Q — I often hear priests speak of funerals as “celebrations of 
life.”  Is there a difference between the two?

A — No, there is no real difference in Catholic terms between “funerals” and “celebrations of life.” There is no necessary conflict between the two terms. Think of it this way. When an infant is baptized — and I know that adults are baptized at Easter, but the point is more easily made with an infant — the newly baptized is clothed in a white robe, symbolizing their new identity in Christ. They are made Body of Christ in and through the sacrament of baptism. The life-cycle of the Christian then continues to unfold, and important moments and events during the life-cycle are celebrated through the sacraments, for example, marriage and ordination, the need for penance and reconciliation, the need for anointing at the time of serious illness. And, of course, throughout the entirety of the Christian’s life there is the Eucharist, the constant divinely-given food for our pilgrimage through life. When our earthly remains are brought into the church/liturgical assembly for the last time, they are once again clothed with a white garment, the funeral pall. The journey begun in baptism is now over. The entire Christian journey is what is intended in a “celebration of life,” not simply or only the accomplishments of the deceased, or the memories of the deceased.