Planning a Funeral

When a loved one passes away, our sense of loss can be profound, but our faith gives us the hope of eternal life, and the knowledge that death is not the end.

A funeral Mass or Liturgy gives family and friends the opportunity to mourn a loved one’s passing and celebrate the life they lived, but it is also the process through which the Church delivers its members into the safe hands of God. Although grief cannot be erased, by coming together in the Funeral Liturgy or Mass, we can take comfort in God’s love and renew our connection with living friends and family.

There are three main funeral rites available following the death of a member of the Catholic faith.

Vigil for the Deceased

The first is the Vigil for the Deceased. The night before the funeral, family and friends may come together to pray in the presence of the deceased’s body. Eulogies may be delivered in remembrance of the loved one or the Rosary might be prayed. This may occur in the deceased person’s home, or the chapel of your parish church.

Funeral Liturgy or Mass

The Funeral Liturgy or Mass (includes Holy Communion) is a more formal gathering, led by a member of the clergy. Sometimes, a person may make decisions about their funeral Mass prior to their death. In other cases, family members may plan the funeral. This can include choosing the readings, prayers and hymns, the display of symbols significant to the deceased, and appointing appropriate people to act as ushers, greeters, readers or special ministers of the Eucharist. A homily is delivered during the Mass and a person close to the deceased may offer a short ‘Word of Remembrance’. The priest concludes the funeral by commending the deceased into God’s care.

It is important that you discuss with the parish priest your choices regarding prayers and music.  Whilst the deceased may have had a favourite song, it is often not appropriate that secular music be played within a funeral Liturgy or Mass.  Booklets containing the hymns and prayers are often a good way to include special photos, poems or other words of remembrance.  Some funeral directors will offer this service, but again the parish office will be able to provide you with good advice regarding this and other local customs.

Rite of Committal

The final rite is the Rite of Committal. This takes place at the grave, tomb or crematorium, where the priest may offer a verse from scripture, the Lord’s Prayer and Prayers of Committal.

If you would like to learn more about the funeral rites or are grieving the loss of a loved one, please contact your local parish office or parish priest. They understand that this will be a difficult time of transition and will do their best to make the planning process as simple as possible.