Funeral Guideliness

The death of a loved one, even when it is expected, is always a traumatic event.  The Church has understood this very well for two millennia, and has provided for Her children the funeral rites.

The funeral rites (rituals, or liturgies) consist of three parts.  The wake service (or Vigil), the Funeral Mass, and the Rite of Committal (or the graveside service).   The Church envisions that each of these services will be celebrated in its proper order because each contributes to the full and proper understanding of life and death in Christ.

The wake service is the first opportunity for friends and relatives to greet the family of the deceased and express their condolences.  The wake service consists of several scriptural readings, a brief homily, and prayers for the deceased.  It may be done at anytime during the wake itself.  Usually it is done at the beginning, particularly at wakes at which there is expected to be a very large number of people.  This is the opportune venue for those who would like to deliver eulogies or words of remembrance.  The wake is often thought of as the celebration of the deceased’s life.

The Funeral Mass is offered at the deceased’s parish church.  The Mass is not a celebration of the deceased’s life.  Rather, the Mass is always the celebration of our Lord’s suffering, death, and resurrection.  When the Mass is offered, the whole Church, Triumphant (heaven), Militant (the baptized here in this world), and Suffering (the souls in Purgatory) is engaged.  The Church on earth continues, or makes present supernaturally, our Lord’s sacrifice of Himself for our salvation on the Cross.  The whole Church, in heaven and on earth, prays for the repose of the soul of the deceased.  This is the purpose of the Funeral Mass: to apply the merits Christ’s salvific death and resurrection to the soul of the deceased for whom the Funeral Mass is offered.  The wake is about the deceased.  The Funeral Mass is about Jesus Christ.

For this reason, the following guidelines are observed at the Cathedral Parish:

  1. The practice of delivering eulogies or words of Christian remembrance has been discontinued at The Cathedral Parish.  Eulogies are encouraged at the wake, graveside, and customary meal following the graveside service.
  2. Anyone who carries out a liturgical role at the Mass in a Catholic church (Readers/lectors, gift bearers, etc.) must be a practicing Catholic in good standing with the Church (see Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism #133).
  3. Music used at the Mass must be liturgical music.  Liturgical music is music written expressly for the liturgy/Mass.  Thus, popular songs whether of a religious or secular nature may not be used because they are not written for the Mass. “The texts of the songs chosen… should express the paschal mystery of the Lord’s suffering, death, and triumph over death and should be related to the readings from Scripture” (Order of Christian Funerals #30).  Pre-recorded music may not be played at the Funeral Mass at The Cathedral Parish.  The liturgy (work, or offering) is properly carried out by those in attendance.  Singing is to be done by the musicians and congregation in attendance.  Thus the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states in Nos. 39-40: "The Christian faithful who gather together as one to await the Lord's coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (cf. Col 3:16). Singing is the sign of the heart's joy (cf. Acts 2:46). Thus Saint Augustine says rightly, 'Singing is for one who loves.' There is also the ancient proverb: 'One who sings well prays twice.'  "Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly.”
  4. There is no need for the use Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion for funerals at The Cathedral Parish.
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