The death of a loved one, even when it is expected, is always a traumatic event. The Church has understood this very well for two millennia and has provided for Her children the funeral rites.
The funeral rites (rituals, or liturgies) consist of three parts. The wake service (or Vigil), the Funeral Mass, and the Rite of Committal (or the graveside service). The Church envisions that each of these services will be celebrated in its proper order because each contributes to the full and proper understanding of life and death in Christ.
The wake service is the first opportunity for friends and relatives to greet the family of the deceased and express their condolences. The wake service consists of several scriptural readings, a brief homily, and prayers for the deceased. It may be done at any time during the wake itself. Usually it is done at the beginning, particularly at wakes at which there is expected to be a very large number of people. This is the opportune venue for those who would like to deliver eulogies or words of remembrance. The wake is often thought of as the celebration of the deceased’s life.
The Funeral Mass is offered at the deceased’s parish church. The Mass is not a celebration of the deceased’s life. Rather, the Mass is always the celebration of our Lord’s suffering, death, and resurrection. When the Mass is offered, the whole Church, Triumphant (those in heaven), Militant (the baptized here in this world), and Suffering (the souls in Purgatory) is engaged. The Church on earth continues, or makes present supernaturally, our Lord’s sacrifice of Himself for our salvation on the Cross. The whole Church, in heaven and on earth, prays for the repose of the soul of the deceased. This is the purpose of the Funeral Mass: to apply the merits Christ’s salvific death and resurrection to the soul of the deceased for whom the Funeral Mass is offered. The Funeral Mass is about Jesus Christ and His saving work.
For this reason, the following guidelines are observed at St. Mary Parish:
1) The practice of delivering eulogies or words of Christian remembrance at the Mass has been discontinued for many years at St. Mary Parish. Eulogies are encouraged at the wake, graveside, and customary meal following the graveside service. They are not permitted at the Mass.
2) There is no need for lectors (readers) or Eucharistic ministers for funerals at St. Mary’s. The priest and deacon are specifically trained to proclaim the readings, and are the proper, ordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The priest or deacon who preaches the homily will select the scriptural readings on which his homily will be based.
3) The music used at the Funeral Masses at St. Mary’s is the Proper and Ordinary Mass parts for the Requiem Mass as prescribed by the Graduale Romanum, i.e. the Church’s official “hymnal”. This music was written expressly for the Funeral Mass centuries ago and remains, according to the Second Vatican Council, the first choice of music for the Funeral Mass. This practice follows our Sunday Mass format. Since there is often extra time for music at the Offertory and Communion, the musician will include appropriate music at his discretion if time permits. All those who provide music for our funerals are quite familiar with this music and execute it well.
St. Mary Parish does not follow the practice of having a priest or deacon “say a few words or prayers” at the funeral home in place of offering the Mass. A Mass will be offered by priests of St. Mary’s for the repose of the soul of anyone whose family cannot afford a funeral service.
St. Mary Parish asks a fee of $250.00 to cover the cost of the musician. There is no other charge for services, although the parish will gladly accept any free will donation above and beyond the fee for the musician.