On my own behalf and on behalf of the parish can I express my sympathy to you who mourn the death of your loved one.
We trust that you may find hope and solace in the Scriptures and in the poetry contained in this resource. When human words crumble before the mysteries of life and death, the eternal Word may provide an anchor for your hope. Please use the extracts given here or any other extracts suitable to the occasion.
When we meet to prepare for your loved one’s funeral I will be happy to discuss with you any of the details of the funeral prayers and the Requiem Mass.
To help you prepare what follows is an order of Service / Mass
Entrance Procession and Hymn
Opening Words of Welcome from the Celebrant
First Reading – you can choose from the resources in elsewhere in this section
Psalm (Usually sung)
Second Reading. again you can choose from the resources in elsewhere in this section
Alleluia Verse (Usually sung)
Gospel – I normally choose the gospel to compliment the readings and music you have chosen
Prayers of the Faithful (immediately after the homily) These should be adapted to the circumstances of the deceased and made personal. One, two or more readers may read the prayers.
Offertory Procession (Two or more persons may take the gifts of bread and wine)
Communion Reflection (any suitable prayer, poem or prose which is fitting, or which the deceased used as meditation during life, may be recited immediately after communion.)
To those who are bereaved
Death is always a sad occurrence. To lose a spouse, parent, family member or close friend is surely one of the most painful experiences we must endure in life. While nothing at this time can remove the pain of loss, the Funeral Mass has a clear message of hope. The Readings, Psalms and Communion Reflections that follow all convey compassion and hope.
The presence of people at a time of family bereavement may also be a wonderful source of strength. It is the local community speaking not in words but by their very presence.
The Funeral Team and Bethany Group are most anxious to be a source of support and strength at this time and will be here to help in the months and years ahead. People often suffer in isolation. The bereavement process for some is very prolonged, but for all it is intense. Our prayers are never unmindful of your grief. We would feel privileged to be of help in any way and at any time during your time of grief.
For the Funeral there are a number of ceremonies to help the bereaved gradually console in a gentle and spiritual way.
At a time, which is generally sad and emotional for the family and friends of the deceased, we are ready and anxious to assist in any way possible. Arrangements for Church Liturgies are made with the priest.
The Rite of Christian burial normally consists of
(1) Reception of Remains in Church,
(2) Funeral Liturgy in Mass or Funeral Liturgy without Mass,
(3) Final commendation and burial.
Some General Points
The following points may help summarise what is needed:
… This first thing is not to worry about the arrangements. All the material above may seem rather detailed, but in practice the priest and undertaker will guide you through it. Don’t feel you have to do everything. Fr John and the Funeral Team are there to look after you.
… After a death has occurred people sometimes feel under pressure to have the Mass and burial as soon as possible. If possible, avoid the temptation to rush things.
… You may wish to involve family members or other chief mourners in the celebrations in a special way. Give them some of the simpler tasks: placing symbols on the Table of Life, bringing up the gifts at Mass. You can also involve a lot of people in a more informal way by gathering for prayer (Vigil for the Deceased) and reflection at the funeral home or at home. This is an ideal time for favourite songs, prayers, poems and stories.
… The reading of any texts in the church itself is more demanding, and is best given to someone who will not be too distraught, preferably an experienced church reader.
… Music can add greatly to the meaningful celebration of a funeral. In the church itself, use only religious music that has been written for the liturgy. The Priest will be able to contact those who have the ministry of music in the parish.
… You might find it helpful to have other significant moments in the weeks and months ahead when you remember your loved one in a special way: a month’s mind Mass, visits to the cemetery, the annual parish Mass for the dead in November, putting up a tombstone, and the first anniversary. This could be moments when you gather with just a few people to pray and to remember.
WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS DIED: PREPARING FOR A FUNERAL
Fr Columba McCann O.S.B. takes us through organising the honouring of a deceased Roman Catholic through the Funeral liturgies of the Church.
The trauma of losing someone close is very deep and leaves us disorientated. Depending on the circumstances, the death of a loved one can leave us feeling numb, shocked, exhausted, angry, relieved, depressed, or a combination of any of these. Trying to organise a funeral in the middle of all this is not easy. Thankfully there are people around to help: your local priest, your local undertaker, friends and neighbours. Priests, Funeral ministry teams and undertakers have long experience of helping people when a death occurs and will give you the advice and support that you need.
