Let Us Help You Plan a Prayerful
Catholic Funeral Mass
As a parish, as Church, we extend to you the consolation of our faith and our hope in the Lord. This information is offered to assist you in the preparation of the funeral rite for your loved one who is dying or has died. In this article, we have endeavored to gather all that you will need to celebrate a Catholic funeral in one place. We've included a funeral planning PDF with church teachings, Scripture suggestions, preparation worksheets, family information forms and answers to frequently asked questions.
If your loved one is dying and they need the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick please click the link go to that page first.
Since the very beginnings of our Church, and indeed, since the death of Our Lord, we the faithful have stood literally and figuratively at the empty tomb: gathering together in the hope and joy of the Resurrection, in the belief your loved one enjoys “no more pain, no more suffering, but rejoices forever the vision of Our Lord, seeing Him face to face.” (Order of Christian Funerals). This is our faith, and we are honored to share it with you and to extend its consolation to all in your family.
In His Name, the One from Whom all good things come, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, with our own love and prayer,
How to Begin Funeral Planning
Click the St. Therese Order of Christian Funerals image or the link to download our family funeral guide. It contains:
An introduction to Funeral Celebrations
Church Teachings on Funerals (Why the Church Prays a Funeral)
Importance of the Body - Cremation Guidelines
Frequently Asked Questions (Other Aspects of Catholic Funerals)
Donations to the Church
Catholic funeral planning guide
Options for vigil, liturgy, scripture readings, music...
Please contact us as soon as possible with any questions or concerns!
We are here to help you!
Frequently Asked Questions about Catholic Funerals
The Teaching of the Church on Funerals -
Why the Church Prays a Funeral...
(Derived from the Catechism of the Catholic Church )
The Christian funeral is a liturgical (prayerful) celebration of the Church. The Church wants to express as beautifully, and meaningfully, as possible the “communion” of those who gather to pray the funeral with the one who has died, and to proclaim our faith as Catholics in eternal life. (See #1684 )
The liturgy of the Catholic Church is the funeral Mass. This celebration takes place in a parish church (not in a place of business, outside, etc.), for in the Eucharist (the Mass) the Church expresses Her union with your loved one who has died – offering to the Father in the Holy Spirit the Mystery we received in the death and resurrection of Christ, by which we ask God to purify your loved one of all sins, and the life consequences of any life lived far from God’s Will — and to admit him or her to the Paschal fullness of the Table of the Kingdom that is to come.
It is by the Funeral Mass thus celebrated that the community gathered, especially the family of the loved one who has died, learns to live in communion with the one who “has fallen asleep in the Lord,” by receiving the Body of Christ of which he or she is a living member and, then, by praying for him and with him. (See #1689)
There is a farewell to the deceased, our “commendation to God” by the Church. It is “the last farewell by which the Christian community greets one of its members before his or her body is brought to its tomb.” By this final greeting, “we sing for his or her departure from this life and separation from us,” but also express our faith that there is a communion and a reunion later. “For even dead, we are not at all separated from one another... We shall never be separated, for we live for Christ, and now we are united with Christ as we go toward him . . . we shall all be together in Christ.” (St. Simeon of Thessalonica (circa 1429)). (See #1690)
Importance of the Body - Guidelines for Cremation
As it has throughout history,
“The Church earnestly recommends the pious custom of
burying the bodies of the dead be observed.”
(Canon 1176 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law)
In the past the Church prohibited cremation because the practice had been associated with a denial of the Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead and the immortality of the soul. Also, depending on the state, the crematoria often cremated bodies in groups, and there was no integrity to the cremated remains as belonging to this or that person.
As a matter of teaching, “(t)he Christian faithful are unequivocally confronted by the mystery of life and death when they are faced with the presence of the body of one who has died. Moreover, the body which lies in death naturally recalls the personal story of faith, the loving family bonds, the friendships, and the words and acts of kindness of the deceased person. Indeed, the human body is inextricably associated with the human person, which acts and is experienced by others through that body...” (Order of Christian Funerals #411 – emphasis added.)
With everything our Church teaches about Sacraments, and why their celebration is so critical to our lives as Catholics, the body is properly a focus, an importance, for who we are. “The body of a deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of Life. Thus, the Church's reverence for the sacredness of the human body grows out of a reverence and concern both natural and supernatural for the human person.” (Order of Christian Funerals #412 – emphasis added.)
The Church removed the prohibition for cremation in 1963, with state laws being modified to also require an integrity for the individuality of each body. Thus, the cremains are of that one person who has died. Now, only in those very rare circumstances, a Catholic Mass is not allowed only if the cremation was done “for reasons that are contrary to Christian teaching.”
