Sickness, suffering and death are fundamental experiences of human life. At some point, they will affect each one of us. The death of people near and dear to us can be an extremely difficult and confusing experience. As Catholics, we are encouraged by hope in the eternal life offered to us by Christ Jesus. Through faith, we believe that, in death, "life is changed, not ended" (Preface of the Dead, Funeral Mass).
The funeral rites of the Catholic Church - the Vigil, Funeral, and Rite of Committal - serve two main purposes. First and most important, they are opportunities for us to pray for our deceased loved ones. We believe that eternal life is a gift of love, rather than a right, It is crucial, therefore, that we gather to ask our Heavenly Father to welcome our deceased loved ones into His eternal, loving embrace. The other purpose of the funeral rites is to support us as we mourn. The Church's funeral liturgies employ a rich language and symbolism, chiseled out over centuries of human experience, to comfort the grief-stricken where ordinary words fail.
The First Step: Get in Contact
Knowing what to do next after the death of a loved one can greatly ease the burden of loss. The best first step is to contact the Parish Priest or Parish Office to arrange a Funeral Planning Meeting. Our staff understand that this is a difficult time of transition and will do their best to make the planning process as simple as possible. You will also need to engage a Funeral Director. We will work together with the Director to provide a prayerful funeral for your loved one.
Catholic Funeral Rites
There are three main funeral rites available following the death of a member of the Catholic Church. You may choose from among these options:
Vigil for the Deceased
The night before the funeral, family and friends may come together for a "Vigil". It is customary to pray a Rosary at the Vigil for the Deceased, but there are other options available. The Vigil may be held in the Parish Church or at a Funeral Parlour. It may be possible to arrange for the body of the deceased to be viewed during the Vigil.
Requiem Mass or Funeral Service
In the Catholic Church, you may choose between two types of 'funeral service'. It is most common for the funeral to be a Requiem (Funeral) Mass. The Mass is the greatest prayer of the Church because it makes present Christ's own death and resurrection, by which we are able to access eternal life, and so is the most common form of Catholic funeral. It is also possible to have a Funeral Service, which includes readings from Sacred Scripture but does not include the Consecration or Holy Communion. This form of funeral may be appropriate if many people attending the funeral are unfamiliar with the Church's liturgy. In preparing the Requiem Mass or Funeral Service with the priest, you will be able to select from a variety of readings from Sacred Scripture, prayers and hymns that reflect the Catholic understanding of death and eternal life.
Rite of Committal
The final rite of the funeral process is the Rite of Committal. This takes place at the grave, tomb or crematorium, where the priest leads a series of prayers and blesses the place of burial or internment.
Catholic funerals, whether they take the form of the Requiem Mass or Funeral Service, are prayers of both the individual deceased and their family, as well as the whole Church. Therefore, the structure and form of Catholic funerals follow guidelines (norms) stipulated by the Pope and bishops. These guidelines are designed to support the mourners but also to ensure that the funeral is a prayerful act of the whole Church. The priest will ensure that your loved-one's funeral conforms to the requirements of the local and universal Church.
Music has an important place in Catholic funerals. "He who sings," reflected St Augustine, "prays twice." Music in Catholic liturgies is meant to help communicate the deep spiritual realities occurring and support our mourning. Thus, music that features in Catholic funerals should be "sacred," that is, composed specifically for use in the Church's liturgical worship of God. While this means certain popular styles of music may not be appropriate, there is nevertheless a great variety of beautiful and familiar music that may be chosen.
In choosing the music for a funeral, it is important to consult with the priest celebrant. He can guide you through your choices and explain unfamiliar aspects. You may choose up to four hymns (for the Entrance, Offertory, Communion and Recession), a sung Responsorial Psalm and Gospel Acclamation, the Mass Setting (Holy Holy, Memorial Acclamation and Lamb of God), as well as special pieces from the tradition of the Church like the Ave Maria. Music at funerals may be either live or recorded. Your funeral director will be able to recommend musicians. Both St Francis Xavier and St Clare Churches are fully equipped with organs and audio-visual technology to support live and recorded music.
You may choose to provide booklets for the funeral of your deceased loved one as a means to helping those attending enter more deeply into the funeral liturgy. For further information, speak to the priest celebrant of the funeral or to your funeral director.
Our parish follows the guidelines of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and suggests a donation be made to the priest celebrant and a donation be made to the particular Church where the funeral occurs. For further details about the recommended donation amounts, or for any queries or concerns you may have about providing a donation, please do not hesitate to contact the Parish Office or the priest celebrant. Your funeral director will also be able to guide you in this area.