Planning a Funeral Liturgy at MMOC
The prayerful rituals of the Catholic Church at
the time of death are meant to bring hope and consolation to family members and friends even as
they commend the soul of the deceased person to the loving mercy of God.
We offer the following list of questions and answers in the hope that it will help family members better understand the way MMOC celebrates funerals and assist them as they prepare to celebrate the funeral of their loved one in the most fitting way possible.
Preferences About Your Own Funeral
Many of us dread to think about our own death or funeral, but doing so can be a great gift we leave to our families. When you carefully plan and clearly express your wishes about your funeral, you can give your family peace of mind and help make the funeral a personalized, meaningful celebration. You are invited to call our pastor if you would like help making a list of music, scripture readings, and other elements of your funeral preferences. However you discern and record your preferences, please keep three factors in mind:
First, certain funeral preferences—a favorite popular song or poem, a personal eulogy or storytelling—are best shared as part of a visitation rather than at the funeral liturgy. The visitation is an opportunity to reflect on the experience of this mortal life, while the focus of funeral liturgy is to commend our brother or sister in Baptism into the next life in God's kingdom.
Second, our staff must consider both your preferences and a pastoral concern for your surviving family and friends. For instance, when a death is sudden or unexpected, grief is sharp, and our pastor may judge that readings, music, or other elements must be adapted to the pastoral situation. A funeral is an opportunity for your surviving friends and family to begin their process of healing, and can also be a teachable moment.
Third, the church prescribes certain norms and practices to ensure that a funeral liturgy is an appropriate and meaningful celebration. When our pastor meets with your family, he will balance your preferences with due regard for these norms of funeral liturgy.
The Catholic Funeral Mass
What is a Catholic funeral Mass? Are Catholic funerals always celebrated at Mass?
The Mass of Christian Burial is the normal way the Catholic Church commemorates a person's death. At the funeral Mass, family, friends, and parishioners gather to pray for the deceased and for the deceased person's family and friends using scripture readings, prayers, and special rites. Because the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's own saving death and resurrection, it is the most appropriate way to celebrate at the time of death.
In some instances it can be quite appropriate to celebrate a funeral outside the Mass. This is commonly done, for example, when all or most of the family members of the deceased are not Catholic. Another example would be the funeral of a non-Catholic person who was married to a Catholic and had no other church affiliation. In both cases, a Liturgy of the Word without the celebration of the Eucharist is appropriate.
Does the family participate in the funeral?
Yes, we encourage members of the family to participate actively in the funeral. There are a number of ways for you to be involved. Some family members usually meet with the Pastor and the Funeral Coordinator of MMOC to plan the funeral. Then, prior to the service, you can be present in the church to welcome friends to the celebration. Some family and friends will serve as pallbearers. Another important role for family is to place the funeral pall—symbol of baptism—over the casket at the beginning of the liturgy. Family members can assist with the placing of Christian symbols (Gospel Book and crucifix). Family members can also proclaim the readings from the scriptures and present the gifts of bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist.
Are there policies regarding music and readings at a funeral?
Yes. Music for all funerals at MMOC is provided by our New Life Choir. The New Life Choir are adult volunteers who sing from the choir loft accompanied by organ. Musical selections and seasonal lists of the choir's repertoire are established. It is most fitting for the music to reflect the readings chosen for the funeral. You may make appropriate suggestions when meeting with our pastor to plan the funeral.
Are eulogies ever permitted at funerals?
We suggest that any eulogy by friends or family members be given at the visitation or wake. The priest or deacon who presides at the funeral will give a homily, which has a different purpose from a eulogy.
Who presides at funeral celebrations?
Normally our pastor presides at the funeral Mass. If your family has a priest who is a relative or a very close friend, he might be asked to preside or to concelebrate. Also, a deacon may preside at a funeral outside of the Mass.
What is a "memorial Mass"?
A "memorial Mass" is a funeral celebrated in those exceptional cases when it is not possible for the remains of the deceased, whether in a casket or an urn, to be present.
Does the Catholic Church permit cremation?
The Church does permit cremation although it does not accord it the same value as burial of the body.
How is the funeral Mass celebrated when cremation is planned?
The preferred procedure in the Catholic church is that the intact body of the deceased be brought to the church for the funeral Mass, and that cremation take place after the funeral Mass has been celebrated. The reason for this is set forth in the Church's Order for Christian Funerals: "The Christian faithful are unequivocally confronted by the mystery of life and death when they are faced with the presence of the body of one who has died. The body was once washed in the waters of baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of life. The presence of the body brings forcefully to mind the Church's conviction that the human body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, destined for future glory at the resurrection of the dead."
In some situations, it may be necessary to conduct the cremation before the funeral Mass can be celebrated. In this event, the cremated remains, enclosed in a worthy container or urn, are brought to the Church for the funeral. After the funeral, they are buried in the ground or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The Church does not allow the practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or of keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased. Such practices do not properly honor the dignity of the human body.
Other Funeral Practices
When may funerals take place at MMOC? How are funerals scheduled?
Funerals are scheduled in consultation with our pastor and the funeral home director. As far as possible, the needs of the family are given first consideration, although the availability of the pastor and the Church schedule are also a factor. Most often, funerals take place on weekdays, usually in mid-morning. They may also be celebrated on a Saturday morning if no wedding is scheduled. Funeral Masses may not be celebrated on Sunday nor on certain other special dates on the church calendar.
When does the burial take place?
When the body has been brought to the church, the burial usually takes place immediately after the funeral or, sometimes, after the luncheon. If cremation is to follow the funeral, the burial of the remains takes place some time later. The priest who presided at the funeral leads the graveside or mausoleum committal service with family members and friends in attendance.
Does MMOC have facilities for a funeral luncheon?
Yes, we do have facilities for a luncheon at MMOC in our parish hall, which includes a complete kitchen. We can connect you with nearby caterers and other options.
What about the visitation?
A visitation (sometimes known as a wake or vigil) may take place in the funeral home or in the church, usually the afternoon or evening before the funeral. Some families hold a visitation in the church, on the morning of the funeral, starting about an hour before the liturgy begins. During an evening visitation, a prayer service, perhaps including the Rosary, may be led by Fr. Brian Konopa, Dn. Richard Sage, Sr. Kathy Stuttgen, or Therese van Oss. We will discuss all this with you when you come to MMOC for funeral planning.
Are there fees involved with a funeral at MMOC ?
Yes. Your funeral director will handle payment of these fees.
Updated 2 March 2020