At Times of Great Loss … Planning a Funeral

funeral01_200Our Parish Team is prepared to assist individuals and families in any way possible through this most difficult time. A phone call to the Church Office (613-259-2155) as early as possible in the process of preparing for a funeral will allow us to plan and be of the greatest availability to you. If the answering machine picks up, please leave a message and contact phone number.

We have resources and materials that can assist you every step along the way. We are here to accompany you and make this time of passing and bereavement one in which you are not overwhelmed with decisions or demands. Please, do not hesitate to speak to us even if it is well before the time of passing occurs.

We can continue to journey with you long after the initial period of loss and mourning are over.

Here are some resources that may be of immediate benefit to you:

When should I call?

Walking togetherDon’t hesitate to involve the Parish as early in your preparation for the life change as possible. We can be there at the hospital, when you go to a Funeral Home or discuss other final care options, before and after the family arrives. Life does not end, it changes, and we serve a loving God who wishes to surround you with hope and with His love, particularly during these difficult times.

Often people have many questions, concerns and fears of final things. This is a normal part of our faith journey. Rest assured that God’s love is without conditions, without limits and always there for you. Let us help you see how much this God truly loves you, and that He is truly present especially in our darkest hours.

Here are some additional resources that may be of benefit to you:

Choosing a Funeral Mass, Funeral Service or other Memorial Celebration

This can be a very difficult decision for the family but we are here to discuss this with you. We are here to make everyone comfortable with the best decision that you can make for the one who has passed, the family and friends who will wish to be part of some form of commemoration. We are there to assure you of the hope our faith teaches. So, simply, let’s talk.

Choosing Readings

funeral-readingsOur parish recommends a special collection of scripture readings that are appropriate for a funeral or memorial service. When you contact the Parish Office a copy of a workbook containing these readings will be loaned to you along with a simple set of instructions. When you have selected the readings you return the check list and workbook to the Parish Office. Copies of this resource are also available through the local Funeral Homes.

On the day of the funeral your selected readings will be ready on the lectern (Ambo) where they will be read from. The large reading book, called a Lectionary, will have ribbons in place exactly where the readings will be found. Each page of the Lectionary is identical to the one seen in the workbook, only with larger print. Your readers will not need photocopies but only a few moments to orient themselves to the book.

Many family members welcome the opportunity to reflect on the scripture readings in the privacy of their own home. We can assist you in making the selections if you desire. You are not limited in your choice to the readings we recommend but there is a specific formula and structure to the readings at a funeral. There are also ways to include appropriate poems or music into the funeral rites, particularly at the funeral home and at the prayer vigil, in ways that honour your loved one and bring comfort and hope to all.

These resources may also be helpful:

  • A worksheet to assist you in selecting Funeral Readings. Using the information below this sheet can be completed and returned to the parish. On the day of the funeral the readings will be in place on the Ambo for the reader to use. You can download this by clicking here.
  • An index of the readings that are recommended can be downloaded. This listing corresponds to the resource book you will receive from the parish or funeral home.
  • The Responsorial Psalm is sung as part of the readings, led by one of the parish psalmists. The Parish Musician will assist you in choosing an appropriate selection. The Gospel Acclamation is also sung, led by the cantor. The “psalmist” and “cantor” are soloists who have special training in liturgical music.
  • The Prayer of the Faithful is read by the Deacon, the presiding minister or by a reader selected by the family. A sample of these prayers may be downloaded here. Other prayers may be selected with the permission of the presiding minister.

Who can read? We recommend that the individuals you choose be familiar with the Ministry of Reader within the Catholic liturgy. It is an honour to be asked to proclaim God’s Word in the funeral liturgy. It requires not only confidence, skill and practice but a mature, abiding faith. You normally choose two readers: one for the First Reading and a second for the Second Reading. The Deacon, when present, is prepared to read the Prayer of the Faithful but an additional reader may be chosen to present these petitions if desired. Readers can be provided if this is your wish.

We have some helps and a guide for your readers on our website. It is called I’ve Been Asked To Read.

