The funeral mass celebrates the life of the deceased as an example to us in faith, comforts the family and friends of the deceased, and allows all to intercede for deceased that they be admitted to heaven with God. If you have lost a loved one and wish to arrange a funeral please contact the parish office to speak with a priest. To help you in your planning we provide the following guidelines.
Guidelines for Eulogies
When a loved one dies, family members in their grief often want to publicly express their personal love and appreciation for the one they have just lost through death. This is quite understandable. It seems important to express the dimensions of the loss. What happens sometimes for Catholics, however, is that they may try to completely accomplish this with multiple or lengthy eulogies at the funeral Mass. This usually conflicts with the integrity and purpose of the Mass itself. Other, more appropriate opportunities for this are frequently overlooked.
The General Instructions for the Roman Missal (the rules for the way Mass is to be celebrated) directs in paragraph 382 that, “At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.” What may be permitted, according to the rubrics for the funeral liturgy, are brief words of remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation. If this is permitted, the succinct remarks must be simply a reflection on the spiritual virtues of the one who has died.
Purposes of "Eulogies": Recent experience of eulogies at funeral Masses throughout the Archdiocese has indicated that there may be a misunderstanding of the purpose of the funeral Mass by many Catholics:
• The Mass must focus us solely on the worship of God and on his words of wisdom and comfort. At Mass (including funeral Masses) the focus must NEVER be on anyone else, no matter how much that person is beloved.
• For a good worship experience, there should be a symmetrical balance between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Some eulogies have gone on for 15 to 45 minutes in length, clearly undermining that balance. This may also be inconsiderate of the limitations of those attending or serving at such Masses.
• At Mass, the faith of the people of God must be the only thing expressed throughout the liturgy. Oftentimes very inappropriate, and sometimes even sacrilegious, things have been shared during “eulogies” at funeral Masses.
In many parishes there has been a growing concern about the improper experience of eulogies during funeral Masses. We conducted an informal survey of the policies of some neighboring parishes regarding eulogies or “the sharing of words of remembrance.” We found that eulogies, etc., are NOT permitted at all in St. Patrick, St. Agnes, OLA, and St. Pius X parishes. St. Mary Magdalene Parish permits only one person to speak briefly before the Mass begins. We also contacted St. Monica, Saints Philip and James, St. Isaac Jogues and St. Katharine of Siena parishes; they permit no more than one person to speak and for varying lengths ranging between 2-5 minutes. Some require the text to be written out and submitted to the priest prior to the Mass.
St. Norbert Policy on Eulogies: We understand that those who have recently suffered a loss are usually in a very tender state for some time. We surely do not wish to offend or hurt anyone's sensitivities. In fact, we believe that by accepting the Church's guidance on the form and distinctive nature of its worship, we are serving everyone's best interests. Maintaining the spiritual and liturgical integrity of the Mass is ultimately the most loving thing to do for all. We hope that by explaining this policy in advance we may avoid hard feelings in the future.
Considering all of the above, we now wish to clarify our policy:
There may be no more than one person to speak after the communion prayer and for no more than 3 minutes. These words of remembrance must reflect the spiritual virtues of the deceased and the text must be submitted in writing the day before the funeral Mass. It should be no more than one page typed single-spaced.
Appropriate venues for more and varied types of reflections include: The wake service, the graveside service, the luncheon afterwards, etc. This could actually provide a very special blessing for the bereaved family, as they could share stories both humorous or deeply touching in a setting conducive of broader participation.
Guidelines for Cremation
Norms regarding cremation in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia 2010
The traditional teaching of the Catholic Church with regard to the proper burial of the sacred remains of the deceased and the resurrection of the body on the last day requires periodic catechesis (Catholic teaching). This is especially so today with the ever-increasing number of Catholics choosing cremation.
