Home Ministries Funeral Policies and Practices

Policies and Practices

POLICY AND PRACTICE OF THE CATHOLIC FUNERAL RITE

INTRODUCTION

We commenced our sacramental journey with baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Christ, received the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, were nourished with the Word of God and partaking of Eucharist, received forgiveness and healing through Reconciliation, were called by the graces of vocation, and perhaps readied for death by Anointing and Viaticum. On the death of a Christian, the earthly circle of sacramental life is completed.

Life’s journey, for most Christians, would have been punctuated with successes and challenges, detours on the road, and variations to the highways and byways taken. With the death of a Christian, the earthly life in Christ has ended. The rites of the Church, with its tradition of prayer and worship in the face of death, form a supportive and compassionate guide on the journey of grieving, taking us gently through the stages of grief and loss, and tendering consolation and comfort.

Every stage of the final journey has been foreseen by the Church and its dedicated ministry of care to its people eases the burden of this challenging time for families. Pastoral Care of the Sick comes to a conclusion with commendations of the dying and prayer after death. Additional prayers at the deathbed, rituals of the funeral Mass (or liturgy outside Mass), as well as the rites of committal at the final resting place, are contained in the Order of Christian Funerals. Mourners are led through the stages of the funeral journey through the liturgy.

PRACTICE

When someone is sick:

When any of the members of our parish family are sick and in a critical condition or dying, please advise the Parish Priest to visit the sick and to administer the Sacrament of Anointing and if possible Holy Communion. Any family member or immediate family can make this request. The Parish priest is committed to visit our sick brothers and sisters and supporting them and the family spiritually.

After someone has passed away:

After the death of any of our members, the Parish priest should be contacted in order to advise the Parish family to pray for the departed soul and the bereaved family. At this time, or at a later time, the family can make an arrangement with the Parish Secretary regarding the date and time of the funeral and start to organise the Funeral Rite for the departed. Once the church and the date and time are fixed with the Parish Office, the family may contact the funeral director. It is highly desirable for the bereaved family to sit with the parish priest and spend some time in prayer for the deceased person before starting to organise the Funeral Rite. In the case of a visiting priest officiating the funeral, please refer to the special procedures for visiting priests provided at the end of this document.

The Funeral Rite

Families of the deceased are encouraged by the rites to be as closely involved as possible with the Parish Priest in the planning, preparation and involvement in the liturgies. The order of service has been set out in the Catholic Liturgy and it is necessary for funeral ceremonies to follow this order: including prayers, scripture reading, prayers of the faithful, the eulogy and sacred hymns. Options are available for possible prayers and there are a substantial number of readings which are appropriate and consoling. The choice of music must be selected appropriately (ie. sacred/religious music or classical that has become part of the church’s tradition – popular or non-religious music is not accepted).

Family members and friends may take up some ministry roles (ie. readers, servers, special Ministers of the Eucharist, ushers and greeters) providing they have being suitably prepared and if it is not too distressing or taxing. Others may be designated for these roles if this is the case.

The Booklet

A booklet is recommended to assist all present at the funeral to participate fully and actively.  When non-Catholics are expected to be present, the texts of the Mass should be included.

Unfortunately our parish office is unable to take the responsibility for the printing of any booklets or memorial cards and music. Funeral directors will be able to assist you in this regard.

When Mass is celebrated, the designation page of a printed booklet should take one of the following titles:

  • Mass of Christian Burial for N.
  • The Funeral Mass of N.
  • Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of N.

If a Liturgy of the Word is celebrated the designation may be:

  • Rites of Christian Burial of N.
  • The Funeral Liturgy of N.

A Catholic funeral is not “A celebration of the life of N.” or “A Memorial Service for N.”  These titles should be avoided on the booklet.

Fees

As such, a funeral in a Catholic church does not attract a fee. There should never be a circumstance where a member of the faithful is denied a Catholic funeral on the basis of not being able to afford it.  This is our Parish Policy.  However, there are administrative and ministerial expenses that are incurred and recommended contributions for the use of the Church are mentioned below.

Funeral Service $200
Funeral Service – if media presentation devices (projector and screen) are used $ 250
  • The fitting time for media presentation (photos, slides or videos) is at vigil (the night before) or wake (reception held after the person’s committal).  Our parish policy strongly recommends not to use audio-visual media presentations during the requiem Mass or Funeral Liturgy in the church.  However, if the family in consultation with the presiding priest decides on pastoral reasons to use the slide, photo or video presentations during the Requiem/Liturgy, they must arrange their own device (laptop/video player) to play the presentation.
  • Similarly, eulogies are recommended to take place at the vigil or wake the night before, at the place of interment or afterwards at a reception. It is permitted however, for a family member or friend to offer a brief reflection on the life of the person who has died. This would occur at the end of the funeral liturgy or Mass and before final commendation (prayers said before leaving the church for the place of committal). It is encouraged that the person speaking focus on the worthy qualities and positive values of the deceased, in particular, those that reflect his or her life as a Christian. It is important that the eulogy respects the sacred liturgy and the person who has died and their family. To ensure that no disrespect or shame is incurred, inappropriate stories, language or remarks in the eulogy should be avoided.
  • In contrast to many other churches, there is a fixed structure and set texts which the Catholic Church uses to conduct funeral rites. Choices of these texts can be made for use at funerals. The petitions of the Prayer of the Faithful are the only items where there is a freedom of composition within the rite. These should be brief intentions for the Church, the society, the deceased and the mourners. The Masses and Prefaces for the Dead in the Roman Missal contain the texts for the Mass. The Lectionary incorporates the Readings for Christian Burial and the Order of Christian Funerals includes other prayers.
  • The casket is placed at the head of the aisle with the feet towards the altar and with the Paschal Candle standing nearby. It is quite acceptable, in the normal custom, to place flowers, a bible or funeral pall, or where appropriate, the national flag, on the casket. Badges and other insignia would, in the usual course, be placed on a small table. The use of non-religious items is not recommended in church.

If visiting priest presides the funeral rite:

  • The family concerned may ring the parish office to check the availability of their preferred church on a particular date and time. The family then requests the visiting priest to ring the Parish Priest for permission and advises his activities in the Parish to confirm the date and time for the funeral. We advise our visiting priest and the family concerned to follow the Parish policy and procedures while they use our Parish Church and facilities.  Any variation requires consultation with the Parish Priest and his approval. At a convenient time, the family must meet with the visiting priest (who will be officiating the ceremony) to make the arrangements for the funeral rite.
  • It is necessary for funeral ceremonies to follow the order of service as set out in the Catholic Liturgy: including prayers, scripture reading, prayers of the faithful, the eulogy and sacred hymns. Options are available for possible prayers and there are a substantial number of readings which are appropriate and consoling. The choice of music must be selected appropriately (ie. sacred/religious music or classical that has become part of the church’s tradition – popular or non-religious music is not accepted). It is important that the eulogy respects the sacred liturgy and the person who has died and their family. To ensure that no disrespect or shame is incurred, inappropriate stories, language or remarks in the eulogy should be avoided.