A guide to Catholic funerals

A guide to Catholic funerals

If you are going to a Catholic funeral for the first time, or simply want to know more, our simple online guide to Catholic funerals and cremations should help you to find the answers to your questions.

What is a Catholic funeral?

A Catholic funeral is an act of worship and thanksgiving to God for the gift of the life of the person who has died. It also offers hope and consolation to those left behind.

Because Catholics believe that God sees the life of every person as precious a  parish community will remember you and your loved one in their prayers. He or she will be mentioned by name in bidding prayers at Mass and also in the parish newsletter.

Catholic funeral liturgy

The Catholic Funeral Liturgy has its particular ritual forms and texts. But within this framework, there is some flexibility with options for readings, music and the sharing of memories of the person who has died.

With time and good preparation, a Catholic funeral can be a unique, personal and comforting occasion.

Why have a Catholic funeral?

A Catholic funeral provides hope at what is often the bleakest time of our lives. It holds out the promise of eternal life and the gift of God’s mercy.

When you are mourning the death of a loved one, the opportunity to pray for them and for those left behind gives you a sense of purpose. It helps you to make sense of your loss and will console you in your grief.

Here are some examples of prayers for the grieving.

Making sense of loss

Fr Martin Shipperlee of Ealing Abbey in west London says:

“Death is a great dis-enabler and grief disables. Those who are grieving need action, and by praying for their loved one they are doing something.”

Arranging the funeral of someone close to you is one of the most loving things you can do but it can also be daunting. The Catholic Church will help you prepare and support you in the process.

Help with planning a Catholic funeral

If you choose to opt for a Catholic funeral we have written a very simple checklist to help you plan ahead.

Who can have a Catholic funeral?

Any Catholic can have a Catholic funeral. This applies even if they didn’t go to Mass.

Someone who isn’t a Catholic may have a Catholic funeral if their family asks for one. The usual reason for this would be that the deceased was married to a Catholic or was preparing to become a Catholic.

Someone who has died by suicide can have a Catholic funeral.

Funerals for unbaptised babies

There are funeral rites for babies who have been miscarried or stillborn. If you are a Catholic, contact your parish priest.

Organising a Catholic funeral

You will need to register your loved one’s death within five days. The Government’s guidance on doing this can be found here.

If you are a Catholic, it’s likely that you may already know your parish priest or have come into contact with him during the final illness of your loved one. If not, you should get in touch with your local Catholic parish.

You may speak with a priest, deacon or specially trained lay person known as a Lay Funeral Minister or Funeral Assistant.  The parish should be able to recommend a local funeral director.

Finding a funeral director

A funeral director appointed at an early stage will liaise with everyone involved.

Independent, family-run funeral directors can often provide a more personal service than large chains.

If you need help in finding a funeral director the following websites list companies that follow a strict code of practice and are inspected regularly:

Dorothy Waterhouse, who has looked after the family funeral business in Burwash, East Sussex, for over 40 years says time and thought go into a good funeral.

Says Dorothy: “Often  a reaction is to get the funeral over with, but I think it important to encourage people to take time to think and plan.”

Catholic funeral costs

The charges of funeral directors vary so ask for estimates from different companies and seek options and the costs of their services.

A good undertaker takes care of the practical aspects such as sending details of the funeral to friends and relatives, passing on your instructions regarding flowers and collecting donations to a designated charity.

Burial or cremation?

Read our page on burial or cremation, and the first decision you need to make in relation to a Catholic funeral.

The Art of Dying Well