The Funeral Mass
The death of a family member is a pivotal moment in the life of the family. Our Christian faith allows us to look through death to the resurrection, placing our loved ones in the hands of the Risen Christ with the hope they will be able to share in the eternal life He won for us. The funeral liturgy in church can be a time of deep connection- connection with the Lord, connection with others present, connection with our deceased loved one and all those now in God’s loving care. Listed below are some aids for preparing the funeral liturgy.
We at Nativity of Our Lord and Saint Gabriel parish seek to be sensitive and accommodating while working within appropriate liturgical guidelines to plan the funeral. We sometimes have to ask families’ understanding if we need to steer them away from innovations not suited to Catholic church worship.
The church is open thirty minutes before the start of the funeral, and if the family desires to place photographs or memory books at the entrance near the vestibule, they are welcome to do so. Photographs of the deceased are not placed in the front near the sanctuary or on the table with the cremains during the funeral.
Choosing Readings and Prayers of the Faithful
Readings at a Funeral Mass must come from the Bible.
If there are two Readings before the Gospel, the First Reading is from the Old Testament and the Second Reading is from the New Testament (but not from one of the Gospels). If there is just one First Reading, it can come from either the Old or the New Testament. The priest generally chooses the Gospel, but if the family has a particular Gospel selection they would like read, they are welcome to tell us.
Please note that all scripture readings at Mass must come from the New American Bible translation (if in English). Other translations may be suitable for home use, but the American Bishops require the NAB for Mass.
It can be overwhelming to pick up a Bible and start paging through it looking for Readings. Therefore, the Church has selected a number of options, and most families find among these options passages that speak to them and their loss. These do not exhaust all possibilities, and if a family has something not listed among the options they are welcome to discuss using that with the bereavement minister or the priest.
We can also provide sample Prayers of the Faithful to be used as the basis for the General Intercessions. Families often use or customize these, or even compose some of their own.
For the First Reading at a Funeral, use this link to access the list of these Readings on the Bishops’ Web site: https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/bereavement-and-funerals/old-testament-readings
During the Easter Season only, the First Reading at a Funeral is taken from one of these options: https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/bereavement-and-funerals/new-testament-readings-during-easter-time
For the Second Reading at a Funeral, use this link to see the options: https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/bereavement-and-funerals/new-testament-readings
For the Gospel at a Funeral (which is read by the deacon or priest), use this link to see these options: https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/bereavement-and-funerals/gospels
Click here for sample petitions
Our parish music director provides music for all funerals. If families would like to involve other professionals, please speak to him about this in advance to get permission and then he can handle the overall coordination of this.
Contact our music director, Carl DeSanti.
Words of Remembrance
The Catholic Funeral Mass does not include Words of Remembrance (sometimes called a “eulogy”) so many parishes do not allow this, recommending that it instead be part of the wake or wake service, or at the luncheon. Nativity of Our Lord and Saint Gabriel parish does allow a 3-5 minute written reflection to be given by a friend or family member, which takes place just prior to the First Reading.
While some may have seen this take place at other churches at the end of the service, putting it there takes away from the solemnity of the Communion rite and the incensing of the casket and Prayer of Commendation- these are important parts of the Mass that should have a seamless transition, from one to the next.
Those delivering Words of Remembrance are often nervous beforehand and offering the Words of Remembrance at the beginning of the liturgy allows them to then settle into prayer and worship for the rest of the service.
For those in the congregation, hearing the Words of Remembrance at the beginning creates a context through which the Scripture passages can be heard within the framework of the life and memory of the one who has died.
It also helps the priest to understand the legacy of the one who has died, and he can build upon those themes in his homily.
Click here for Words of Remembrance Guide
Note: Words of Remembrance are an option, but not necessary. In fact, many find the noble simplicity of the funeral rites on their own to be most fitting and appropriate- without adding additional and unnecessary complication and length to a worship service that is already saturated with beauty and meaning.
Cremation Guidelines for Catholics
Click here for more information about Cremation in the Catholic Church
Wakes and Visitations
Since churches are consecrated for sacred worship, and wakes are more social events, we ask families to arrange to wake their deceased loved one at a local funeral home. Newer churches with designated gathering spaces separate from the church can sometimes host wakes on-site, but historic churches like ours are not set up for this. Funeral homes are, then, the appropriate places to hold wakes, which are an important facet of the grieving and funeral process.
Our parish tends to work most frequently with the following funeral homes:
McInerney Central Chapel
Dalcamo Funeral Home
Michael Coletta and Sons
These are all staffed by professional funeral directors and are equipped to host friends and family of the deceased in a dignified, warm and welcoming environment. In addition, they have private spaces where bereaved family members can retreat to take a break and stock refreshments/snacks/sandwiches. They have custodial staff to take care of emergency needs and sufficient restrooms. Our churches are neither equipped nor staffed to handle visitations.
If no wake at a funeral home is scheduled due to an expectation of small numbers, we can open the church 45 minutes prior to the scheduled funeral time so that grieving family members may gather in the back to greet each other and other mourners. Those experienced in funerals often talk about how important it is for mourners to be able to greet the family, and how important it is for the family to have sufficient time to be together and greet other mourners, as well as others who seek to express their condolences. A short gathering at the back of church prior the funeral can be appropriate if the number of people expected at the funeral is less than 30-40. Beyond that number, we find that holding a wake at the funeral home the afternoon/evening before (or even the morning of the funeral) gives everyone a chance to spend the necessary time together and greet one another
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