Planning a Catholic Funeral

When a Catholic dies, the family should contact the parish immediately, but some families will start at funeral homes, and then contact the priest through the funeral home. Given that, we provide the following information to help families think through the many details of planning a funeral. Each topic is carefully laid out and explained so that family members can read and discuss together, if desired. Please fill out the questionnaire linked at the bottom of the page and be prepared to discuss it with the Liturgical Coordinator who will help you with the funeral arrangements.

AT THE FUNERAL HOME: Sometimes Catholics are unsure about what to do at the Vigil (or “Wake”). Here the family and friends gather to spend some final moments with the body of their beloved. It is a time as Catholics to offer prayers for the deceased and for one another. Sometimes the family would like to pray a rosary together or hear readings from Sacred Scripture. Sometimes the family decides on an informal visitation. The priest or deacon can be available to assist the family in praying for the dead if you would like a formal Vigil (prayer service). Let us know if you would you like a formal Wake service or Vigil conducted by the priest or deacon at the funeral home, and let us know which funeral home your family is using, and what might be a good time for the Vigil or Wake.

AT THE CHURCH & GRAVESIDE: In planning the funeral, the parish will need to know if there will be a casket. Ideally the body should be present for the funeral, though some are now cremating before the funeral. The pastor will also need to know if the family is going immediately to the graveside after the funeral, and where that will be. Our parish tries to offer parishioners the option of having a reception in the parish hall when possible, as often times families are gathered together and no one home can accommodate all those folks, so let us know if this is something we can try to arrange for you as well. Sometimes the reception follows the funeral, and other times it follows the graveside, so let us know which option best suits your needs. Regarding the planning of the funeral, you’ll need to work with the parish on the following things.

MUSICIANS: We have well-trained Music Director at St. John the Evangelist. The cantors and organist know the essential music for the various funeral rites of the Catholic Church. If you are planning a Funeral Mass, It is advisable that you retain at least the services of a cantor to chant the prayers and responses that are proper to that rite. While not required, the organ adds another layer of beauty and solemnity to the rite, so hiring our organist in addition to a cantor is another option. The fee for each is $150.

MUSIC: The music for the funeral rites is very ancient and is rooted in Scripture and the Catholic belief in praying for our dead. The chants are at once profoundly moving and spiritually comforting and do not neglect our duty in charity to pray for the deceased. Families may choose these prayers be chanted in our Sacred Language, Latin, or in English or Spanish. It is also possible to have both a mixture of Latin and English (or Spanish).  There are many languages in the Catholic Church, yet the universal language is love/mercy.

Burying a loved one is a Corporal Work of Mercy, while praying for a loved one who has passed into eternity is a Spiritual Work of Mercy.  Corporal and Spiritual Works of Love/Mercy!  Jesus himself chose to be buried, yet permitted his Blessed Mother and others to perform that corporal work of mercy for him.

HYMNS: Oftentimes, a familiar hymn or song may be comforting for the family to hear. There are places in the liturgy where an additional piece of music or two would be appropriate. While not essential to the rite, this music is allowed as long as it is consistent with the solemn nature of the liturgy and is in keeping with our Catholic faith. We have compiled a list of hymns that are in our St. Michael Hymnal to help you with your selection (here).

READINGS: The funeral rites quite necessarily contain readings from Sacred Scripture. The Old Testament Reading and Epistle may be proclaimed by a lay person, whereas the Gospel is read by the deacon or priest. The Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel Acclamation are always sung. If the family would like to choose the readings, please select from the list provided (here). The task of choosing readings may also be left up to the priest if the family so desires.

LECTORS: It is admissible for a family member who is an experienced Catholic lector to do one or both of the first two readings. A family should be prudent in choosing someone to act as lector as it is possible that they may be overcome with emotion and unable to read effectively. Please let the Liturgical Coordinator know if you have a lector or lectors in your family who are willing to read, or if you would prefer that a parish lector do the readings.  It is very important that lectors read readings beforehand and consult with priest celebrant or deacon prior to the funeral Mass.

ALTAR SERVERS: The Liturgical Coordinator will arrange for altar servers to assist at a Funeral Mass. There will generally be two or three altar servers. It is customary and courteous to provide a stipend for those who make themselves available to assist at the altar. $20 to $25 per server is suggested.

ABOUT THE DECEASED: It is helpful for those involved in planning the liturgy to know a bit about the deceased. For example, knowing that the deceased served in one of the branches of the military is helpful in choosing music. Knowing if the deceased was attached to his or her ancestral heritage is also helpful, for many hymn tunes are clearly recognizable as Irish, German, Austrian, or other folk melodies. The priest preparing a homily for the Funeral Mass will also find this kind of information helpful. Was the deceased married? For how long? How many children? Were they active in the church? What hobbies did they enjoy? Etc. While talking about the deceased isn’t supposed to be the main focus of the homily, knowing some small details about the life of the beloved can certainly be an inspiration, so let us know some details.

EULOGIES: The Rite of Christian Burial does not allow for eulogies. The place to share stories and other items of a personal nature (poems, songs, pictures, etc.) is at the funeral home, family home, or reception. Some families bring pictures of the deceased to set up for the reception, or even show a video in the parish hall. We will try to accommodate these options if possible.  If need be a picture may be set up in narthex initial entrance of church with prayer cards.  This is the initial entrance into the church, in which one opens another two double doors to enter the church.

FLOWERS: St. John the Evangelist is a beautiful Catholic church, and typically our parish orders beautiful flowers from Four Seasons Florist in Waynesville every Thursday.   Weekly arrangements for the parish include a large center piece of flowers in front of the altar, along with two smaller vases of flowers one for the statue of the Blessed Mother and another for the statue of St. Jospeh.  If the family wishes to have their loved one’s flowers remain in the church for a week, they should inform our parish office and ask that arrangements be made with four seasons florist in Waynesville.  The casket is covered with a beautiful pall in the church for the funeral. So flowers are unnecessary. Please make sure, if the funeral home brings any additional flowers into the church, other than those indicated above, that they are placed out of the way, and taken away after the funeral.

CONSIDER A PARISH MEMORIAL: Some of our parishioners will choose to ask for donations to go towards our Legacy Endowment (which is our Parish Memorial Foundation). Mass intentions are offered for these benefactors over the course of the year as well. If that interests you, learn more (links to Legacy Endowment here). Some people also wish to give to other ministries within our parish (Link to Parish Ministries here). 

Click these for downloads