Pastoral Guidance for Preparing your Funeral Liturgy
We are here to assist you in the preparation of a prayerful and peaceful funeral for you loved one. These resources are to help you in the preparation of the Funeral liturgy in our church.
A Catholic funeral is above all a moment of prayer in a liturgical setting. It is above all prayer for those who have died; it is prayer and consolation for those who remain- family and friends and for all the faithful. It is a moment also to give thanks to God for the life of the person and to commend them to His loving mercy and eternal peace.
With this in mind, the funeral liturgy reflects the prayerful nature of the celebration in the music, readings and rituals that we use; things that are appropriate in the liturgy of the Church and in the sacred space of the church.
Organise a Funeral in the Catholic Church
Step One - Get in Contact
Knowing what to do next after the death of a loved one can greatly ease the burden of loss. The best first step is to contact the Parish Priest or Parish Office to arrange a Funeral Planning Meeting with a priest and to book the church. Our staff understand that this is a difficult time of transition and will do their best to make the planning process as simple as possible. You will also need to engage a Funeral Director. We will work together with the Director to provide a prayerful funeral for your loved one.
Step Two - Select the Funeral Rites
There are three main funeral rites available following the death of a member of the Catholic Church. You may choose from among these options:
Vigil for the Deceased
The night before the funeral, family and friends may come together for a “Vigil”. It is customary to pray a Rosary at the Vigil for the Deceased, but there are other options available. The Vigil may be held in the Parish Church or at a Funeral Parlour. It may be possible to arrange for the body of the deceased to be viewed during the Vigil.
Requiem Mass or Funeral Service
In the Catholic Church, you may choose between two types of ‘funeral service’. It is most common for the funeral to be a Requiem (Funeral) Mass. The Mass is the greatest prayer of the Church because it makes present Christ’s own death and resurrection, by which we are able to access eternal life, and so is the most common form of Catholic funeral. It is also possible to have a Funeral Service, which includes readings from Sacred Scripture but does not include the Consecration or Holy Communion. This form of funeral may be appropriate if many people attending the funeral are unfamiliar with the Church’s liturgy. In preparing the Requiem Mass or Funeral Service with the priest, you will be able to select from a variety of readings from Sacred Scripture, prayers and hymns that reflect the Catholic understanding of death and eternal life.
The normal venue for a Catholic funeral is a Catholic church. On rare occasions, it may be preferable to hold the funeral at a funeral parlour. Approval to hold a Catholic funeral outside a Catholic church must be sought from the celebrating priest prior to booking the venue.
Rite of Committal
The final rite of the funeral process is the Rite of Committal. This takes place at the grave, tomb or crematorium, where the priest leads a series of prayers and blesses the place of burial or internment. If cremation occurs privately, the priest may lead the prayers of Committal at the hearse before it leaves the church.
Important Note: Liturgical Norms
Catholic funerals, whether they take the form of the Requiem Mass or Funeral Service, are prayers of both the individual deceased and their family, as well as the whole Church. Therefore, the structure and form of Catholic funerals follow guidelines (norms) stipulated by the Pope and bishops. These guidelines are designed to support the mourners but also to ensure that the funeral is a prayerful act of the whole Church. The guidelines below will ensure that the funeral you are preparing will conform to the norms of the Church.
Step three - Select the Readings and Prayers of the Faithful
Catholic funerals – whether a Requiem Mass or Service – always include readings from Sacred Scripture. Scripture is one of the principal ways God continues to speak to us. At the funeral, in particular, God speaks words of encouragement, consolation and love into our grief and loss. The Funeral Mass and Service include a First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading (optional at Mass, not required at Service), Gospel Acclamation and Gospel. In addition, the Mass or Service will feature Prayers of the Faithful which are a series of short prayers for the deceased and their family. We provide the following compilations of Scripture readings and Prayers of the Faithful from which you can make selections:
Step four - Select the Music
Music has an important place in Catholic funerals. “He who sings,” reflected St Augustine, “prays twice.” Music in Catholic liturgies helps communicate the deep spiritual realities occurring and support our mourning. Thus, music that features in Catholic funerals must be “sacred,” that is, composed specifically for use in the Church’s liturgical worship of God. While this means certain popular styles of music are not appropriate, there is nevertheless a great variety of beautiful and familiar music that may be chosen.
Music at Catholic funerals ought be performed live rather than pre-recorded. Our parish is blessed with experienced organists and vocalists who can play at your loved-one’s funeral. The fees for our organist and vocalist are $250 each. To book their services, speak to your priest celebrant or the parish office. Outside musicians will set their own fees.
In choosing the music for a funeral, it is important to consult with the priest celebrant who must approve any music selected. He can guide you through your choices and explain unfamiliar aspects. At a Requiem (Funeral) Mass, you will need to select four hymns – one for the Entrance, Offertory, Communion and Recessional and may select a Mass Setting. At a Funeral Service, you will need to select two hymns – one for the Entrance and one for the Recessional.
Step five - Words of Remembers and Audiovision Reflection
Although people commonly think of a eulogy as part of the funeral service, the Catholic Church does not envision a eulogy as being part of the Catholic funeral, since the real focus of a Catholic funeral is the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The funeral rites are not so much a celebration of the life of the deceased, but a prayer that the life and death of the deceased may be joined to Christ in heaven. Extended reflections on the life of the deceased are best presented at the Vigil or during refreshments following the funeral.
Even so, the Church does allow for a few words of remembrance for the pastoral good of those assembled. This is not a full eulogy, but a brief remembrance (5 minutes or 500 words) of the life of the deceased, preferably by one person. The Words of Remembrance should occur first, with the Requiem Mass following. The priest may require you to submit the Words of Remembrance to him prior to the funeral for his approval.
It has also become increasingly common for families to prepare an audiovisual reflection on the life of the deceased. As with eulogies, the Church does not envision such reflections being part of a Catholic funeral. If they are done at all, it is at the celebrant’s discretion, and ideally they should be presented at the Vigil, before the funeral begins, or during refreshments after the funeral. The audiovisual reflection should go for no longer than one piece of music (approx. 5 minutes).
Step six - Booklets
You may choose to provide booklets for the funeral of your deceased loved one as a means to helping those attending enter more deeply into the funeral liturgy. Booklets can be particularly useful if some of your guests are unfamiliar with Catholic worship. Before printing the booklet, send a final draft to the priest for his proofing. He knows the structure of the funeral well and will make sure your booklet is accurate.
Please Note: It is common today to refer to funerals as ‘Celebrations of Life’. The Archbishop of Melbourne clarified in 2010 that this designation is not appropriate for Catholic funerals, as it does not adequately reflect the fact that a Catholic funeral is a form of worship that immerses the deceased in the mystery of Christ. Please ensure that any printed or digital material refers to the funeral as “Requiem Mass for the Eternal Repose of the Soul of…” or “Funeral Mass for the Eternal Repose of…” or “Funeral Prayer for the Eternal Repose of …”
Step seven - Donations
Our parish follows the guidelines of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and suggests a donation be made to the priest celebrant and a donation be made to the particular Church where the funeral occurs. For further details about the recommended donation amounts, or for any queries or concerns you may have about providing a donation, please do not hesitate to contact the Parish Office or the priest celebrant. Your funeral director will also be able to guide you in this area.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.