Guide for Preparing a Catholic Funeral

Lord Jesus,
we turn to you in our sorrow.
We commend to you the soul of our loved one who has died.
Receive N. (Name of your loved one) into your arms, the arms opened wide on the Cross to show your love for us.
Grant mercy to N.and grant to us a strong faith in you and a steadfast hope in your promise of eternal life.
Eternal rest grant unto N., O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him/her.
May he/she rest in peace.

At this time of your loss we would like to offer you our condolences. Please know that each day those who have died are remembered at every Mass, as are those who mourn. We hope the Church’s prayer will be a comfort and consolation for you at this testing time.

Preparing the funeral service of someone who has died can be a difficult thing to face. This information has been prepared to make the preparations easier. May the time you spend reflecting on the Word of God strengthen your trust and faith in God’s love and mercy.

Once you make contact with Fr Brian he will send you a proposed Order of Service.

The purpose of the Catholic Funeral Liturgy is to offer worship and thanksgiving to God, the author of all life; to pray for the deceased, and to offer support to the bereaved. The Church encourages us to celebrate the funeral in three main stages:

• The Vigil of Prayer, usually the evening before the funeral;
• The Funeral Liturgy, which may be a Mass or a Funeral Service;
• The Committal at the cemetery or crematorium.

When it is not practical to celebrate all three stages the funeral may comprise a single act of worship either in a cemetery chapel or crematorium.

Fr Brian will help you  consider what is best and practical for your particular circumstances..

The Vigil of Prayer
This Vigil is the first stage of the farewell journey. Its mood is one of quiet support which helps to prepare the bereaved for the final leave-taking. It may be held in the home of the deceased person, or in a funeral home. The body of the deceased may be present or not. The Vigil may be led  by members of the family or friends.  It will can include prayers and readings from Scripture. It may include the Rosary, and appropriate liturgical songs and hymns.

The Funeral Liturgy
The Funeral Liturgy usually takes the form of the celebration of Mass, the highest form of prayer in which the Sacrifice of Christ himself is made present. In offering this Sacrifice, we commend to God the soul of the deceased in union with Christ himself. In some circumstances it is suitable for the Funeral Liturgy to take the form of a Liturgy of the Word only. The family and friends of the deceased, if they feel able, can assist during the Funeral Liturgy in a variety of ways, for example:

• Placing a photograph of the deceased or Mass cards on the coffin.
• Reading the Scripture passages.
• A member of the family or a friend may also speak briefly about the deceased (Tribute/Eulogy) before the Liturgy begins. This should be kept to a maximum of 5 minutes. A written text should be sent to Fr Brian. It is not necessary to have Tribute/Eulogy.

The Funeral Liturgy usually takes place in a parish church but it may sometimes be appropriate to hold it in the chapel of a cemetery or crematorium. It is never held in a hall or the home.

The Committal
The final act of saying farewell takes place in a brief service at the graveside or at the crematorium. When a body is cremated it is encouraged that there be a further brief service, some time later, for the burial of the ashes. Out of respect for the body of the deceased person, ashes must not be scattered but buried.

Music at Funerals
The Church gives priority to the singing of the Order of Mass – the Alleluia, the Holy, and Great Amen, for example, and the songs proper to the Funeral Rite, for example the Song of Farewell. The priest will be able to discuss which version of these will be most fitting. Music at a Funeral Liturgy should always be drawn from the broad repertoire of Christian hymns and compositions. A piece of music from another source may be used before the formal Liturgy has started and after it has finished,  provided there is nothing in it inconsistent with the sacred nature of the place, the occasion and Catholic beliefs. In considering what to sing, do take into account the likely congregation and how they will respond to the invitation to sing. If the congregation is small, or unfamiliar with singing, it may be better to rely more on the organ , other instrumental music or recorded music rather  than song only.

Preparing the Prayer
In preparing for a funeral there are many things to prepare and consider. Preparing the Prayer, the Liturgy, the Funeral services, is only one of them. Also important is the reception afterwards. Often this will be the better place for the display of photos and the use of popular music that was particularly liked by the person who has died, or is associated with them by others. These things can encourage conversation and the sharing of personal memories of the one who has died, in ways that are especially helpful to the bereaved, to family and friends.

In the funeral services we particularly focus on the things of faith, and how these give us hope for ourselves and for the person who has died even in the midst of the pain of bereavement. In other gatherings before and after the funeral services our attention is much more singly on the person themselves, and the place they have in our lives.

Can I help choose the songs and readings?

Yes, Father Brian will help you select from the range of approved readings from Scripture and of hymns and songs appropriate for use at Catholic worship. As already noted, other music and readings can find their proper place elsewhere – for example in the social gathering following the funeral.

Other practicalities

Funeral directors
If the deceased had a pre-paid funeral plan a number of features regarding the funeral will already have been agreed and paid for. Otherwise choosing a funeral director is a matter for the family.
Your parish priest may be able to provide you with contact details of a number of local companies that you can select from with confidence. It is common to invite estimates of costs from different firms before making your final choice. Your funeral director will advise you on the options and costs of the service they can provide. There is often a higher cost for a funeral which includes burial. Those choosing burial will also need to consider the upkeep of the grave.
A stipend or offering to the parish for the services of the priest  leading the funeral Mass or service(s) is usual. Currently (2022) this is £315.  This stipend is usually included automatically in the account prepared by the Funeral Director, although the family is free to make its own arrangements. A disbursement is made by Fr Brian to the organist.

When will the funeral take place?
The funeral director will liaise with family, Fr Brian  and cemetery/crematorium to arrange the day and time of the funeral. This is usually during the morning parish Mass at 10.00am. Generally nothing can be done until a death has been registered. If the cause of death is clear, the doctor will issue a medical certificate and a notice with information on how to register the death so that funeral arrangements can then be made. If there is need to report the death to the coroner (for example when no doctor can issue a medical certificate of cause of death, if a death is judged unnatural or suspicious, or if a person dies during an operation), there may be a delay while a post mortem or inquest is carried out.

Fr Brian will guide you through everything at this difficult time.