When those of the Catholic faith plan for a funeral, they incorporate Catholic funeral readings into the Mass.
The Catholic liturgy for a funeral is focused on providing comfort and courage for family and friends who are mourning the death of their loved one. When people come to a funeral service, or Mass, the desire is that they will find consolation and strength from the reading of the biblical passages.
A Selection of Catholic Funeral Readings
At a Catholic funeral, there are usually three readings from the Bible. These selections are chosen from the Order of Christian Funerals, a guidebook for conducting funerals. The first is a passage from the Old Testament. The next is from the epistles which are found in the New Testament, and the third is from the gospels of the New Testament.
Examples of an Old Testament Reading
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-11: This passage is well-known for its first lines, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; at time to be born and a time to die..."
- Isaiah 40:1-11: "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God."
Other Catholic funeral readings from the Old Testament include lines from the Book of Job and the Book of Wisdom.
From the New Testament
- Romans 8:1-11: This passage encompasses the belief of eternal life. "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."
- Mark 15:33--16:6: These verses tell of the last words of Jesus when he was put to death on a cross. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
After Each Reading
It is customary that after each reading, the presiding priest or deacon will say, "The Word of the Lord," to which the congregation responds, "Thanks be to God." Some congregations use a variation and say, "The Gospel of the Lord" instead of "The Word of the Lord."
General Order of Service for Funeral Mass
A Catholic funeral has four parts to it. They include:
- Opening Rites
- Liturgy of the Word
- Liturgy of the Eucharist
- Concluding Rites
Suggested Music for the Funeral
Music is important in a Catholic funeral. An organ or piano accompanies the selections. Often there is a choir to sing. The choir also joins in the congregational responses to the funeral rites. During the opening rites, favorite hymns such as Amazing Grace and Here I am, Lord are played. The Lord is My Shepherd is sung during the liturgy of the Word. As the Eucharist is being prepared, that is, communion bread and wine, Ave Maria, Blest are They and the Prayer of Saint Francis are familiar tunes. During communion, I am the Bread of Life or Pan De Vida is played. At the end, How Great Thou Art or Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee are often the typical selections.
Mass for a Child
When Mass is given for a child who has died and has been baptized, the order of the service is slightly changed. Understanding that the grief is extraordinary, special attention is given to the deceased child's family and friends.
Since those of the Catholic faith do believe in eternal life, they do not mourn without hope. Those still alive are sorrowful and remorseful over the death of their loved one. However, they do believe as the opening lines in the Order of Christian Funerals state, "In the face of death, the Church confidently proclaims that God has created each person for eternal life, and that Jesus, the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, has broken the chains of sin and death that bound humanity."
The Mass is a celebration of life, offering praise, worship, and thanksgiving to God. The deceased has now been given back to God.