Part One


††††††††† When death touches our lives, it can be a situation that challenges our Christian faith, the way we have experienced the life of the deceased, and the way we approach the reality of death.This information has been prepared for those who have the responsibility for making the arrangements and decisions regarding the funeral liturgy for the deceased.

This information draws upon the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church, the recommendations and policies of the Canadian Bishops and the Diocese of Hamilton.

It is always best to talk to your parish priest before making any major decisions for the funeral liturgy.The following is meant to help you understand the process and the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church that are so important to us.


††††††††††† Some people have pre-arranged their funeral liturgies Ė choosing readings and music, and indicating the participation of family members and friends - just as they may pre-arrange the services of the funeral home.Individuals or families sometimes approach the parish priest, asking for resources to do this.Sometimes it is done by family members before the death of their loved one, and in a few instances, by someone who is ill and perhaps facing death.




Funeral liturgies are for the living.They are a vital part of the grieving and healing process.They give family and friends a formal way of remembering and saying good-bye.Everyone should have at least some type of funeral service.


The full celebration of a Catholic funeral consists of three rites:


The Vigil for the Deceased†††† The Vigil, or Wake Service, is the prayer of the Christian community after the death and before the funeral liturgy.At the vigil the Christian community keeps watch with the family in prayer and finds strength in Christís presence.The vigil may be celebrated on the day before the funeral liturgy, in the afternoon or evening, and may be led by a lay person or a member of the clergy.


The Funeral Liturgy†††† The Funeral Liturgy, when it is a Mass, should normally be celebrated in the deceasedís own parish church.If those in charge of arrangements want another church, they need to secure the consent of whoever is in charge of that church, and notify the deceasedís parish priest.A priest or bishop presides at Funeral Masses.

A Funeral Mass must always be celebrated in a church.If the funeral liturgy is a Liturgy of the Word only Ė with no

celebration of the Eucharist Ė it is normally conducted in the funeral home, or other suitable place where the body of the deceased is resting.A member of the clergy or a lay person may lead this liturgy.


††††††††††† In the funeral liturgy the participation of family members is encouraged to do the Scripture readings, to read the Intercessions.Family members may also wish to place the pall (large white cloth) over the casket during the rite of welcoming at the beginning of the Mass.


††††††††††† The Rite of Committal at the Cemetery or Mausoleum†††† At the time of burial or entombment the church offers prayers for the deceasedís peaceful rest, until that day when the Lord of the living and the dead brings our bodies into the glory of Godís kingdom of heaven.These prayers may be led by a member of the clergy or by a lay person.




No funeral is celebrated in isolation.Every death touches family, friends, and the community in which the deceased lived.So there are a number of considerations in planning the celebration.


Scripture Readings†††† The Sacred Scriptures are Godís Word to us.Some passages are better suited for funerals.Several selections will be offered to those planning the liturgy, to choose which they would prefer.

A family member or friends may proclaim (read) one or two scripture passages before the presider proclaims the gospel.Among other factors in choosing a reader, their emotional state should be considered.It can be unfair to ask a grieving person to undertake so public a task.


At St. Francis Parish the celebrant of the Funeral Liturgies meets with family members to coordinate the three parts Ė Vigil, Service, and Burial.At that time readings will be chosen, and as well the celebrant will ask important information about the deceased loved one that the family wants mentioned in the Homily.As well as proclaiming to us the Word of God, and the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Homily reflects how the deceased loved one lived out and shared that life of God.


††††††††††† Music†††† The music is intended to express our trust in God and to turn our hearts towards the promise of Godís redeeming love. Most parishes have a funeral choir and can offer a range of selections chosen to this end.

Family and friends may make suggestions for hymns.When the funeral liturgy will be a Mass, the church will arrange for musicians to be present.


At St. Francis Parish we have a very good funeral choir, the Resurrection Choir.When the family meets with the celebrant of the Liturgies they will be provided with a list of the appropriate liturgical music that our Choir knows.Congregation singing is important in the celebration, rather than soloists.Soloists and the use of other musical instruments should be talked about at the time of planning the liturgies.


††††††††††† Intercessions†††† During the liturgy, whether it is a Mass or in the funeral home, the Church declares its trust in the God who listens.We do this by offering prayers for the deceased, the family and friends, and those in need of any form of Godís help.A selection of such intercessions will be made available to those planning the funeral for them to choose from.During the liturgy they may be offered by a family member, a friend, or by the person leading the liturgy.


