“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25)
As Christians we offer the funeral rites as an act of thanksgiving to God, the author of all life. The pain of loss runs deep; when Jesus said “Blessed those who mourn; they shall be comforted” (Mt 5:4) he spoke of the joy of having loved to the very core and hence the sense of deep loss. So as well as being a service of thanksgiving, the funeral rites are also an opportunity to pray for the deceased and support those left behind.
The model for Catholic funerals is the Easter journey of Jesus from death to resurrection. This is why the Church provides three parts to the funeral celebration namely the prayer vigil, funeral liturgy, and committal. You can find out more about the three parts by downloading the ‘Guide to Catholic Funerals’ below.
What actually happens during a funeral varies, most people choose to forego the prayer vigil, so the Church provides several options from which we can choose freely. There is greater flexibility and involvement possible than we sometimes imagine. It is always best to talk things through with the priest or deacon before making any firm arrangements.
The length of the service depends on the type of service you choose. The funeral liturgy can take two forms: the Requiem Mass (Funeral Mass) or a Funeral Service. The Funeral Mass is the highest form of prayer and thanksgiving we can give and should always be considered when the deceased was a regular Mass-goer. The Church encourages a Mass since the eucharist remembers and celebrates Christ’s own death and resurrection. A Funeral Mass can take anywhere between 45-60 minutes. However, while the eucharist is our central liturgy, it is not always the best option for every funeral. To celebrate a funeral without Mass is also a valid form of Catholic worship. A funeral without Mass (Funeral Service) takes approximate 30-40 minutes.
Before you make any plans, you need to think about whether you wish to have a Funeral Mass or a Funeral Service. Once you have decided this, approach your chosen Funeral Director and make your wishes known. The Funeral Directors are being paid to take the pressure off you, so they will liaise with the Church. Once things are confirmed, the priest or deacon who will conduct the funeral will make contact and arrange to meet with you and offer support. Do not make any firm arrangements about the Service until you have spoken with the priest or deacon.
Whilst we understand that there may be a favourite song or track you or your loved one may have, not all music is appropriate inside a church. Music at a Funeral Liturgy should always be drawn from the broad repertoire of Christian hymns and compositions. A piece of music from another source may be used after the formal Liturgy has finished, typically at the graveside or Crematorium, provided there is nothing in it inconsistent with the sacred nature of the place and the occasion.
In considering what to sing, do take into account the likely congregation and how they will respond to the invitation to sing. If the congregation is small, or unfamiliar with singing, it may be better to rely more on the organ or other instrumental music than song only. The priest or deacon conducting the funeral will help you decide the best place for any music. You can also download below some music suggestions to help start the decision making process.
Funeral planning can be a challenging task for your loved ones after your death. If you wish to make arrangements for your own funeral first think about the Funeral Director you wish to use and approach them. Most Funeral Directors offer pre-paid funeral plans where you make all of the practical choices and pay for your funeral in advance. Download the useful planning sheet for making arrangements for your funeral service below. Then complete it and keep it safe either with your will, chosen Funeral Director, or a loved one.