The Funeral Mass is normally the principal element of the whole funeral. The highest form of prayer was have as Catholics is the Holy Mass. The greatest gift we can give a person is to remember them at Mass and to unite our prayers for them with the self-offering of Jesus which is at the heart of the Mass. Perhaps it should also be said that Mass is not always the ideal service for everyone. If, for example, the Mass had no real significance for the person who has died or for the chief mourners, then it could be very artificial and perhaps even dishonest for them to go through a ceremony that means little for them. Asking for a funeral Mass is not just a matter of using the church building for an hour or so, but of asking to be part of the Christian community as it gathers to worship Jesus Christ. The principal focus in the funeral Mass will be on Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection are solemnly commemorated and made present under the signs of bread and wine. If this is not the focus you want for your loved one’s funeral, then you might talk to your priest about arranging a different kind of service.
The Mass is there as a wonderful help to you and your loved one who has died. At Mass the Christian community will pray for you, that you will receive the strength and the care you need to live through your grief. The Christian community which gathers for Mass will also be very honest: they won’t canonise your loved one, but will give thanks to God for them and pray that God will forgive them their sins. Most importantly, the whole liturgy proclaims Jesus Christ who was crucified, died and rose from the dead and prays that each one of us, in our own way, will share in his triumph over death.
The Word of God
The Word of God, proclaimed in the Scripture readings is, just as in the Reception of the Remains, a fundamental element of the Mass. Through these readings from Scripture we hear the voice of Christ himself. He has a message of love and hope for us most especially in the bleak experience of death. Because of the importance of the Scriptures, we don’t have any other readings at this point of the Mass. You may have other prayers or texts that you think are very relevant to the death of your loved one. Don’t include them among the scripture readings. Instead you might ask the priest to use them when he preaches, or you might consider reading them at the end of Mass. Other possible times are at the end of the Reception of the Remains, or at the Vigil, as described above. Who should read? As at the Reception of the Remains, pick an experienced reader who was not too close to the person who died. Getting up to read is difficult enough without having to worry about whether you are going to break down and cry.
What readings should be picked? Again, the Parish Funeral team or priest will give you all the help you want here.
The Liturgy of the Word finishes with the Prayer of the Faithful: together the whole gathering of people prays for the needs of the whole Church and for people throughout the world. At a Funeral Mass, this will of course include special prayers for the person who has died and all those who mourn their passing. Sometimes the prayer intentions are read by the priest, but there is the (preferable) option of having a lay reader read them. Again, it is a good idea to have a reader who is experienced and who will no be put under strain at this moment.
The Preparation of Gifts
The gifts of bread and wine are carried forward and presented to the priest. This is an ideal moment to involve family members or others among the chief mourners – it is a significant action in the Mass, and yet easily performed. You could also include among these gifts some kind of donation to a charity or worthy cause which was dear to the person who has died. The emphasis at this moment in the Mass is the giving of bread and wine and other donations; it is not really the time for carrying other mementos or keepsakes of the person who has died. If you want to symbolise their life through various objects, it is better to put them on display somewhere in the church, as outlined in the section Reception of the Remains.
Sharing in the Eucharist
The true heart of the funeral Mass is our sharing in the Eucharist. We do this by entering into the great prayer of the Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer. The priest recites this prayer, but he does so in the name of everyone present. We join in by praying silently but also by singing or saying out loud the various acclamations that are part of the prayer: the Holy, Holy; the Memorial Acclamation; the Great Amen. The other great moment is the sharing in Holy Communion. Those who are prevented from receiving (for example, non-Catholics) might present themselves and ask the priest for a blessing instead.
The Final Commendation
The Mass concludes with a solemn and moving ritual through which we commend our loved one to God’s love. Before we go our separate ways, we pray for the person who has died and honour their remains with special signs: we sprinkle the coffin with blessed water, as a reminder of Baptism, and we use incense as a sign of honour to their body, which was a temple of the Hoy Spirit. When this rite has been completed, we all process together through the church and eventually make our way to the place of burial or cremation.
The Burial or Cremation
This moment is called the ‘commital’, when we finally commit the body of our loved one to the dust from which it was made, either by burial or cremation. It can be a harrowing, but important, moment, and should not be rushed over. We need to take time with this moment of ‘goodbye’, and even linger for a while. When a person is buried, the priest normally sprinkles some earth on the coffin. It might be a good idea for each of the chief mourners also to do the same, perhaps at the end of the ceremony. Some communities have the custom of the family members throwing some clay onto the coffin. Another gesture of farewell is possible at a cremation, for example, sprinkling the coffin with Holy Water. The short readings and prayers which accompany this solemn moment of the funeral will strengthen all who are present.
Mass Intentions and Remembrances
The ministry of prayer is very important in the life of the parish and the worshipping community includes in the Prayers of the Faithful intercessions for particular need and intentions. For example, for anniversary prayers of loved ones during weekday Masses. Mass bookings for the various occasions should be made well in advance of the date required as there is a particularly big demand for Masses, especially weekend Masses. Masses can be booked in the Parish Office during normal working hours Monday to Friday.
Mass Cards available from the parish office will be signed by a priest of the parish.