Alleluia Is Our Song: Funeral Resources

The Order of Christian Funerals celebrates the Church’s faith in the crucified and risen Jesus and the believer’s share in that victory over death. It also marks the end of the believer’s life on earth, and gives thanks for that life.

Christian Burial is as old as the Church itself. From its earliest days, the Church has taught that the bodies of the faithful are sacred… formed to the image and likeness of God, temples of the Holy Spirit, and destined for glorification and eternal life. This is mirrored in the dignity and beauty of a Catholic Cemetery. Because non-Catholics are part of Catholic families, the Church also favors the burial of non-Catholic members of Catholic families in our cemeteries.

Guidelines for Christian Burial

1167-§1: Deceased members of the Christian faithful must be given ecclesiastical funerals according to the norm of law.

1167-§2: Ecclesiastical funerals, by which the Church seeks spiritual support for the deceased, honors their bodies, and at the same time brings the solace of hope to the living, must be celebrated according to the norm of the liturgical laws.

1167-§3: The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.

Guidelines for Cremation

1167-§413: Although cremation is now permitted, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values, which the Church affirms in those rites.

1167-4§15: When extraordinary circumstances make the cremation of the body the only feasible choice, pastoral sensitivity must be exercised by priests, deacons, and others who minister to the family of the deceased.

1167-§417: The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they came. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.

1167-§418: When the choice has been made to cremate a body, it is recommended that the cremation take place after the Funeral Liturgy.

The celebration of the Funeral Liturgy, including Mass, in the presence of the cremated remains of the body of a deceased person, may be permitted by the Diocesan Bishop.

Roman Catholic Funeral Rites

The Vigil for the Deceased

  • Usually the evening before the burial. Usually at the funeral home, but can be done in the narthex of church if the church is available
  • The normative format is the readings and prayers that make up the official Vigil for the Deceased, but other options are possible:
    • Liturgy of the Word
    • Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours (Office of the Dead)
    • Rosary
  • This is the best time for a eulogy or shared remembrances

The Mass of Christian Burial

  • Celebrated at the parish church, unless special permission is granted by the pastor to hold it at a funeral chapel
  • This is the central celebration of the Christian funeral
  • Due to the nature of the liturgy, eulogies are discouraged at the Mass itself. They are much better done at the Vigil for the Deceased the evening before or at the funeral luncheon. In some circumstances a eulogy at the funeral Mass may be permitted, but there must be only one, and it must be less than 5 minutes. See more detailed guidelines below.

The Rite of Committal

  • These final prayers before burial are normally prayed at the graveside, as we commit our loved one to the hands of God.

Planning for the Funeral Rite

All funeral arrangements must be initiated and approved by the pastor (Father Jose Marquez 406.294.7606)

Funeral and memorial celebrations at Mary Queen of Peace use ‘Through Death to Life’ by the pastor (Father Jose Marquez 406.294.7606) as our planning guide. For advance planning, you can also request a copy of this book from the parish office. It contains all the suggested options for Scripture reading and prayers, as well as a handy tear-out planning sheet for you to submit to the pastor.

The first thing the pastor will ask is whether the body will be present at the funeral celebration or will there be cremains (cremated remains). It is preferred that the body be present for the funeral Mass and if cremation is to take place that it be done following the Mass. Here are some of the choices you’ll need to communicate to the pastor:

  • The name and contact information of those with primary responsibility for planning the service
  • The name and contact information for the mortuary/funeral home
  • Scripture readings (more information below)
  • Musical Selections
  • Special circumstances (ethnic, cultural or fraternal/sorority rites desired before or after the service, military honors, etc.)
  • Do you want a funeral luncheon? If so, how many will be coming?
    • Provided by parish members who have volunteered for this ministry and served in the Parish Hall immediately following Mass or burial/interment. The committee will also serve food that family and friends provide.

Scripture Readings

The Catholic Church offers a wide selection of Scripture readings for the funeral rites. You will likely find excellent readings from among this list, but you may choose another Scripture reading if another passage is particularly appropriate for you or your loved one.

You will need to choose four Scripture readings for the Mass (from the book ‘Through Death to Life’):

  1. First Reading from the Old Testament (or from Acts or Revelation in Easter Season)
  2. Responsorial Psalm from the Book of Psalms
  3. Second Reading from the New Testament Epistles
  4. Gospel Reading

The first and second reading may be proclaimed by a family member or friend, or you may ask a parish lector to read them. The readers should have a good grasp of the principles of proclaiming the Word of God in public. Be sure to give them a copy of the reading in advance, and encourage them to practice the reading at the ambo (lectern) in church to get the feel of the acoustics and microphone. The responsorial psalm should preferably be sung by the cantor, but it can be recited if necessary. All the passages listed below may be found in the New American Bible which is used in our liturgies.