Choosing Music

Music brings not only comfort and consolation to those who attend but adds significantly to the prayer and celebration of the funeral rites. Our parish musicians are prepared to put together the complete music program for you if you request it. We have church musicians who are available to meet with you and assist you in selecting music that will add to the solemnity and to the warmth of the service.

Our musicians have prepared a list of some suggestions for you which can be viewed here. Sample recordings can be heard by doing searches at http://LicenSingOnline.ca. A normal service includes not only three-four hymn selections but the many sung parts of the Mass, including the psalm the various acclamations, the Holy, Holy and Lamb of God as well as the special song at Commendation. Because so much of the prayerful atmosphere of a funeral is linked together through the music ministry we discourage using musicians who are not trained in Catholic liturgy and church music.

The use of recorded music is not a preferred option for the Catholic liturgy. We recommend that favorite songs and recordings be used at the Funeral Home, as part of the Vigil Prayers, or at the reception. Similarly traditional religious music, such as the “Ave Maria“, is better placed at a time of prayer, meditation or reflection and not at a time of movement and other actions within the liturgy. Again, our musicians are prepared to assist you here.

At the Wake or Visitation

Many families are finding alternatives to using Funeral Homes. Some are returning to waking in their home, others in local halls and meeting places. We are prepared to listen to your suggestions, work with you and help you as you move forward with your plans.

Most funerals have a wake or visitation which normally takes place before the service. You will have to make decisions about the times of the wake and you should do this with your family and in consultation with the funeral home professionals. There are two short services that traditionally (although optionally) may take place at the wake:

Gathering in the Presence” takes place just before the visitors arrive. It is a beautiful time of prayer and blessings for the family and serves as a calming moment before what will follow. It may include the placing of religious objects. We have heard from many younger members of families who are experience the death of a loved on for the first time that this moment was really important for them in helping them with what was to come.

The Vigil Prayer usually takes place at a designated time during the wake. We strongly recommend that a specific time be announced for this prayer t. Many Catholics wish to be present at this time and putting an announcement such as “The Vigil Prayer will take place at 7:30 PM on Wednesday.” is often a good idea. Many choose to begin one of the evening visitations with the Vigil Prayer, sometimes actually starting 15-20 minutes before the visitation. In this case the announcement might read, “The Vigil Prayers will take place at 6:30 PM before the evening visitation.”

Finally, if your loved one was a member of the Catholic Women’s League, Knights of Columbus or other parish group, they may wish to gather at a specific time and may have prayers or presentations that they do. Sometimes their visit is combined with the Vigil Prayer. There are also community groups (such as companies) who may ask to do the same.

Even though these services may be brief, we normally work with the funeral home to provide seating whenever possible, particularly for the family and the elderly.

May we have a Eulogy?

When a loved one dies, the grieving family and friends are often anxious to honour the memory of the loved one in every way they can. One of the ways some wish to do this is to include a eulogy somewhere in the funeral rites. Recently this has expanded with requests to include videos, musical tributes, photo displays and other presentations into the Funeral Mass.

Catholics are sometimes surprised to learn that a eulogy is not encouraged and there is no provision for a eulogy in the church ritual. The General Introduction to the Order of Christian Funerals quite clearly states that the homily after the gospel reading is never to be a eulogy. On the other hand, the eulogy is often a significant feature in non-Catholic funerals and sometimes appreciated by those present.

Two things should be kept in mind as people prepare for a funeral liturgy and the question of a eulogy is considered. The first is what is meant by the word, eulogy. According to the dictionary, it is “a formal speech or a piece of writing of high praise of a person” (The Penguin Canadian Dictionary).

The second is that the funeral liturgy is, as is all liturgy, an act of praise and thanksgiving for Christ’s victory over sin and death, a proclamation of the paschal mystery. This act of worship belongs to the whole community, to the whole Church, and not to any individual or group. Any elements that do not give expression to this act of worship do not have a place.

It is recommended that, if a eulogy or other testimonial is to take place, it is best at the visitation, as part of the Vigil Prayers, or at the reception. Of course, as we move away from the Funeral Mass into various service options, we open the door to more avenues of remembrance.