Funerals

"Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we all shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." -1 Corinthians 15:51-52

“At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of Baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end, nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting Word of God and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.”

– Order of Christian Funerals, #4

Please read the Information section below and then fill out and submit the Funeral Request Form.

Funeral Information
Funeral Request Form

The Catholic funeral rite is divided into several parts, each with its own purpose.

Vigil Service

“At the vigil, the Christian community keeps watch with the family in prayer to the God of mercy and finds strength in Christ’s presence.” – Order of Christian Funerals, #56

The Vigil Service usually takes place during the period of visitation and viewing at the funeral home. It is a time to remember the life of the deceased and to commend him/her to God. In prayer, we ask God to console us in our grief and give us strength to support one another.

The Vigil Service consists of readings from Sacred Scripture and beautiful prayers to assist the deceased and those who mourn their loss. The clergy and your funeral director can assist in planning the service.

If the family wishes to offer a eulogy for their deceased relative, they may do so after the Vigil Service.

Funeral Mass

The funeral Mass is the central liturgical celebration of the Christian community for the deceased. When a Mass cannot be celebrated, a funeral liturgy outside Mass can be celebrated at the church or in the funeral home.

At the funeral Mass, the Church gathers with the family and friends of the deceased to pray for their loved one and to commend them to our merciful God. The funeral Mass, therefore, is an act of worship, and not merely an expression of grief.

Rite of Committal (Burial or Internment)

The Rite of Committal follow the funeral Mass. It should normally be celebrated at the place of committal, that is, beside the open grave or place of internment. In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the resurrection. The Rite of Committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth, in purgatory and in heaven. Questions about the format of the committal service can be answered by the celebrant.

Normal Structure of the Funeral Mass

  • Seating of family members
  • Reception of the Body at the back of the Church
    • Greeting and Introduction
    • Sprinkling of the Body with Holy Water
    • Placing of the Pall
  • Entrance Hymn
  • Placing of Christian Symbols (optional)
  • Opening Prayer
  • Liturgy of the Word
    • Old Testament Reading
    • Responsorial Psalm (sung)
    • New Testament Reading
    • Gospel Acclamation (sung)
    • Gospel Reading
    • Homily
    • Prayer of the Faithful
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist
    • Presentation of the Gifts
    • Eucharistic Prayer (with sung acclamations)
    • The Lord’s Prayer and the Sign of Peace
    • Communion
    • Prayer after Communion
  • Final Commendation
    • Song of Farewell and Incensation of the Body
    • Prayer of Commendation
  • Procession to the Place of Committal and Closing Hymn

Lectors

It is proper for a lay person to proclaim the First and Second Readings from Scripture and to announce the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful (if there is no deacon present). The nature of the word of God usually requires that such persons be practicing Catholics and effective public speakers. Lectors should be given copies of the readings in advance so they can practice their readings.

Placing of the Funeral Pall

It is our custom to place a pall, a decorated white cloth, on the casket at the beginning of the funeral Mass as a reminder of the garment given at Baptism, thereby signifying life in Christ. Since the deceased would have been dressed in his or her baptismal garment by his or her parents and godparents, the family may wish to participate in this ritual gesture at the funeral.

Scripture Readings

It is appropriate to assist the celebrant in choosing texts from Sacred Scripture for the funeral Mass. Normally, four Scripture Readings are chosen: one from the Old Testament, one from the psalms, one from the New Testament – epistles, and one from the Gospels. You may see a listing of all the possible Catholic Funeral Mass Readings.

Offertory Procession

It is appropriate but not required for members of the family to carry the gifts of bread and wine for the Eucharist.

Music for the Funeral

Music during the funeral allows the community to express convictions and feelings that words alone may not convey. Music has the power to console and uplift the mourners and to strengthen the unity of the assembly in faith and love. The Basilica Director of Music takes great care in selecting and presenting sacred music that creates a spirit of hope in Christ’s victory over death and sin. The Basilica Organist/Director of Music and a Basilica Cantor are provided for the funeral Mass. Family members may wish to discuss musical selections for the funeral Mass with the Director. Due to the sacred nature of the liturgy, only sacred, liturgical music is permitted at the funeral Mass. Please contact the Director of Music directly to discuss any needs you have in regard to music.

Suggested music selections are listed here (LINK TO APPROPRIATE SONGS)

Visiting Clergy

We welcome the participation of clergy who are friends or relatives. If a visiting priest/deacon is to be the celebrant for the funeral, please share these guidelines with him at the time arrangements are made. Visiting clergy should also contact the Basilica Rector to discuss arrangements. Also, if the priest/deacon is from outside of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, a letter of suitability must be sent to:

The Office of Clergy Personnel
320 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Eulogies

In accordance with Archdiocesan policy, eulogies are not permitted in the funeral liturgy.  However, a pastor may permit one person to share some Words of Remembrance about the deceased before to the Funeral Liturgy. If this option is allowed:

  1. A) It should be limited to 3-5 minutes.
  2. B) Only one person may represent the family and friends.  Multiple remembrances are not permitted.
  3. C) The pastor may request a written outline of the proposed remembrance remarks, if he deems it appropriate.
  4. D) The current liturgical guidelines clearly indicate, “[a]t Funeral Masses there should usually be a short Homily, but to the exclusion of a funeral eulogy of any kind.”

Flowers

It is appropriate to bring floral arrangements from the funeral home to the Basilica for placement in the Sanctuary during the funeral Mass. Please discuss what is appropriate and effective with the Basilica staff.

The Church and Cremation

The Christian faithful are confronted with the mystery of life and death in the presence of the body of one who has died. The body of a deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once washed in Baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of Life. Thus, the Church’s reverence for the sacredness of the human body grows out of a reverence and concern both natural and supernatural for the human person.

While cremation is now permitted by the Church, it is our recommendation that cremation, when chosen, take place after the funeral rites, so that our acts of prayer and worship in grief may take place in the presence of the body as one final act of love and respect for the deceased. When it is not possible to delay cremation until after the funeral rites are celebrated, the cremated remains of the deceased may be brought to the Church for the funeral Mass provided there is an appropriate plan for their internment. 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 and a respectful manner of internment.