First Reading from the Old Testament (Pages 37-46 of Through Death to Life. *Denotes most often-used readings.)

  • 2 Maccabees 12:43-46
  • Job 19:1, 23-27a
  • Wisdoms 4:7-15*
  • Isaiah 25:6a, 7-9*
  • Lamentations 3:17-26*
  • Daniel 12:1-3

During the Easter Season (Easter to Pentecost) one of the following is used instead of a passage from the Old Testament

  • Acts 10:34-43 (or shorter version Acts 10:34-36,42-43)
  • Revelation 14:13*
  • Revelation 20:11-21:1
  • Revelation 21:1-5a, 6b-7*

Psalm and Response (usually sung by the cantor) (Pages 47-56 of Through Death to Life. *Denotes most often used readings.)

  • Psalm 23:1-3, 4,5,6*
  • Psalm 25:6 and 7b, 17-18, 20-21*
  • Psalm 27:1,4,7, and 8b and 9a, 13-14*
  • Psalm 42:2,3,5cdef; 43:3,4,5
  • Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9*
  • Psalm 103:8 and 10, 13-14,15-16, 17-18*
  • Psalm 116:5, 6,10-11,15-16ac*
  • Psalm 122:1-2, 4-05, 6-7, 8-9
  • Psalm 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6ab, 6c-7, 8*
  • Psalm 143: 1-2, 5-6, 7ab and 8ab, 10

Second Reading from the New Testament Epistles (Pages 58-67 of Through Death to Life. *Denotes most often used readings.)

  • Romans 5:5-11
  • Romans 5:17-21
  • Romans 6:3-9 (or shorter version Rom 6:3-4,8-9)
  • Romans 8:14-23
  • Romans 8:31b-35, 37-39*
  • Romans 14:7-9, 10c-12
  • 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (or shorter version 1 Cor 15:20-23)*
  • 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
  • 2 Corinthians 4:14 – 5:1*
  • 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6-10
  • Philippians 3:20-21
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • 2 Timothy 2:8-13
  • 1 John 3:1-2*
  • 1 John 3:14-16

Gospel Reading (read by the priest or deacon only) (Pages 70-88 of Through Death to Life. *Denotes most often used readings.).

  • Matthew 5:1-1a*
  • Matthew 11:25-30*
  • Matthew 25:1-13
  • Matthew 25:31-46
  • Mark 15:33-39; 16:1-6 (or shorter version Mk 15:33-39)
  • Luke 7:11-17
  • Luke 12:35-40
  • Luke 23:33, 39-43
  • Luke 23:44-46, 50,52-53; 24:1-6a (or shorter version Lk 23:44-46,50,52-53)
  • Luke 24:13-35 (or shorter version-Lk 24:13-16, 28-35)
  • John 5: 24-29
  • John 6:37-40*
  • John 6:51-59*
  • John 11:17-27 (or shorter version: John 11:21-27)*
  • John 11:32-35
  • John 12:23-28 (or shorter version: John 12:23-26)*
  • John 14:1-6*
  • John 17:24_26
  • John 19:17-18, 25-39

Music for the Funeral Mass

The music for the funeral liturgy, as the music at all Catholic liturgy, should encourage the participation of all those present in sung prayer (Our Parish Musician can help you with this).

  • Prelude music
  • Processional
  • Psalm
  • Preparation of gifts
  • Communion
  • Recessional


In the past, a eulogy or tribute to the deceased has often been inserted into the funeral Mass… current liturgical guidelines strongly discourage this practice.The Order of Christian Funerals (the Catholic Church document governing Catholic funerals) is quite clear that a brief homily should be given at the funeral liturgy, but never is any kind of eulogy to replace the homily (OCF #141). This does not mean that the deceased cannot be spoken about in the homily, but that the Word of God must be primary. The homilist (priest or deacon) speaks the scriptural word that helps the assembly understand that the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus is operative in the life and death of the deceased.

