Incensing the coffin

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  I recently attended a Funeral Mass.  There were two priest concelebrants and a deacon.  The priest presider, using the appropriate action and text, sprinkled the coffin with holy water and then gave the holy water to each concelebrant and the deacon so that they too could sprinkle the coffin.

During the final commendation the priest presider incensed the coffin and then gave the incense to another concelebrant to incense the coffin once again.

I am not aware of any traditions or rubrics that provide for this. Are you aware of any such practices or any rubrics that might provide for a sharing of these ritual actions?  What are your thoughts as to what this practice might do to change the meaning of this symbolic gesture.

Easter joy to you Fr. Paul!


A:  It’s something I see quite a bit when there are multiple priests at a funeral. Sometimes I even see a priest hand a sprinkler to the family and invite them to join in the action. The Rite of Committal permits a gesture of leave-taking, without giving many examples. So, I guess that sharing the sprinkler and the censer fits under that rubric.

Personally, I do not share the sprinkler and censer because I think it obscures the presidential role and turns the symbols into a signs of mourning or community that other actions, words and songs should supply.