Guidelines for Funeral Masses at St. Theresa Catholic Church Overview
Central to our Catholic faith is the powerful hope that after death, Christ gives us the great consolation of resurrection and eternal life for all those seeking to be His disciple.
In light of this, we urge families to contact a priest as soon as possible whenever a Catholic loved one is facing a very serious illness, so that we can provide prayers, comfort, and the crucial sacraments of Confession, Holy Communion, and Anointing. If death is imminent, the priest can provide the Apostolic Pardon as directed by the Popes, to remove temporal punishment in purgatory and give even greater peace to the suffering soul and family.
Once death occurs, being separated from a loved one as they pass from this life is one of the greatest challenges we face in our life. Christ’s death and resurrection helps assuage that difficulty, but nevertheless we understandably still suffer because of our humanity and our desire for the continued presence of the loved one.
At St. Theresa’s we seek to assist all families not only after the death of a loved one, but as much as possible in leading up to the death of a loved one. Please again, make every effort to have a priest come to your home and give the sacraments as a means of powerful graces to heal the soul and prepare it for the journey into eternity.
After death, Our Blessed Lord recognizes the need for guidance through the grieving process and to attend to the proper burial of our loved ones as it is one of the corporal works of mercy. We are blessed with three very fine funeral homes in Trumbull and others for the express need for caring for the remains and preparing for proper burial. Upon the death or impending death of a loved one, please contact the Funeral home for assistance with immediate preparations for the loved one’s body.
The Purpose of the Funeral Liturgy
In planning for the liturgy of the Funeral Mass we keep in mind the purposes for the liturgy according to the Catholic Church.
The Mass is properly called the Mass of Christian Burial, not as sometimes said, Mass of the Resurrection. The purpose of the Mass is first and foremost to give adoration and Thanksgiving to God for His generosity in giving life, and in the sacrifice, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which reopened the gates of heaven.
Secondly, the purpose is to grant powerful graces that only the Holy Mass can to the soul as spiritual provisions for the journey into eternity. The Mass aids in helping the soul especially proceed through purgatory and come to heaven as quickly as God’s will determines.
The Mass also provides a powerful reminder to us that we are all mortal and must make an accounting of our lives to the Lord, therefore it should humble and remind us that we must always each and every day make the Good Lord the center of our life, to prepare our souls for the inevitable departure from this world.
The Structure of the Funeral ritual in the Catholic Tradition
In producing the ritual Holy Mother Church has structured a three-stage ritual that enables us to be consoled, to provide divine grace for the deceased, and to access grace for ourselves in recommitting to Jesus Christ. The three stages are the Vigil or Wake service, the Funeral Mass, and the Committal of the body at the cemetery.
First is the Prayer Vigil, or wake, where one of our priests will arrive at the funeral home shortly before the official time for the wake to begin and lead a prayer service of consolation for the family. This enables the family to pray in private before publicly greeting the guests who wish to offer condolences.
The primary and most efficacious prayer is the Funeral Mass. Through the Mass God provides enormous grace to the deceased for their journey, into eternity and to the loved ones left behind for consolation, healing and hope.
Recommended steps for planning the Funeral liturgy.
- The family is strongly encouraged to contact us immediately or at any time for assistance, otherwise the priest will call the family upon receiving the information from the funeral home. We then look forward to sitting down with you to discuss the overall planning including readings and music.
- The family may read the first two readings at Mass if they like, or St. Theresa’s can provide a reader instead, there is no obligation for anyone to read at the Mass.
- If the family desires they may bring up gifts at the offertory; this will be planned at the meeting with the priest.
- In the meeting with the priest, the priest is very interested in hearing as much about the deceased as possible, so as to fashion the homily towards an understanding of the person especially their faith life.
- The choice of 4 songs for the funeral Mass. We highly recommend the Ave Maria for the offertory; and the Communion song must be a hymn directly related to the Holy Eucharist.
- The planning sheet can be found at the end of this pdf.
After the Mass, the funeral procession normally proceeds to the place of burial. The priest will say concluding prayers graveside. If the deceased is a veteran, the funeral home will assist the family in contacting the military for proper graveside military honors.
Options for families outside the Funeral Mass
Eulogies: The Bishop recently promulgated new funeral norms standard for all parishes of the Diocese of Bridgeport. One very common discussion regarded words of remembrance, or commonly called eulogies. Please recall that the process of the funeral rite is actually three parts, that is the Wake service, the Funeral Mass, and the Committal at the grave (of course, families may opt to not have a wake). The funeral rite begins with the wake and ends with the cemetery. Thus, the Church is very careful about non- essential, non-liturgical additions to the Mass. Since eulogies or words of remembrance are not part of the normal Mass, and many times involve difficult emotions and the natural desire to discuss worldly accomplishments, they are best served by being at the wake service, or at the cemetery. Or, as many understandably wish to include anecdotes and a cathartic reminiscing, these themes are only proper at the luncheon after the cemetery. As discussed in the many meetings with the bishop and my fellow Trumbull Catholic pastors, these are the best placement for the words of remembrance. Thus, at St. Theresa’s, as at several other Trumbull parishes, such remembrances are now reserved strictly to wakes or gravesides.
After the burial: Bereavement opportunities at St. Theresa’s
Please know that St. Theresa’s does provide a bereavement group in the fall and spring to especially assist survivors’ journey through their sense of loss. This we pray will enable them to receive the great consolation Our Blessed Lord wishes to give all in the hope of eventual reunion with loved ones and life everlasting. Please contact the parish office for details.
If there are particular tragic circumstances to the death of the person, all the more reason for the priest’s desire to meet with the family and bring the resources of the parish to assist in any way. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
God love you in this time of mourning, and please know that our wonderful parish prays with you for the repose of your loved one’s soul, and the great hope of eternal life.
Planning Sheet for Music and Readings
Please see below the choice of readings and music, as well as the template for who might read or bring up gifts.