On my own behalf and on behalf of the parish team 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.)
Fr. Brendan, Fr. Tony and Fr. Donal
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.
As priests and pastoral worker we 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 one of the priests of the parish.
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. The Parish is here 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. There is no hurry in modern times and sometimes you may need a day or two to recover if you have been around your loved one’s bedside over a period of time or to wait for someone to come home from abroad.
… 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, for the Mass music should be liturgical and religious, escorting the remains up and down the aisle may be an appropriate secular piece of music might be played/sung, although try to remember that it is a holy church and so it should not be in any way offensive. If in doubt check with the priest celebrating your loved one’s funeral mass.
… 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.
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 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.
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 wished, you could set up some souvenirs or mementos 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.