The death of a loved one is a time of sorrow and profound grief. It is also a time when our Christian faith in the Resurrection of Christ can offer great comfort and allow us to experience grace in the midst of sadness. The prayerful rituals of the Catholic Church at the time of death are meant to bring hope and consolation to family members and friends even as they commend the soul of the deceased person to the loving mercy of God.
St. Cecilia Catholic Church offers the following list of questions and answers in the hope that it will help family members better understand the way the parish celebrates funerals and assist them as they prepare to celebrate the funeral of their loved one in the most fitting way possible.
What is a Catholic funeral Mass?
The funeral Mass is the normal way the Catholic Church commemorates a person’s death. At the funeral Mass, family, friends, and parishioners gather to pray for the deceased and for the deceased person’s family and friends using scripture readings, prayers, and special rites. Because the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s own saving death and resurrection, it is the most appropriate way to celebrate at the time of death.
Are Catholic funerals always celebrated at Mass?
No. In some instances it can be quite appropriate to celebrate a funeral outside the Mass. This is commonly done, for example, when all or most of the family members of the deceased are not Catholic. Another example would be the funeral of a non-Catholic person who was married to a Catholic and had no other church affiliation. In both cases, a Liturgy of the Word without the celebration of the Eucharist is appropriate.
Who presides at funeral celebrations?
Normally, the pastor of the parish presides at the funeral Mass. There are exceptions, however; for instance, if the family of the deceased has a priest who is a relative or a very close friend, he might be asked to preside.
Does the casket need to be present at the funeral?
If at all possible, the remains of the deceased should be present during the funeral Mass in order for the Church’s full rites for the dead to be celebrated.
Does the Church permit cremation?
If cremation takes place, are the cremated remains brought to the Church?
Yes, the cremated remains, enclosed in a worthy container or urn, are brought to the church for the funeral. After the funeral, they are buried in the ground or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The Church does not recommend the practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or of keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased. Such practices do not properly honor the dignity of the human body.
What is a “memorial Mass”?
A “memorial Mass” is a funeral celebrated in those exceptional cases when it is not possible for the remains of the deceased, whether in a casket or an urn, to be present.
How are funerals at the Church scheduled?
Funerals are scheduled in consultation with the Pastor. As far as possible, the needs and wishes of the family are given first consideration, although the availability of the pastor must also be taken into account.
Does the family of the deceased participate in the funeral?
Members of the family are encouraged to participate actively in the funeral. There are a number of ways for them to be involved. Some family members usually meet with the pastor to plan the funeral. Then, prior to the service, family members are present in the church to welcome friends to the celebration. They can also choose the pallbearers or even serve as pallbearers. They almost always place the funeral pall (a reminder of the white garment received at baptism) over the casket at the beginning of the liturgy. Family members can also proclaim the readings from the scriptures and present the gifts of bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist. In the case of a funeral when the cremated remains are present, a family member usually carries the urn in the procession.
Are funerals celebrated for people who are not St. Cecilia parishioners?
The long custom of the Catholic Church is for the deceased to be buried from his or her own parish church. Because of this, as a general rule, people whose funerals are celebrated at the St. Cecilia are parishioners or people who have had a long relationship with the parish. Even if not officially registered, the person should have been involved in some way with the parish community.
Are there policies regarding music for the funeral?
Yes. The music for the funeral is normally provided by Church musicians. Once the funeral has been scheduled, the Music Director will contact a designated member of the family to choose appropriate musical selections.
Are eulogies ever permitted at funerals?
The priest who presides at the funeral will give a homily during the service. And while the homily differs from a eulogy, most homilists make the effort to speak in a personal way about the deceased and to relate the scripture readings to the life of the deceased. For this reason, and because many eulogies tend to be highly personal in nature and not in keeping with the prayerful nature of the funeral liturgy, the Church discourages the traditional funeral eulogy or suggests that, if one is to take place, it be given at the reception or even at the cemetery.
However, if circumstances indicate that a eulogy is appropriate; it is offered by a family member or friend at the end of the funeral service and should be no more than 500 words in length. The Church also requires that the text of the eulogy be shared with the pastor at least 24 hours before the funeral. This is done in order to ensure the appropriateness of the remarks and to assist the presider who will not want to make statements in his homily that will later be repeated in the eulogy.
When does the burial take place?
When the body has been brought to the church, the burial usually takes place immediately after the funeral or, sometimes, after the reception. The priest who presided at the funeral leads the graveside service with family members and friends in attendance.
What is the Church’s practice with regard to Vigil celebrations and Rosaries?
In some cases, families choose to have a vigil for the deceased during the time following death and before the funeral liturgy. The vigil may be celebrated in the home of the deceased or in the funeral home. It may also be celebrated in the church. Some families, because of the deceased member’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, choose to recite the rosary at this time. None of these vigil celebrations require the presence of a priest and can be led by family members.
Does the Church have space for a reception?
Yes. Reception space is available in Conger Hall, (which accommodates about 300). The parish office can provide detailed information about reception facilities and how receptions are handled.
Are there fees involved with a funeral?
There is no fee for the funeral Mass. Some families choose to make a memorial offering to the Church in honor of the deceased. There are fixed fees for music at the funeral although these fees are waived in cases of need. The fee should be paid directly to the musician. The fixed fee is $150 per musician.
For more information, contact the parish office 206.842.3594 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lenten Group Study is beginning soon. We will be using the booklet entitled, “Getting More Out of Mass” which compliments the parish Christmas gift, “Understanding the Mass.” St. Cecilia Parish needs volunteers to be group leaders. Contact the parish office (206) 842-3594 if your are interested. Click here for our web page and more information.
FRIDAY LENTEN SOUP SUPPERS will be held at 5:30 PM in Conger Hall. Please join us this week for Potato Corn Chowder! All donations will benefit the St. Cecilia Haiti Fund.
ICONS OF CHRIST: Join Fr. Peter Henriot for a a special evening of prayer and meditations. Encounter our poorest brothers and sisters around the world to whom Catholic Relief Services responds. March 8, 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm in the church.