Whether the body is cremated before or after the funeral Mass, the cremated remains of the body must be treated with the respect belonging to a child of God – parallel to what is done with a body. The remains should be placed in a “worthy vessel” designed for this purpose and interred in a grave or mausoleum. In keeping with the Church’s teaching, the cremated remains should not be scattered, kept at home or divided among family members.
While cremation is now possible, and for financial and environmental reasons, may even be preferred for burial, cremation should still be considered AFTER the celebration of the funeral liturgy — (Order of Christian Funerals – “413:
Although cremation is now permitted, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body.” For the reasons already described, the Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of your loved one be present for the funeral rites.
The presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in the Order of Christian Funerals, not only to reaffirm the Catholic reverence for the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit but as a way to console the grieving of family and friends. Even in death, the body is a reminder of the Incarnation and a foreshadowing of our resurrection from the dead: “…in baptism the body was marked with the seal of the Trinity and became the temple of the Holy Spirit,” (Order of Christian Funerals, #19.)
So, PLEASE, consider delaying the cremation until AFTER the funeral Mass. If you decide to proceed in this way, be aware there is no legal or moral reason to embalm. Simply hold the body until the funeral Mass, and use a simple casket for rental use at the funeral. After the funeral Mass, with the burial and committal now delayed to allow time for the cremation to be done, the family may now even now consider an evening funeral, or to gather socially with those who had come to express their love and hope at this difficult time.
Catholic Funerals – The Order of Christian Funerals
The Order of Christian Funeral is, in fact, a series of “rites” (prayers), each prayed around the sharing of the Scripture, reminding you and everyone that we pray not just for your loved ones who have died, but WITH them!
The first “rite,” though not required, is called the Vigil. This sharing of God’s Word, and reflective preparation for the Funeral Mass, is the public prayer of the Church, as opposed to what used to be called “the wake” and/or time when the rosary was prayed as the usual option.
Praying the rosary, or other prayer forms, is still encouraged, as ways for a family to grieve the loss of their loved one, and yet, be prepared to celebrate our hope in God’s mercy and redemption in His Son. But if the family wishes to celebrate these prayers, they would be done at another time, such as before or after the vigil, as they are considered personal, private, devotions in practice.
The Vigil is the public prayer of the Church, and is often the first time family, friends and members of the parish community gather in remembrance of the deceased, for love and support. The vigil may be celebrated in the home of the deceased, in the funeral director’s place of business, or even in the parish church. The vigil may be the beginning or the ending of a time for gathering or viewing.
The Liturgy of the Hours, Office for the Dead, is also encouraged to be prayed, but this should be prayed at other times than, and does not replace, the vigil. A vigil is especially important if many people are unable to participate in the central funeral rite (the Mass).
The vigil is usually presided (led) by a priest or deacon. And yet, when no priest or deacon is available, the vigil may be prayed (led) by a volunteer minister. During the vigil, it is very appropriate for a family member or a friend to speak in remembrance of your deceased loved one.
The next prayer is the most central prayer of the Catholic Church, the Funeral Mass. The Mass joins us with the Communion of Saints, in whose company we believe, pray, and have faith, and to which we pray your deceased loved one now belongs. It is for this preparation that this article and our funeral guide is given to you for your reflection and consolation.
The final prayer is the Committal (the burial). The Catholic Church strongly teaches, as a matter of Scripture and Tradition, that the body or cremated remains are to be buried (either in the ground or columbarium (always maintaining the integrity of the remains, which is why the Catholic Church considers it disrespectful to scatter ashes, or to divide them).
Each rite expresses our belief that your loved one, and all those who have died, are with God, and join in our prayer. This is what we believe when we celebrate each and every Mass, which is why our Church desires the celebration of a funeral Mass.
OTHER PRAYERS & RITES
Other prayers in the Order of Christian Funerals are the Gathering with the Body After Death; Prayer During the Transfer of the Body, etc.). In the United States, with the services of funeral directors, requirements of law (depending on the circumstances of death, the coroner), etc., these prayers are rarely celebrated.
The central purpose of ALL of these rites (prayers) is to celebrate our faith in the life, death, and Resurrection of the Lord. In these prayers, the Church acknowledges the grief suffered in this world, and yet, also, we express our hope in the Kingdom that is to come!
In these prayers, we acknowledge the love by which God touches us, and which brings the family together. In these prayers, we express our hope in the truth that “love does not come to end,” it does not “die” even as we die; no, we confirm our belief that we are on a journey, from birth, to life, to death, to our judgment and life eternal.
What Days Are Available for Funerals?
Day of the Week and Time. A Catholic funeral and burial may be celebrated on any day other than Sunday, excluding Holy Days of Obligation and other seasonal days of the Church Year.
While many families prefer Saturday for funerals, such a celebration and burial is most difficult to schedule and pray. There are no staff members present, which can affect the quality and gift we, as a parish, want to extend to families who have lost a loved one.
