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 Stephanie Stewart, Executive Assistant to the Rector, 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. It is most appropriate for 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) or recitation of the Rosary.
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. Below, please find a link to a letter for Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS regarding Catholic Cemeteries and burial practices.
MUSICIANS: An Organist and Cantor are provided by the Cathedral Parish for Funeral Masses. The fee for each is $150. Check with your funeral home to see if they handle those fees or if you must pay the musicians directly.
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 . It is also possible to have both a mixture of Latin and English. There is no entrance hymn for a Funeral, but rather the Introit of the Funeral Mass is chanted. Additionally, there is no recessional hymn but the In Paradisum is sung.
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 sacred and solemn nature of the liturgy and is in keeping with our Catholic faith. The repertoire of music for you to choose from may be found in the Funeral Mass Guide linked below.
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 (Ps 23) and the Gospel Acclamation are always sung. The family may choose the readings that are in the Funeral Mass Guide linked below. 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 Executive Assistant to the Rector 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.
ALTAR SERVERS: The Executive Assistant will arrange for altar servers to assist at a Funeral Mass, if possible. 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. 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 at the gravesite.
FLOWERS: The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is a beautiful Catholic church, and typically our parish has beautiful flowers already on the high altar. The casket is covered with a beautiful pall in the church for the funeral. Flowers are unnecessary, and frequently not even noticed in the church, where they are placed off to the side. Please make sure, if the funeral home brings flowers into the church, 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 Bicentennial Campaign or Te Deum Fund for further beautification the Cathedral and Cathedral grounds. If that interests you, please let the Executive Assistant know and she can help.