††††††††††† Gift Bearers at the Mass†† During the Funeral Mass there is an opportunity for friends and family to bring to the altar the wine, water and bread that will be used for the Eucharist.This can be a good, non-verbal way Ė especially for younger people Ė to share in the celebration.





††††††††††† Most parishes have a group which can arrange for food and beverages to be served after the funeral liturgy and/or burial.It is important to speak to the parish staff to see if this is available and if there is an added cost.


††††††††††† At St. Francis of Assisi Parish, the Catholic Womenís League, generously prepares a funeral luncheon in the Church Hall.The family of the deceased may wish to make a donation, if possible.No set fee or price is set for the food or services of the ladies.






Part Two




††††††††† Catholics may be cremated.There was a time when they were not, but some years ago this prohibition was lifted.When cremation is chosen, it is with the following options:††


††††††††††† Cremation after the Funeral Liturgy†††† This is the Catholic Churchís preference, so that the three formal funeral rites can be celebrated in the presence of the body.In this way we may show the body that reverence which has always been part of the Churchís tradition.

In this option, the vigil and the funeral liturgy are celebrated as usual.If the family and friends accompany the body to the crematorium, the rite of committal is celebrated there.There may be a further prayer service when the cremated remains are buried or entombed.


Cremation before the Funeral Liturgy†††† Sometimes circumstances require cremation before the funeral rites.If it is possible to celebrate at least the Vigil before the cremation, that should be done.If not, the vigil takes place in the presence of the cremated remains, or ashes.

††††††††††† In Canada, Catholic churches are permitted to celebrate the funeral liturgy with the ashes present, treated as the body would be treated.The remains are placed in a suitable container on a table provided for the purpose.Signs of 

reverence toward the ashes, such as holy water and incense during the committal, are used as they would be toward a body.


††††††††† Cremation without a Funeral Liturgy†††† This is not the favoured option, but circumstances may sometimes lead to a simple interment of cremated remains with no funeral preceding.In this case, the interment ceremony combines the formal commendation, which would have concluded the funeral, with the committal ceremony at the place of interment.


††††††††† Disposal of Cremated Remains†††† The Churchís great respect for the bodies of the deceased extends to cremated remains.This means that they should be placed in a worthy container, and that all who handle them should treat these ashes with care and reverence.

††††††††††† The Church asks that cremated remains be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium.They should not be scattered in the sea, air, or ground, or kept in the homes of relatives.





††††††††† Catholics are sometimes surprised to learn, as they prepare the funeral liturgy, that a eulogy is not permitted, either by diocesan policy or by the Order of Christian Funerals itself.†† Nor may the funeral homily be a eulogy, although the homilist may draw upon the life of the deceased to exemplify the Scripture readings chosen by the family. By contrast, the eulogy can be the principal feature of non-Catholic funerals, where it is a significant honour and responsibility to be asked to deliver one.

††††††††††† The world ďeulogyĒ means ďa formal speech or piece of writing in high praise of a person.ĒThe function of a eulogy clashes with the very nature of a Catholic funeral, which is a celebration first and foremost of Christís victory over sin and death.Christ, and his incomparable gift of himself to us, are the centre of our attention, in the midst of which we give thanks for the life of the deceased, and commend him or her to the Fatherís boundless love.

††††††††††† The lack of eulogy does not prevent the homilist from referring to the deceased in the context of the readings.Although the Church directs that the homily must dwell on Godís compassionate love and the mystery of Christís death and resurrection, it also directs the homilist to point to the mystery of Godís love in the life of the deceased and in our own lives.

When the homilist does not know the deceased, it is helpful if family and friends are able to share stories about the deceased with him before the funeral.Something in writing might also assist him incorporate aspects of the deceasedís life into his preaching of the Word to the people of God.

Because it is clearly helpful to the mourners to share stories about the deceased, it is appropriate to share a remembrance of the deceased within the Vigil before the funeral, or as part of the Rite of Committal, or during the Reception that usually follows the funeral liturgy.

Sometimes family members want to provide those who have come to be with them at the funeral liturgy some sort of account of the deceasedís life, something biographical and personal.This could be in the form of a printed pamphlet which could be made available at the funeral, or at some other appropriate time.Funeral homes can be of help in preparing such a memorial.


††††††††† On some occasions Ďwords of remembranceí have been given at the Vigil, or in the Church Hall, before the luncheon.


 If you have questions about any part of these guidelines, please feel free to call the Parish Office, at Phone : 519-745-7301, or : e-mail for clarification.