Whatever is the day and time desired, these will need to be coordinated with the priest to assure his availability and that of the parish, especially here at St. Therese Parish which is served by only one assigned priest.
How Do You Pick Music for the Funeral Mass?
Appropriate music for Catholic funerals includes liturgical hymns appropriate for Mass, which focus on the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, thereby inspiring the Christian faithful to trust and hope in the Mercy and Love of God.
Song selections need to be discussed with the parish staff and are coordinated with the contracted music minister.
Flowers - What Are the Guidelines?
If desired, flowers are welcome at the church, but are governed by the liturgical environment norms. Flowers should not be placed where they obstruct the view, movement and focus on the ambo (the place where God’s Word is proclaimed), nor the altar.
This becomes of particular concern during the liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter Time. There are no restrictions for flowers at the doors of the church, vestibule (narthex) or on the sides of the church nave (the body of the church).
Pictures and Photos at the Funeral Mass
If desired, pictures of the deceased, the family, etc., are welcome in the vestibule (narthex) of the church. Many families consider such photos important when a guest book is used to memorialize who came to the funeral.
In the church itself, however, the images/symbols of our faith (in the Lord Himself, and His Resurrection, such as the Paschal Candle, the altar, the crucifix, etc.), transcendent reminders of Christ and His Church, and designed to inspire hope. No other symbols or signs should detract from these as the proper focus to direct our hearts and minds to the Lord Himself and to the Communion of Saints in Heaven, to whom we are commending the deceased loved one.
A photo is obviously intended to remind people of the life lost in death, and it thus becomes a symbol of who was. Thus, a photo does not point to the transcendent reality of our faith, of where the deceased loved one IS – in the Merciful Hands of Our Savior, Who loves us, died for us, and Who desired us to live with Him forever.
So, during the Mass, or a Catholic funeral liturgy outside of Mass, no photo is present in the worshiping environment.
What Items Are Allowed on the Casket ?
At the doors of the church, all items, if any (such as flowers, the U.S. flag), are removed from the casket when the Mass begins.
During these introductory rites, with the family gathered around the casket, a pall, a long white cloth which is a reminder of the baptismal garment of the deceased and a sign of our Christian dignity, is placed on the casket.
The preference is for the family to place the pall on the casket when invited to do so, though the funeral director staff or others may also do so. Typically, no other items are placed on the casket.
After the pall is on the casket, a Christian symbol on the casket, such as a Bible or cross may also be placed on top of the casket. When the casket is escorted out of the church, then any flowers, flag, etc., that had been on the casket before Mass began, these may now be placed again on top of the casket.
In recognition of service in the armed forces, military honors may be accorded to the deceased at the cemetery.
What Fees/Costs Are Charged For A Funeral at St. Therese?
Many grieving families ask if there are any “fees” charged for celebrating the funeral.
However sincere the concern and question, it is important to remember the Catholic Church (and therefore our parish) does NOT charge for sacraments. The priests, ministers, etc., all are here to serve our sisters and brothers (those who are loved by Our Lord— which is everyone) as disciples ourselves of Jesus Christ. We do this because of the goodness and generosity of the parish community who give of their time, talent, and money that makes our service possible to serve you! When we are talking about our faith, hope and love, about and with Jesus Christ, how can there be a “fee?”
And yet, if it were not for the gifts given to the Church, we simply would not have a church, and we would not have ministers to serve. As a practical example, our parish has over a million and half dollars in operating expenses, all directly related to the ministries we provide, which are ALL covered by donations. This is why we ask of you for your donation.
With the experience that many people give no donation to the church, this is why some parishes ASK for have a specific donation amount for a funeral — though this parish asks only that you consider making a donation that is proportionate to the other expenses you choose for the funeral!
Consider all of the expenses you are choosing to incur: the care and preparation of your loved one (preparation of the body for burial or cremation, the casket for the body or cremation urn); burial decisions, including choices of gravesites, a columbarium, headstones/markers, etc.; flowers, rentals, etc.; reception preparations and facilitation. All of the discretionary expenses for the funeral should be considered as you reflect on what donation you would want to make to our parish.
PLEASE consider a generous gift to your Church in proportion to the other expenses you are choosing to pay (for example, if the total expense is $5,000, consider a donation of 10% of that total, $500, for your Church). Please know this gift to the church is how we are able to be here to serve you, and future families.
Other expenses (such as payment to the musicians, cantors, etc., and range from $100 to $300), these are contracted services by which the family is compensating someone for their service. Please see those as private/personal arrangements of service, and are not donations to the church; as are any gifts you may (or may not) offer to the priest, deacon, ministers who serve you.
(Consider how the parish donation, payments for musician, much less gifts to ministers, these are much less than the minimum expenses families incur in paying others for the funeral director.)