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The Funeral Mass may be celebrated at any time except Holy Days of Obligation. Generally the Funeral Mass is celebrated in the church of which the deceased was a member, though it may also be celebrated in a Catholic chapel (such as in a nursing home) or in any Catholic church in which the pastor agrees. If it is requested and approved, the Funeral Mass may be celebrated for more than one person at a time. Only a priest or deacon is allowed to preach the homily during a funeral liturgy. If a Funeral Mass is not possible or permitted, then the Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass may be celebrated. This may be celebrated in a private home, funeral home or a cemetery chapel. Holy Communion may be included, though some dioceses may discourage it.
The Rite of Committal
Church teaching: The Rite of Committal is a “gathering of the faithful for prayer” that generally takes place at the graveside or interment/cemetery chapel. At this time it is usually appropriate for military or cultural customs to be included. Though burial is preferred by the Catholic Church, cremations are also allowed as long as they were not chosen for reasons that go against the Church’s teachings. If a cremation does occur, the ashes are considered as the human remains and therefore should be buried or entombed. Scattering ashes so that they remain above ground is not encouraged. Burial in the consecrated ground of a Catholic cemetery is encouraged for both human remains and ashes. Some non-Catholics may also be buried in Catholic cemeteries if they expressed a relationship to the Church and a desire to do so, or if a non-Catholic member of a Catholic family (or his/her family) expressed a desire for the family to be buried together.
Families or Next of Kin will initially make their wishes regarding funeral arrangements known to the Funeral Director of their choice. It is then the responsibility of the Funeral Director to contact the parish office regarding arranging a suitable time and venue for the Funeral Mass or Service required. Once this is agreed then the parish priest will arrange a time with the family to discuss the planning of the Order of Service. For those who wish the body of the deceased to be received into church the evening before the funeral then this will be possible. A brief Vigil Service normally accompanies this Reception. While the celebration of a Funeral Mass in church is always preferred it will be possible for a simple stand alone Service of the Word with prayers to be celebrated at a local Crematorium or Cemetery should that be the wish of the family.
Planning the Funeral Liturgy
At a meeting with the family or Next of Kin the parish priest will obtain essential information then assist them in their choice of suitable readings and hymns. He will also offer all appropriate pastoral support.
Eulogies: In recent years the use of a eulogy, family tribute or piece of poetry during a funeral service has become common. This is permissible however the following guidelines must be observed:
• The piece will be delivered at the start of Mass immediately after the Greeting.
• The piece may be no longer than three minutes
• The text must be approved by the parish priest
• Families must be aware that it is often by no means easy for a distressed family member or close friend to effectively deliver the piece. If in doubt it is always best to omit.