What follows is intended as a brief guide to help you choose what is best for the funeral of a loved one. First, there is a brief description of the principal rites at the time of a funeral, and then some general advice about planning.
Remembering the Dead: the Wake or Vigil
Funerals are a time for remembering. We can feel an urge to tell the story of the one who has passed away. Stories about the good times and the bad surface and want to be told. We reminisce. This is something natural and healthy and deserves a bit of time and space. The Irish tradition of the wake has allowed for this, but this custom hasn’t survived everywhere.
A rite called the ‘Vigil for the Deceased’ has been put together for use in Ireland. It is not well known but it offers an opportunity for family and friends to gather for prayer in the presence of the body of the person who has died. This could take place at home, in a funeral parlour or in the hospital or nursing home mortuary chapel. It includes readings and prayers that evoke our hope in the resurrection as well as giving voice to the pain of what has happened. It is a moment of entrusting ourselves and our loved one who has died to the care of Christ himself. Sometimes, if people wish, it could include the rosary or a portion of it. All the prayers can be led by a lay person or a religious or priest. At the end of the prayers people might want to voice some personal remembrances of the person who has died, perhaps to read a poem or any other text that was dear to the deceased, tell some stories or to hear some favourite music. This kind of remembrance takes place more easily and naturally at a small gathering such as this than at the funeral Mass, which tends to be more public and formal.
If you would like to use some of the material from the Vigil for the Deceased, ask your local Funeral Ministry Team or priest. You may be the first person in the parish to request it!
The Reception of the Remains
An important moment in the Funeral celebration is when the body of the person who has died is received or welcomed back into the their parish church where they worshipped with the rest of the Christian community. It is a kind of homecoming. Relatives, friends and other members of the community gather either inside or outside the church. When the chief mourners arrive with the coffin at the door of the church, they are greeted by the priest or lay minister who conducts the service. The coffin is sprinkled with holy water as a reminder of Baptism: the person who has died was already united at Baptism with the death of Christ in order that he or she would rise again to new life.
If the deceased was a member of a particular association or group, the coffin may have had a flag or other insignia on it when it was being brought to the church; these are normally now removed – we are all one in Baptism and thus no individual is singled out by special insignia on the coffin once it is inside the church. There are however special signs of honour associated with being a Christian that you may wish to be placed on the coffin. The first of these is the pall. This is a large white cloth which is draped over the coffin. It recalls the white garment (sometimes called the Christening shawl) worn by each newly baptised person as a sign of their Christian dignity. It can be placed on the coffin by family, friends, or another member of the community. Every parish should have a pall, but many don’t, so you may need to check this in advance.
The coffin is then led in procession to the sanctuary of the church. When everyone has taken their place you may wish to have the Christian life of your loved one further honoured by having Christian symbols placed on the coffin. Examples of these would be a cross, a Bible, rosary beads or a prayerbook. This introductory part of the service concludes with a short prayer. All then sit of the Liturgy of the Word.
The Liturgy of the Word
The Liturgy of the Word is the central part of this service and is composed mainly of readings from the Bible. Although the books of the Bible are many centuries old and not always easy to understand, we believe that they are inspired by God and that God can really speak to us through these ancient texts. Above all, these writings help us to know Christ himself, who passed through death into new life. At a critical moment like this, when all our certainties seem to fall away, we can derive great inner strength when he hear the story and message of Jesus himself, who triumphed over death. If you wish, the Parish Funeral Team or priest will help you choose readings which seem particularly suitable to your situation.
Who Should Read the Readings?
If you really want people to hear the message of the readings which you have chosen, you need to have someone who is experienced at reading in public. Inexperienced readers sometimes think they can be clearly heard and understood, but, because they have no training, much of what they read is lost. It is best to pick someone who already reads at Mass, a friend, relative or, better still, one of the regular parish readers (the priest or Funeral Team should be able to track one down for you). One piece of advice: a person who was very close to the one who has died may be put under quite a strain, trying to read in public, so close family may not be the best candidates. They need support and care rather than additional burdens. If you want to involve family members and other chief mourners in a prominent way in the liturgy, choose other ways instead of reading. You will see a number of examples later on.
