Order of Christian Funerals
has been the Church’s custom in the funeral rites not only
to commend the dead to God but also to support the Christian hope
of the people and give witness to its faith in the future resurrection
of the baptized with Christ.”
Congregation for Divine Worship Decree on the Rite of Funerals
August 15, 1969)
Note: The following document condenses the General Introduction from the Order of Christian Funerals. The s in parentheses are reference paragraphs for further
elaboration and theology in the complete text.
mystery of death and resurrection is at the very heart of the
belief of the Christian person. Hope in eternal life, the value
of prayer for the dead, reverence for the emains of the body
and the sense of mystery which envelopes death are the ingredients
reflected in the rituals of Christian burial. The whole liturgy
of Christian burial signifies the community’s pivotal beliefs
in life, death and eternal life. The prayers, reflections and
rituals unite the faithful with the Paschal Mystery and the hope
of life eternal. This document serves to guide clergy, parish life directors,
liturgy teams and funeral directors in the pastoral care of the
bereaved. Ministry and Participation (8-15)
Parish community is the primary minister of consolation in the
celebration of the funeral rites, in the support of the immediate
family and friends, and by their presence (9-13). Therefore, the ordinary place for the Eucharistic liturgy
is in the church where the parish community regularly meets for
worship. Only in cases of grave need, where pastoral judgement
deems necessary, may eucharist be celebrated in a secular setting.
ministers for the funeral rites are priests, deacons, and parish
life directors who serve as teachers of faith and ministers of
comfort (14). Other liturgical ministers are readers, musicians,
ushers, pallbearers and eucharistic ministers (15) liturgy teams
providing programs and hospitality, Catholic cemetery staff and
Ministry of the Mourners and the Deceased (16-20)
The pastor and other ministers should
take into consideration the spiritual and psychological needs
of the family and friends of the deceased to express their grief,
to accept the reality of death, and to comfort one another.
Liturgical Elements (21-42)
liturgical celebration involves the whole person, it requires
attention to all that affects the senses: music, ritual gestures,
processions, postures, liturgical signs and symbols affirming
Christian belief and hope.
Word of God (22-29) The
readings, psalmody, homily and intercessions proclaim to the assembly
the paschal mystery, teach remembrance of the dead, convey the
hope of being gathered together again in God’s kingdom,
and encourage the witness of Christian life. At the funeral liturgy:
biblical readings may
replaced by non-biblical readings.
psalms whenever possible should
homily should never exclusively focus on the deceased, i.e.,
be a eulogy, but rather be a delicate balance between dwelling
on God’s compassionate love and the paschal mystery
found in the Scripture passages and on elements drawn from
the life of the deceased.
heard the word of God, the people exercise their royal priesthood
by joining together in the intercessions. Several models of
intercessions are provided within the rites for adaptation
to the circumstances.
Music is integral to the funeral rites. It allows the community
to express convictions and feelings that words alone may fail
to convey. It has the power to console and uplift the mourners
and to strengthen the unity of the assembly.
of songs should express the paschal mystery.
possible, music should be provided for the vigil, funeral
liturgy, funeral processions and the rite of committal.
should be made to develop the parish repertoire of musical
settings for use at funerals.
instrumentalists, cantors and even choirs should assist the
assembly's full participation in singing.
(Please refer to supplemental
document “Music Selection Guidelines for Funerals.”)
Prayerful silence is an important element to the celebration of
the funeral rites and should be respectfully regarded at
Reflection on the Life of the Deceased (80, 170) Please
refer to supplemental document “Reflection on the Life of
Symbols, Ritual Gestures and Movements (35-42)
candle may be placed beforehand near the position the coffin will
occupy at the conclusion of the opening procession.
Water reminds the assembly of the saving waters of baptism: during
the Vigil Service, at the Reception of the Body, as a gesture
of farewell and at the committal.
Incense is used as a sign of honor to the body of the deceased, of
the community's prayers rising to God, and as a sign of farewell.
Pall is a reminder of the baptismal garment in that all are equal
in the eyes of God.
Book of Gospels or a bible may be placed on the coffin as a sign that Christians live
by fidelity to the Word of God.
A cross may
be placed on the coffin as a reminder that the suffering of
Jesus marks the Christian and brings them to the victory of
flowers are a sign of life and hope and can enhance the funeral rites.
Note: Any other symbols, national flags or the insignia of associations
to which the deceased belonged are to be removed from the coffin
at the entrance of the church. They may be replaced after the
coffin has been taken from the Church (132).
color chosen for funerals should express Christian hope but should not
be offensive to human grief or sorrow. By custom, white has become
the norm in our culture and many vestment designs are including
violet and black. Violet should not be overlooked as an option depending
on the circumstance of death.
remains can now be reverently received at the door of the church
and given a place of honor in the sanctuary or they may be put
in place before the liturgy without ceremony. If the remains are received at the door they are sprinkled
with holy water as usual. Prayers, which mention the body, should be omitted or reworded.
The preference of the church is that cremation takes place after
the rites (except committal).
further information, see Appendix:
may be a separate insert or printed in the funeral ritual.
Selection of Rights from:
Order Of Christian Funerals (43-49)
Order of Christian Funerals makes provision for the minister to
choose those rites and texts that are most suitable to the needs
of the mourners, the circumstances of the death, and the customs
of the local Christian community. These rites include:
in the Presence of the Body
for the Deceased
of the Body
Liturgy in two forms
Liturgy Outside Mass
of Committal in two forms
of Committal with Final Commendation
Funeral Rites for Children – provides
an adaptation of the principal rites used in the funerals
of infants, young children and those of early school age
Texts from Sacred Scripture
for the Dead: Morning and Evening prayer
Texts for Particular Circumstances
subcommittee on funerals of the Cincinnati Archdiocesan Worship
Commission has compiled the following list of suitable alternatives
already found in the lectionary.
numbers given here refer to the location of the reading in every
31:10:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 157A A worthy wife is to be praised
3:1-11 453 To everything there is a season.
of Songs 2:8-14 197 Arise, my love, my dove, and come away!
of Songs 8:6-7 731 Love is as strong as death.
44:1, 10-15 606 I will praise our ancestors.
35:1-6,10 7 Now will the eves of the blind be opened.
41:8-10,13 877-3 Fear not, I am with you.
57:15-19 887-3 Peace! Peace to the far and near!
61:1-3 719-6 God has sent me to comfort all who mourn.
65:17-21 244 No longer will there be weeping or mourning.
34:11-16 172 I will watch over my sheep.
37:12-14 34 I will open your graves, my people.
6:6-8 737-17 Do right, love goodness, walk humbly with God.
3:16-20 867-4 I will gather you up and bring you home
3:14-21 476 Experience a love beyond telling.
Timothy 4:6-8,17-18 591 I have fought the fight and finished the
Peter 1:3-9 43 We are given new birth into everlasting life.
22:1-7 508 We shall see God face to face.
6:19-23 369 Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.
1:67-74 201 You shine on those who sit in the shadow of death.
3:13-17 638 All who believe will have eternal life.
10: 11-18 1000-4 I am the good shepherd.
10:27-30 51 I give my sheep eternal life.
available: Funeral Rite Guidelines—Deacons”
by Howard J. Hubbard, D.D., Bishop of Albany January 31, 2006
April 18, 2001
February 2, 2006
By the Liturgy Sub-Committee
the Albany Diocesan Liturgical Commission
of Prayer and Worship
(518) 453-6645 Fax (518) 4536793