Catholic Funeral Readings

Julie Kirk
Contributor: Alice Wisler
Hands of priest on pulpit

Catholic readings for funerals incorporate selections from the Old and New Testaments. Discuss your preferences with your church officials to decide on the readings that will offer comfort and help attendees remember your loved one.

Catholic 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 Readings for Funerals

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.

Funeral Readings From the Old Testament

Examples of meaningful Catholic funeral readings for the Old Testament include:

  • 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; a time to be born and a time to die..."
  • Isaiah 40:1-11: "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God."
  • Isaiah 25:6a, 7-9: "He will destroy death forever."
  • Daniel 12:1-3: "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake."
  • Micah 7:7-9: "...though I sit in the darkness, the Lord is my light..."
  • Wisdom 3:1-9: "The souls of the just are in the hands of God..."
  • Wisdom 4:7-14: "The Righteous One, though he dies early, shall be at rest..."
  • Maccabees 2:43-46: "He acted in an excellent and noble way as he had the resurrection of the dead in view."
  • Lamentations 3:17-26: "It is good to hope in the silence for the saving help of the Lord."
  • Job 19:1, 23-27: "I know that my Vindicator lives."
  • Sirach 2:1-11: "...in fire gold is tested... Compassionate is the Lord..."
  • Ezekiel 37:12-14: "O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise..."

Funeral Readings From the New Testament

The following are poignant examples of Catholic funeral readings from the New Testament:

Church St. Johannes, Breitbrunn am Chiemsee
  • Romans 8:1-11: This passage encompasses the belief in 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."
  • Romans 5:17-21: "Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more."
  • Romans 6:3-9: "...if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall live with him..."
  • Romans 14:7-9, 10c-12: "Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's."
  • Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43: "Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins."
  • 1 Corinthians 15:20-28: "So too in Christ shall all be brought to life."
  • 2 Corinthians 4:14 - 5:1: "What is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal."
  • 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6-10: "We have a building from God, eternal in heaven."
  • Philippians 3:20-21: "He will change our lowly bodies to conform to his glory."
  • 2 Timothy 4:1-2, 6-8: "I have competed well, I have finished the race..."
  • 1 John 3:1-2: "Beloved, we are God's children now..."
  • 1 John 3:14-16: "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers."
  • Revelation 14:13: "...Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord..."

Funeral Readings From the Gospels of the New Testament

The following are funerals reading from the Gospels:

  • 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?"
  • Matthew 5:1-12a: "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."
  • Matthew 11:25-30: "Come to me and I will give you rest."
  • Luke 22:33, 39-43: "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
  • Luke 23:44-46, 50, 52-53; 24:1-6a: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."
  • Luke 24: 13-35: "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"
  • John 5:24-29: "Whoever hears my word and believes has passed from death to life."
  • John 6:37-40: "Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life and I shall raise him on the last day."
  • John 6:51-58: "Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and I will raise them up on the last day."
  • John 11:17-27: "I am the resurrection and the life."
  • John 17:24-26: "I wish that where I am they also may be with me."
  • John 19:17-30: "Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirits."

Suggested Funeral Readings for Loved Ones

Choosing a meaningful reading for your loved one is emotional and personal. These readings are meant to provide comfort in your grief and help teach you that death is not the end and you will be reunited. A few examples of these readings include:

Funeral Readings for a Father

The Catholic readings recommended for a father include:

  • Wisdom 3:1-9: "But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace."
  • Romans 5:17-21: "For if by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ."
  • 2 Corinthians 5:1: "For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

Funeral Readings for a Mother

colorful church window in germany

The Catholic readings recommended for a mother include:

  • John 14:1-4: "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms."
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance..."
  • Matthew 15:4: "For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death."

Funeral Readings for a Child

Readings suggested for the funeral of a child:

  • Matthew 19:14: But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."
  • 1 Samuel 1:27-28: "For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord." And he worshiped the Lord there.

  • Matthew 18:1-4: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

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:

  1. Opening Rites
  2. Liturgy of the Word
  3. Liturgy of the Eucharist
  4. Concluding Rites

Suggested Music for the Funeral

Music is important at 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.

Grieving

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.

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Catholic Funeral Readings