After the readings are concluded and the priest explains them briefly, everybody stands to pray together for the person who has died and for those who mourn and are in pain. Together everyone prays the Our Father. If you wish, a decade of the Rosary might be recited before the rite concludes.
Extending Sympathies to the Mourners
At the end of the Reception of the Remains (if it takes place the evening before the Funeral Mass), the family or chief mourners normally remain in the church so that people may greet them briefly and sympathise. This might be in the front seat of the church, where the family was for the service, or in some other part of the church building. If you wish, you could set up some souvenirs or mementoes of the person who died on a table nearby for people to see as they file past. The best place for this would be somewhere discreet to the side.
The ‘Reception of Remains’ described here normally takes place in the evening, with the coffin remaining in the church overnight. The funeral Mass then takes place the following day. It is also possible for the remains of your loved one to be received into the church at the beginning of (or shortly before) Mass, rather than being in the church overnight.
A reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 3: 14-19
This is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural takes its name.
Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth, until knowing the love of Christ whish is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.
This is the word of the Lord.
A reading from the Prophet Isaiah 9:1-2, 5-7
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase, they rejoice in your presence…
For the yoke that was weighing on them, the bar across their shoulders, these you break as on the day of Midian.
For there is a child born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid upon his shoulders; and this is the name they give him, Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince of Peace. Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end, for the throne of David and for his royal power which he establishes and makes secure in justice and integrity, from this time onwards and forever.
This is the word of the Lord.
A reading from the Prophet Isaiah 58:7-10
Is this the sort of fast that pleases me
- it is the Lord who speaks –
to break unjust fetters
and undo the thongs of the yoke
to let the oppressed go free
and break every yoke,
to share you bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, to clothe the man you see to be naked and turn not from your own kin.
Then your light will shine like the dawn and any wounds you may have quickly healed over.
Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer; call and he will say, ‘I am here.’
If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word,
If you give your bread to the hungry, and relief to the oppressed,
Your light will rise in the darkness and your shadows become like noon.
The word of the Lord.
A reading from the book of Ecclesiasticus 26:1-4,13-16
Happy the husband of a really good wife
The number of his days will be doubled.
A perfect wife is the joy of her husband,
He will live out the years of his life in peace.
A good wife is the best of portions,
Reserved for those who fear the Lord;
Rich or poor, they will be glad of heart,
Cheerful of face, whatever the season.
The grace of a wife will charm her husband,
Her accomplishment will make him the stronger.
A silent wife is a gift from the Lord,
No price can be put on a well trained character.
A modest wife is a boon twice over,
A chaste character cannot be weighted on scales.
Like the sun rising over the mountains of the Lord
Is the beauty of a good wife in a well kept house.
This is the word of the Lord.
A reading from the Book of Psalms (Ps 111:1-9)
Happy the person who fears the Lord
Who takes delight in His commands.
Such a person will have children powerful on earth
The children of the upright are blessed.
Riches and wealth are in their house,
His / her justice stands firm forever.
They are a light in the darkness, generous, merciful and just.
The good person takes pity and lends,
conducts their affairs with honour and will be remembered forever.
Such a person has no fear of bad news, with firm heart they trust in the Lord.
Open-handed they give to the poor, their justice stands firm forever, they will be raised to glory.
This is the word of the Lord.
Prayers of the Faithful:
N. lived for his/her family, they meant the world to him. He/She loved and cared for them with every essence of his being. We ask for a special blessing and strength for ……….. to help them through these dark days. Lord hear us.
N’s love for his family, his/her commitment to friends and his/her support for those in need set an example for us all. Grant us the grace to follow in his/her ways and make the world a better place. Lord hear us.
N’s passing has left a void in the lives of those who knew him/her and loved him/her. We pray that we may all come to feel God’s healing touch and understanding in our pain and sorrow. Lord hear us.
N. created a workplace where all were respected and made to feel important and part of a team. Despite the deadlines and pressures he helped us to see that nothing was more important than people. Grant that we may never lose sight of the need for friendship and fun in our working lives. Lord hear us.