In the event of pastoral necessity, a remembrance during the funeral Mass may be allowed by the pastor (immediately before the Mass begins or after Holy Communion). This must be arranged with the pastor ahead of time, and not minutes before the Mass. If permission is granted for a remembrance or eulogy to be given at Mass, the following guidelines MUST be observed:

  • Only one person may speak (unless translation to another language is needed for the benefit of the assembly)
  • The remembrance must be brief: no more than 5 minutes
  • The remembrance should be well prepared in advance so that it is focused and stays within the 5-minute time limit. If possible, a copy should be given to the priest in time to review it before the liturgy.

These guidelines are not meant to squelch remembrance or tribute, but past experience has taught that eulogies are the “wild card” most prone to mishaps or mayhem.

Some Suggestions on Describing the Funeral Rites in the Newspaper or online

  1. Use “Vigil Service,” rather than “Rosary” or “Christian Wake,” etc.
  2. Use “Funeral Mass,” rather than “Mass of Christian Burial”, “Mass of the Resurrection”, “Requiem Mass”, or “Mass of the Angels.”
  3. Use “Funeral Liturgy” when the main service in the church is not a Mass.
  4. Use “Memorial Mass” if the body or cremated remains is not present.
  5. Use “Committal Service” or “Committal Service at the Graveside,” rather than “Graveside Service.”

Guidelines Concerning Music for Masses of Christian Burial

Music is integral to the funeral rites. It allows the community to express beliefs and emotions that words alone fail to convey. It has the power to console and uplift the hearts of those who mourn and strengthen the unity of the assembly. The texts of the songs chosen for a particular celebration should express the paschal mystery of the Lord’s suffering, death and triumph over death and be related to the readings from Scripture. (OCF#30)

1. How is the music for the Mass of Christian Burial planned?

The pastor will contact the parish musician regarding music for the funeral.

2. Is it permissible for the family to select music for the Mass of Christian Burial?

Not only is it permissible, it is desirable. However, it must be done in consultation with the pastor and the Parish Musician who are qualified to assist in the choosing of music. It is also appropriate to leave the music selection entirely up to the parish musician, who is a professional. Funeral Directors should refer questions concerning choice of music to the pastor and the Parish Musician.

3. What kind of music might be considered suitable?

In the choice of music for the Mass of Christian Burial, preference should be given to the singing of the acclamations, the psalm and response, the entrance and communion songs and especially the song of farewell at the final commendation. (OCF#157)

4. May the family request a popular song which is “special” to them or was a favorite of the deceased?

Since music can evoke strong feelings, the music for the celebration of the funeral rites should be chosen with great care. The music at the mass should support, console and uplift the participants and should help to create in them a spirit of hope in Christ’s victory over death and the Christian’s share in that victory. Therefore, secular music (music which was composed for Broadway or a Top-Forty tune) is not permitted for the Mass of Christian Burial.

5. Could a family’s “special” song be sung before the Mass of Christian Burial begins or played as prelude or postlude music?

Generally, secular music which is not appropriate during the Mass of Christian Burial would not be appropriate before or after mass. However, there are exceptions which will be decided on a case-by-case basis by the pastor and/or Parish Musician as pastoral needs dictate.

6. Is there any music during the Final Commendation?

Yes. There is a Song of Farewell. This should be sung and the whole assembly should be able to participate in some way. It should express trustful confidence in the paschal mystery and be experienced as the climax of the rite of final commendation.

7. Is it possible to have a friend or relative of the family sing at the funeral mass?

The musical demands of a Mass of Christian Burial are complex and require considerable expertise and experience. Since there is little preparation time between the time of death and the funeral, this is not always a feasible option. On a case-by-case basis, the pastor and the Parish Musician may permit a visiting vocalist or ensemble to sing at an appropriate moment in the liturgy. All visiting musicians MUST meet with the Parish Musician before the liturgy to demonstrate that they are prepared and emotionally able to offer their gift(s) without disruption to the liturgy or causing undue trauma to themselves or other family and friends of the deceased.

8. May a family hire another musician not associated with the parish?

Our Parish Musicians are familiar with the musical instruments, acoustics, and sound systems at each of our campuses. They are also familiar with the liturgical, musical, and aesthetic values of the Mary Queen of Peace community. Because of that, we do not allow outside musicians to serve as primary keyboardist or Cantor for any liturgy in our churches.

9. How are musicians compensated for providing the ministry of music at a Mass of Christian Burial?

Arrangements for payment are handled by the Funeral Director. The fee is $125.00 for a Mass or Memorial Service, and an additional $75.00 for the Vigil. In situations of genuine financial need or crisis, the parish may cover this expense—but only if the funeral home and other service providers are also making an exception to their pricing policy.