When a Catholic Priest is Leading a Funeral

In 600 words find out what you might like to consider when a priest is leading a loved one’s funeral.

Many people, practising Catholics or not, wish to have a Catholic Funeral Service. What many non-practising Catholics or their family members may not know is the difference between what they want and what they can have are two different things. Different priests have different perspectives about what is acceptable and appropriate in a Catholic Funeral Service whether the service is conducted at a Church or at a Cemetery Chapel.

When I first started leading funerals one of the funeral directors I work with and I were talking about the difference between working with priests and civil funeral celebrants. The primary difference she noted was that the Church is the priest’s domain and therefore the family is bound to follow that priest’s rules or guidelines for the funeral service he is leading. She noted that if a family wanted greater control or more elements to be included than that a priest was willing to consider, they should take their funeral elsewhere or outside of the Church environment. There are plenty of celebrants who can include many elements of a religious service in a funeral service held outside of the church environment.

The key message she was conveying was that…

if you wish to have a Church Funeral led by a
priest then it is only appropriate to respect the traditions
and ritual forms that the church dictates.

Before you decide on a church, cemetery chapel or alternate venue for you loved one’s funeral consider the following…

Sometimes a funeral service might only be offered within a regular daily or Sunday mass. Don’t assume a separate funeral will be held at every parish or by every priest. Check first that the parish or priest are willing to do a separate funeral service if that’s important to you. Consider whether the priest is willing to lead the church service as well as attend the burial service. Some priests may decline to lead a burial service.

Consider where you stand and what you want with respect to:

Music. The type of music you want may be restricted or determined by the priest. Some allow modern, secular music. Some only allow traditional hymns. Sometimes the music choice might be determined by the regular mass that the funeral service is being conducted within. A priest led funeral in a cemetery chapel may be willing to be more flexible on song selection.

Audio Visual Tributes. As with music choices, a priest or particular parish may not allow any audio visual tributes or even additional reflection or remembrance options such as a candle lighting ceremony.

Eulogy and spoken tributes. Some priests and parishes may limit you to one person to deliver a eulogy in the traditional sense of the word. This may include limiting the length of the eulogy and when it is able to be delivered in the service.

Sermons and Rituals. You may not have a say on whether a priest delivers a sermon or not. Or how long that sermon will go for and what will be said in it. You may not have a choice of readings or other elements of the service. You may be told what will and won’t be included.

Support in coordinating the funeral. A key difference in working with a priest and a celebrant may be the level of support and guidance in the practical matters associated with a funeral. A great celebrant will ask you if there are particular elements you would like included in a service and support you, as needed, with song choices, the order of the service such as speakers and reflections

We have just one life…

Jacqui Chaplin

Independent Funeral Information | Life Story Collector & Writer | End of Life Tributes | Easier End of Life Experiences | Funeral Planning and Celebrancy

Just One Life… doing and designing dying and death differently and with dignity and distinction.

For more information on doing dying and death differently or to start thinking about how to handle a death of a loved one before you are overtaken by grief, organise a conversation with Jacqui today.

Call +61 (0)412 741 531 or email jacqui@jacquichaplin.com

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Jacqui Chaplin is a Lifetime & End-of-Life Commemoration Specialist (a funeral celebrant among other things) based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves capturing stories about the nature of life and being human, as well as, celebrating and commemorating well lived lives and lives that have ended. Jacqui has a passion for bringing the conversations that many of us find difficult to think about, let alone speak about, out in the open so we can see how our stories, values and beliefs influence our attitudes.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


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