What Is Said by a Catholic Priest in a Funeral?

The priest will lead the blessing of the Eucharist.
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When a Catholic dies, she should receive a proper Catholic funeral before being laid to rest. A Catholic priest leads the Mass, which follows the same structure as the Sunday Mass, with the family able to select appropriate readings and songs of worship. Given the ritualistic nature of the Catholic Mass, Catholics know what to expect the priest to say, but non-Catholics attending the funeral may wish to know in advance or follow along in the missal books in the pew.

1 Introductory Rites

At the beginning of the funeral Mass, the priest will walk down the aisle to the opening hymn, singing the hymn along with the congregation. He'll then offer an introductory message, stating something along the lines of, "We gather here today to celebrate the life of Agnes McCarrick, who has now returned to her home with Our God, The Father."

He'll then continue the introductory part of the Mass, which includes praising God and asking for God's mercy. Standard responses are said to the words the priest uses, which you can find in the missal if you don't know them.

2 Gospel Reading

Family members can select one or two readings from the Old Testament, which anyone can read, and a reading from the Gospels, which the priest will read. The church will provide a list of appropriate readings, though family can choose which they prefer.

3 Homily

After reading the Gospel, the priest delivers a Homily, a speech in which he attempts to comfort family and friends, while still delivering the good word of the Lord. In the case of a funeral, he may tell a story about the deceased that shows something particularly good about the person. For example, he might recall the work the person has done for the church or community, or the way she was always lending a helping hand to family. The priest may also talk about the person being in heaven and that we will all meet again some day. He may also take the opportunity to discuss grief and learning to give grief over to God, knowing that this is all a part of his plan.

4 Liturgy of the Eucharist

A funeral Mass will also include receiving communion. Family members will bring the gifts to the altar, where the priest will bless them. Then members of the congregation will receive the body and blood of Christ. Again, this section of the Mass has standard responses, which you can find in the missals. Non-Catholics should not go to the front to receive communion, but may sit in the pew and pray.

5 Closing Rites

At the end of the Mass, the priest gives a simple closing blessing, such as "Let us go in peace to live out the Word of God." The service ends with a closing hymn.

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.