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Organising a Funeral

After the death of a loved one we appreciate how overwhelming and distressing it can be to organise the funeral. What do I do first? Who do I inform? So many questions so we have put together a guide for you to help at this difficult time;

When someone dies - who will need to be informed as soon as possible?

  • next of kin, if not present 
  • family doctor, if the person dies at home 
  • funeral director, if the family is using one (the deceased may already have made arrangements) 
  • priest

In addition, if you are called to someone who has died unexpectedly or in unusual circumstances, the police will need to be informed. Do not touch or move anything in the room.

What happens next?

If the cause of death is clear, the doctor will issue a medical certificate and a formal notice confirming that he or she has signed the certificate. This notice gives information on how to register the death and will enable funeral arrangements to be made. If the doctor reports the death to the coroner, there may be a delay while a post mortem or inquest is carried out. The coroner’s office will advise you on what arrangements may be made.

Registering the death.

The death will need to be registered within five days unless it has been reported to the coroner. Further detail concerning these procedures can be found in a booklet available from the Department of Social Security.

What are the financial implications?

If the family wishes to use a funeral director, it is quite proper to invite estimates from different firms. There is a considerable financial difference between cremation and burial, and those choosing burial will also need to consider the upkeep of the grave. There may be a fee for an organist or other musician. An offering to the minister or parish is discretionary, though customary, and you may wish to check. Where the family uses a funeral director an offering may be included automatically in the account, though the family is free to make its own arrangements.

Funeral Rites

Christians celebrate funeral rites to offer worship and thanksgiving to God, the author of all life. We pray for the deceased, and support the bereaved. The model for Catholic funerals is the Easter journey of Jesus Christ from death to resurrection. This is why we are encouraged to celebrate the funeral in three stages: prayer vigil, funeral liturgy, and committal. Funeral practice varies considerably, and the Church provides several options from which we can choose freely. There is greater flexibility and involvement possible than we sometimes imagine.

Prayer Vigil

This is the principal rite celebrated between death and the funeral itself. It is the first stage of the farewell journey; its mood is one of quiet support which helps to prepare the bereaved for the final leave-taking.

The Vigil or wake may be held in the home of the deceased, the funeral home, or in another suitable place, for instance a hospital chapel. It may also be celebrated in church. The body of the deceased may be present, but this is not necessary. The form of the service is a simple Liturgy of the Word of God or Evening Prayer.

Funeral Liturgy

This is the main celebration of the Christian community for the deceased person. It is usually celebrated in the parish church where the local community gathers for the Sunday Eucharist. Sometimes people may celebrate the Funeral Liturgy in a crematorium or cemetery chapel. Two forms are possible: a funeral Mass, (also called the Requiem Mass) or a funeral liturgy outside Mass. The Church encourages a Mass since the eucharist remembers and celebrates Christ’s own death and resurrection. However, while the eucharist is our central liturgy, it is not always the best option for every funeral. To celebrate a funeral without Mass is a truly valid form of Catholic worship.

Order of Service

Below is a list of the standard Order of Service:

  • Introductory Rite
  • Greeting and Blessing
  • Entrance Hymn
  • Opening Prayer
  • 1st Reading (The readings may be chosen by yourselves or you may want the priest to choose them)
  • Psalm
  • Gospel
  • Homily
  • Bidding Prayers
  • Our Father
  • Hymn (this is optional)
  • Final Commendation
  • Recessional Hymn

Please note that arrangements for the funeral should not be finalised without speaking first to the parish priest.

Committal

The rite of committal usually follows on immediately from the funeral liturgy. This final act of leavetaking is celebrated at the graveside or at the crematorium. When a body is cremated the funeral liturgy is concluded with the interring of ashes sometime afterwards.

 

O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until shadows lengthen, and evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at last. Amen.

Cardinal Newman

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord, whoever believes in me will never die.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.

The Roman Missal