While interment of the body remains the preference of the Church, after the manner of the burial of the Lord Jesus, the use of cremation is allowed according to the following norms. These norms promote the faith and practice of the Church with regard to the burial of a Christian. For the most part, these are already in force according to current liturgical law and the liturgical books. Thus, respect for the remains of the cremated body, as befits the dignity of a baptized person, is ensured. It is the duty of the pastor, with other priests and deacons, to communicate these norms to parishioners, bereavement ministers and funeral directors as part of a periodic catechesis on the reverent and proper burial of the dead.
Norms for funeral rites with cremation:
A. If a body is to be cremated, it is always preferable that cremation take place after the Funeral Liturgy.
When cremation takes place after the Funeral Liturgy, the Rite of Committal occurs with the burial/disposition of the cremated remains. The Rite of Committal does not take place in the church after the Rite of Final Commendation at the conclusion of the Funeral Liturgy.
B. If a body is cremated prior to the Funeral Liturgy and the burial/disposition follows, then:
1) The cremated remains are to be brought to the Church in a worthy vessel, that is, in a solid and durable container, which may appropriately be marked with the name of the deceased;
2) The vessel may be carried in the entrance procession or it may be put in place before the Funeral Liturgy begins (cf. OCF, no. 427);
3) The vessel is to be positioned on a suitable table in the same place where the coffin is usually positioned, and not in the sanctuary (cf. OCF, no. 427);
4) The covering of the vessel with the pall is to be omitted (cf. OCF, no. 434);
5) The Funeral Liturgy is to be celebrated in accord with the Roman Missal, the Order of Christian Funerals and “Appendix 2" of the Order of Christian Funerals (cf. OCF, no. 428);
6) Texts should be chosen in view of the fact that the body of the deceased is not present but has been cremated (cf. OCF, nos. 428-429);
7) In the Funeral Mass with cremated remains, the Rite of Final Commendation is to take place following the Prayer after Communion; in the Funeral Liturgy outside of Mass with cremated remains, the Rite of Final Commendation takes place following the Lord’s Prayer;
8) The alternate form of the dismissal is to be used (OCF, no. 437);
9) The Rite of Committal is to be conducted at the cemetery, mausoleum or columbarium as soon as possible following the Funeral Liturgy, using the alternate form (OCF, no. 438);
It is most appropriate that the burial/disposition of the cremated remains immediately follow the Funeral Liturgy.
In any case, the length of time between the Funeral Liturgy and the burial of cremated remains is not to exceed thirty days.
10) The cremated remains are to be buried in a cemetery or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium (cf. OCF, no. 417); A mausoleum or columbarium can only be erected where there is already a cemetery (CCL, c. 1242).
It is not permitted to scatter cremated remains.
Likewise, it is not permitted to delay the burial/disposition of the cremated remains in anticipation of the eventual burial of another person. The permanent storage of cremated remains in a private home, funeral home or any other place is prohibited.
The integrity of the cremated remains is always to be respected. The cremated remains of one deceased person may not be mixed with the cremated remains of another person. It is not permitted to divide the cremated remains and retain, inter or entomb them in more than one place.
It is also not permitted to divide the cremated remains in such a way that they are contained in lockets or jewelry. Any other practice which violates the integrity of the cremated remains and impedes reverent and proper burial/ disposition is prohibited.
Burial at Sea: If burial takes place at sea, the cremated remains are to be in a solid and durable container, and not scattered.
11) The place of burial or entombment may be memorialized appropriately.
C. If cremation and burial/disposition takes place prior to the Funeral Liturgy, then:
1) The funeral rites are to be adapted according to the prescriptions of “Appendix 2" of the Order of Christian Funerals (cf. nos. 422-425).
2) The Rite of Committal with the Final Commendation takes place with the burial/disposition of the cremated remains.
3) The Funeral Liturgy may follow but without the Rite of Final Commendation and the Rite of Committal, since these have already taken place.
Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archbishop of Philadelphia
OCF: Order of Christian Funerals
CCL: Code of Canon Law