Arrangements for funerals
“And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin: and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable: always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Cor 15
Making the arrangements for the funeral of a loved one is difficult and even distressing for the family. Sensitive to this, we have prepared the following advice for bereaved families.
The first thing to remember about Catholic funerals is the Truth that the body of the dead one will be resurrected and reunited with the soul when Jesus comes again at the Last Judgement. For this reason, the bodies of our loved ones are treated with the utmost respect
For Christians, burial is not the disposal of a thing. It is caring for a person. In burial, we’re reminded that the body is not merely a shell. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6–8; Phil. 1:23), but the body that remains still belongs to someone, someone we love, someone who will reclaim it one day.
The second thing to remember is that our relationship with our loved ones isn’t dissolved by death; we pray for our dead, in case they are in Purgatory for a while, and ask them to pray for us.
When a loved one physically dies, the first thing a Catholic should do is call his priest, and then the funeral director. The funeral director will lead making the arrangements for the funeral in consultation with the Parish Priest. Please be guided by both the funeral director and the parish priest. Please be patient!
The funeral director plays an important role in the planning of the services around the funeral. It is important that you choose your funeral director carefully. Not all are the same.
If possible, it is good to establish a relationship with your funeral director before you need to use them professionally, this way you will feel more comfortable when the time comes, knowing that you are not dealing with a stranger.
Pre-arranging a Funeral Mass can also give you the opportunity to meet with your funeral director and discuss many aspects which will give you reassurance that you have covered everything you need to.
Arrangements for a funeral should not be finalised without prior consultation with, and the agreement of, the Parish Priest. The parish cannot be bound by arrangements which have been made without the courtesy of involving the Parish Priest.
Above all, we should remember that our every thought, word and action in the Mass should be directed to the following:
Worshipping God and praying to our Father that he will raise up our brother/sister with his Son in glory;
Asking God to bring comfort and consolation to the bereaved family in their time of grief;
Giving thanks to God for the life of a fellow human being whom we have known and loved, and in whose life we have been involved.
The readings at Mass must be taken from Sacred Scripture. Poems and other texts, even if they were favourites of the deceased, are not suitable for use in the Funeral Mass. They should instead be reserved for other settings, for example the reception when the mourners return from the crematorium or cemetery.
Details of readings from the Old and New Testaments are available from Fr Liam.
It is right that families should be involved, if they wish, in the selection of hymns for the Funeral Mass of a loved one. We stress, however, that the Funeral Mass is a sacred and solemn occasion and that this should be reflected in the choice of music. Only sacred Christian music may be used in church. The inclusion in the Mass of a song or piece of instrumental music which is not a sacred Christian piece, though it had meaning for the deceased, is not appropriate in the Holy Mass.
Involvement of families and friends
Such involvement is appropriate and welcome. We encourage the involvement of the family in the liturgy, and we will provide full support for any family which feels unable to cope with what can be a very emotional experience. Families may wish to consider taking part in the following:
- The readings from Scripture. As noted above, advice on suitable readings is available from the Parish Priest
- The singing of a Psalm. If the family wishes to have a Cantor lead the singing of a Psalm, they should inform the Parish Priest, especially of the Psalm that is to be sung.
- The Prayers of Intercession or Bidding Prayers. Copies of prayers suitable for reading at funerals are available from the Parish Priest. If a family wishes to adapt or adjust a prayer, they should discuss this with the Parish Priest. This will ensure that the adapted prayer is suitable for Mass.
- The bringing forward of the gifts at the Offertory.
All of this can be discussed with Fr Liam when you meet with them. Above all, go to the Lord in prayer. Pray for your loved ones and always keep them in your prayers.
“I ask only this: that you remember me at the altar of the Lord, wherever you may be.” – St Monica