Saint Kateri Funeral
126 South Meadow Road
Plymouth, MA 02360
A Guide for Preparing Funeral Liturgies
"In the face of death, the Church confidently proclaims that God has created each person for eternal life and that Jesus, the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, has broken the chains of sin and death that bound humanity;" Order of Christian Funerals ©1989
When we suffer the passing of a loved one or face the certainty of our own death, the Church's funeral rites provide a place where we can grieve, remember, face our fear, give thanks, celebrate, and above all connect our personal human experience to that of the believing community and to the story of Jesus.
Scheduling of Liturgies:
The Order of Christian Funerals is divided into three rites:
- Vigil (wake) and related rites and prayers:
The vigil for the deceased is the principal rite celebrated by the Christian community in the time following death and before the funeral liturgy. Words of remembrance may be spoken at this time. The vigil may be held in the home of the deceased, in the funeral home or in the church.
- Funeral Liturgy:
Because the funeral liturgy is the central celebration for the deceased it should be scheduled for a time that permits as many of the Christian community as possible to be present.
- Rite of Committal:
The rite of committal at the conclusion of the funeral rites is the final act of the community of faith in caring for the body or ashes of its deceased.
Whenever possible, the rite of committal is to be celebrated at the site of committal, that is, beside the open grave or place of interment.
Planning the Rites: Collaborative Guide for Funeral Planning
Whenever possible the family should be involved in the planning of the funeral liturgy. This section will help guide you through this process. The family is invited to fill out the Funeral Mass Selection Form included with this booklet indicating their choices in the appropriate places.
- Placement of the pall and Christian symbols
- Presentation of the gifts
- Words of Remembrance
Pallbearers: Family members or friends of the deceased may be selected as pallbearers. This can be coordinated with the funeral director. If the family does not wish to have members or friends as pallbearers the funeral director can provide this service.
Placing of the Pall: A funeral pall, reminding us of the garment given at Baptism and therefore symbolizing our life in Christ, is draped over the coffin at the beginning of the Liturgy. Family members or friends are encouraged to do this, although others may likewise do the placing of the pall. The use of this pall also signifies that all are equal in the eyes of God.
Symbols of the Christian Life: One symbol of the Christian life may be carried in the procession by a family member or friend and placed on the coffin at the conclusion of the entrance procession.
The family provides the symbol: This may be a bible or a book of the Gospels as a sign that Christians live by the Word of God and fidelity to the Word leads to eternal life. It might also be a cross: a sign that the Christian is marked by the cross in Baptism and through Jesus’ suffering on the cross, is brought to the victory of His resurrection. The priest may recite a prayer to accompany this placing of the symbol on the coffin.
Readings: The family, in collaboration with the priest or minister, can select one text each from the Old Testament Readings, Responsorial Psalms, and New Testament Readings. Non-biblical texts may not replace scriptural readings at Mass. If there is a family member or friend who is a parish reader or is comfortable with public speaking, you may want to invite them to do the readings, which are always proclaimed from the lectionary. The readings provided in this guide are for preparation purposes only. The selected readers will meet with the Parish team to prepare for the Liturgy.
Music: Funeral music reflects not only the grief of the family, but the whole truth about the life and death of a Christian: “God’s love for each and the promise of eternal life.” This is why the Church insists that only liturgical music be used and that the primary focus should be on the assembly's song.
The choice of music from various liturgical seasons, familiar to the community at Sunday Mass is good practice. Easter songs, which speak of the Lord’s Resurrection, are particularly appropriate.
Ideally there should be a balance between music expressing grief, loss and the need for comfort, and music expressing the believing community’s joyful hope that both the deceased and those who celebrate the rites are entering into the risen life of Jesus, the Lord. Music selections can be found on the Funeral Mass Selection Form, as well as in this booklet.
Presentation of Gifts: The church encourages family members or friends at the Funeral Mass to bring to the altar the gifts of bread and wine.
Holy Communion: The Church encourages those present, who are spiritually prepared, to receive communion under both species. While everyone receives the whole Christ under the form of bread alone, it is a fuller sign that we truly do eat and drink the Lord's body and blood when we communicate from the chalice as well.
Words of Remembrance: A member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased following the prayer after communion or at the celebrant’s discretion, at the beginning of the funeral liturgy. The funeral rite offers the option for some words of remembrance. One speaker may be chosen by the family to offer a typed up presentation that should be simple, brief, well-prepared, and appropriate for its place during Mass. Please keep the length to five minutes (about one typed page). Within the context of the funeral liturgy, the tone of such a personal reflection should remain one of faith and hope, and should emphasize the way the deceased lived the Christian life. Words of remembrance are also appropriate at the Vigil/Wake or at the Committal.
Flowers: During the season of Lent flowers are not used in the church.
Memorial Mass: The funeral is called a "Memorial Mass" when the body or cremated remains (called cremains) of the deceased are not present for the Liturgy. Except for the remains, all other aspects of the Mass are the same as a funeral. Members of the family should be actively involved in choosing the Scripture readings and music.
Worship Aid: A sample worship aid is available. Arrangements can be made to have one printed.