|“Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life which has now been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just. The Mass, the memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection, is the principal celebration of the Christian funeral.” ~General Introduction to the Order of Christian Funerals, §5When a loved one dies, those left behind are filled with the conflicting emotions of intense sorrow and grief, coupled with Christian joy and thankfulness that the suffering is over and everlasting life in heaven is beginning. The Roman Catholic funeral rites offer a beautiful, profound journey through grief and loss to the joy of anticipation of the resurrection of the dead.
Planning the Mass
Here are some of the choices you’ll need to communicate to the parish:
- Scripture readings (more information below)
- Music choices (more information below)
- Is there a visiting priest?
- Do you want a funeral luncheon?
- Routinely provided by a group of parish volunteers
- Usually held in the in the lower level of church, immediately following the burial at the cemetery
- Would you like the parish to prepare the printed program for the Mass? (no charge) If so, we’ll need the following information.
- Exact dates of birth and death
- If you wish, you can submit a favorite photo to be used on the front cover of the program
- The names of the following:
Readers of first and second reading (if desired, the priest can read these readings)
Readers of General Intercessions (Prayers of the Faithful) (if desired, the priest or cantor can read these)
Gift bearers (to present the bread and wine at offertory)
Altar servers (if applicable; normally these are provided by the parish)
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion
The Catholic Church offers a wide selection of Scripture readings for the funeral rites. You will likely find excellent readings from among this list, but you may choose another Scripture reading if another passage is particularly appropriate for you or your loved one.
You will need to choose 4 scripture readings for the Mass
- First Reading from the Old Testament (or from Acts or Revelation in Easter Season)
- Responsorial Psalm from the Book of Psalms
- Second Reading from the New Testament Epistles
- Gospel Reading
The first and second readings may be proclaimed by a family member or friend, or you may ask the priest to read them. The readers should have a good grasp of the principles of proclaiming the Word of God in public. Be sure to give them a copy of the reading in advance, and encourage them to practice the reading at the ambo in church to get the feel of the acoustics and the microphone.
The responsorial psalm should preferably be sung by the cantor, but it can be recited if necessary.
All the passages listed below from the Order of Christian Funerals can be found in the translation used for liturgy at USSCB.
- First Reading from the Old Testament (*Denotes most often-used readings.)
- 2 Maccabees 12:43-46
- Job 19:1, 23-27a
- *Wisdom 3:1-9 (or shorter version – Wisdom 3:1-6, 9)
- Wisdom 4:7-15
- *Isaiah 25:6a, 7-9
- *Lamentations 3:17-26
- Daniel 12:1-3
During the Easter Season (Easter to Pentecost) one of the following is used instead of a passage from the Old Testament.
- Acts 10:34-43 (or shorter version Acts 10:34-36, 42-43)
- *Revelation 14:13
- Revelation 20:11-21:1
- *Revelation 21:1-5a, 6b-7
- Responsorial Psalm (usually sung by the cantor) Please note that these psalms are an excellent source of music for all the parts of the Mass. Any one of these psalms can be used as a song for the opening procession, presentation of gifts, communion song, or closing song.
- *Psalm 23:1-3, 4, 5, 6
- *Psalm 25:6 and 7b, 17-18, 20-21
- *Psalm 27:1, 4, 7 and 8b and 9a, 13-14
- Psalm 42:2, 3, 5cdef; 43:3, 4, 5
- *Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
- *Psalm 103:8 and 10, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18
- *Psalm 116:5, 6, 10-11, 15-16ac
- Psalm 122: 1-2, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
- *Psalm 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6ab, 6c-7, 8
- Psalm 143: 1-2, 5-6, 7ab and 8ab, 10
- Second Reading from the New Testament Epistles
- Romans 5:5-11
- Romans 5:17-21
- Romans 6:3-9 (or shorter version: Rom 6:3-4, 8-9)
- Romans 8:14-23
- *Romans 8:31b-35, 37-39
- Romans 14:7-9, 10c-12
- *1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (or shorter version: 1 Cor 15:20-23)
- 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
- *2 Corinthians 4:14-5:1
- 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6-10
- Philippians 3:20-21
- 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
- 2 Timothy 2:8-13
- *1 John 3:1-2
- 1 John 3:14-16
- Gospel Reading (read by the priest or deacon only)
- *Matthew 5:1-12a
- *Matthew 11:25-30
- Matthew 25:1-13
- Matthew 25:31-46
- Mark 15:33-39; 16:1-6 (or shorter version – Mk 15:33-39)
- Luke 7:11-17
- Luke 12:35-40
- Luke 23:33, 39-43
- Luke 23:44-46, 50, 52-53; 24:1-6a (or shorter version – Lk 23:44-46, 50, 52-53)
- Luke 24:13-35 (or shorter version – Lk 24:13-16, 28-35)
- John 5: 24-29
- *John 6:37-40
- *John 6:51-59
- *John 11:17-27 (or shorter version: John 11:21-27)
- John 11:32-45
- *John 12:23-28 (or shorter version: John 12:23-26)
- *John 14:1-6
- John 17:24-26
- John 19:17-18, 25-39
Music for the Funeral Mass
The music for the funeral liturgy, as the music at all Catholic liturgy, should encourage the participation of all those present in sung prayer.