nearer the altar.
I also referenced "Matters Liturgical"
by Father Joseph Wuest, C.SS.R. (the 1956 English translation, Fr. Wuest's Latin edition was first published in 1889), which also seemed to indicate that a catafalque could be used at a funeral Mass when the body could not be present for exceptional circuмstances.
To have a catafalque present one may need to find a priest comfortable using the pre 1962 missal rubrics, and after that, a chapel that actually one. If a catafalque is needed it wouldn’t be that complex to construct one. As a point of information (my funeral home personage coming into play here) the word “catafalque” is sometimes used synonymously for “bier” or “church truck”, i.e. a stand to place a casket or body on. In the context of this discussion a “catafalque” would be something that resembles a “casket and its stand” and draped in black, when the remains cannot be present.
If it’s not practical to construct a “catafalque” SimpleMan might visit with the funeral home which handled his father’s final arrangements (or any other funeral director he may be acquainted with) as perhaps an empty casket on a church truck could be used as a catafalque. Most funeral homes have rental caskets (a nice wood or metal shell with an unfinished interior into which an upholstered cardboard receptacle can be placed; the cardboard receptacle is removed after the funeral to be buried or cremated, the shell can be reused. As a sidebar and point of information, in Washington where I live, and in most other states in my understanding, once a body has been placed in a casket that casket can never be reused for another person, the empty shell rental casket with changeable interior being the exception.
To avoid confusion, and in my understanding, a catafalque taking the place of a casketed body is draped to the floor with a black cloth in addition to the black pall placed on top. If I weren't so far away I would be honored to assist in any way, but I hope it will all work out.