Celebrating a Catholic Funeral
When a death occurs it is a traumatic time for the bereaved. As well as contacting relatives, the family doctor and funeral director, it is important to contact the Parish Priest as quickly as possible.
The Parish Priest’s pastoral ministry at the time of death is to lead the bereaved in prayer and to console them. Please discuss arrangements for the funeral, including the possible presence of a memento of the deceased with the Parish Priest before finalising details.
The death of a Christian is not the end of life but rather a transformation in an onward journey towards eternal life with God. We believe that this call to eternal life begins for all Christians in the waters of Baptism. Nevertheless for those family and friends who are bereaved there is sadness in parting and death, when it comes, even when it has been expected, such as after a long illness, always leaves a sense of loss and shock.
The Catholic Church has over many centuries developed a rich tradition in its liturgy for funerals. This liturgy seeks to balance the need to console those who are mourning with the hope in the person of Christ who is our “life and resurrection”. The Catholic funeral rites commend the deceased to the mercy of God and as we give thanks to God for the life of a Christian, we pray that God may forgive whatever sins the deceased might have committed through human weakness.
The Word of the Lord at a Funeral Mass
A variety of suitable readings are offered from both the Old and New Testaments for the Funeral Mass. It is essential that these readings should be read clearly and with sensitivity. A member of the family (over sixteen years) or family friend may undertake these readings, however, pressure should not be placed on anyone to read, particularly if they are not regular readers at Mass. It is, of course, presumed that whoever reads is a believer and is living his or her faith.
If required, a Parish reader will be available to undertake this Ministry. The readings are taken from the Sacred Scripture and may not be replaced by secular readings.
The homily is given by the Priest and is based on the scriptures and the life of the departed in that he or she tried to live out the virtues of being a Christian. The Priest, by his words, is also especially called to seek to bring comfort and consolation to those bereaved.
The Prayer of the Faithful (general intercessions) calls upon God to bring comfort to those who mourn and to show mercy to the deceased. Members of the family or friends of the deceased may also wish to participate in these prayers. If the families compose them, clear guidelines must be followed.
The Gifts we offer in Faith
The gifts to be presented for the Eucharist are traditionally bread and wine. It is recommended that members of the family of the deceased bring these to the Altar. It is not appropriate at this stage of the Mass to bring up symbols of the deceased’s life. To do so confuses the meaning of the presentation of the bread and wine, which becomes the Eucharist for us.
Music offers the community a way of expressing convictions and feeling that words alone might fail to convey. Music has the capacity to uplift those who are mourning and strengthens the assembly in faith and love and creates a spirit of hope. Music chosen for the Funeral Mass should primarily be in praise and thanksgiving to God. Musicians, choirs and soloists must plan the music in consultation with the Priest who is celebrating the Funeral Mass. Non-liturgical music may not be used during the Funeral Mass.
The use of pre-recorded music during the celebration of Mass is strongly discouraged as it is an intrusion into the celebration of a living worshipping community.
Remembrances and Acknowledgements
There are occasions when a member of the family may choose to speak to the mourners. Personal sentiments are more appropriately spoken in the intimacy of the family home or funeral home. Other words in the form of an oration are better suited to the traditional location of the graveside or at the crematorium.
In celebrating a funeral, we strive to bring consolation and hope to the bereaved and pray that the dead may obtain God’s mercy and have eternal rest and peace.
If a family wishes to have a Month’s Mind Mass or an Anniversary Mass celebrated, contact should be made with the Parish Office.
Mass for the Bereaved
In November a special Parish Mass is celebrated for Parishioners and relatives of Parishioners who have been bereaved. Individual invitations are issued to those who have been bereaved in the previous year and a general invitation is extended to anyone who wishes to take part. The date is published in the weekly Parish Bulletin.
Mass for families of deceased children
There is a special Parish Mass after Easter for the parents and families of children who died at the dawn of life.
This is an opportunity for the Parish Community to prayerfully support parents whose children died in circumstances of miscarriage, stillbirth or due to an illness in infancy. The date is published in the weekly Parish Bulletin.
“God of all consolation,
searcher of mind and heart,
you know the faith of parents.
Comfort them with the knowledge that
the child for whom they grieve
is entrusted to your loving care”.