Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington


    Music is integral to the funeral rites.  It allows the community to express convictions and feelings that words alone may fail to convey.  It has the power to console and uplift the mourners and to strengthen the unity of the assembly in faith and love.  The texts of the songs chosen for a particular celebration should express the paschal mystery of the Lord’s suffering, death and triumph over death and should be related to the readings from Scripture.  (OCF#30)

    Funeral Directors play an important role in facilitating the planning process for funeral rites.  These guidelines have been prepared to assist you with some of the questions and situations you may encounter when dealing with grieving families.

  1. How is the music for the Mass of Christian Burial planned?

    In most parishes, the pastor will contact the parish musician regarding music for the funeral.

  2. Is it permissible for the family to select music for the Mass of Christian Burial?

    Not only is it permissible, it is desirable.  However, it must be done in consultation with the pastor and the parish musician who are qualified to assist in the choosing of music.  It is also appropriate to leave the music selection entirely up to the parish musician, who is a professional.  Funeral Directors should refer questions concerning choice of music to the pastor or the parish musician.

  3. What kind of music might be considered suitable?

    In the choice of music for the Mass of Christian Burial, preference should be given to the singing of the acclamations, the responsorial psalm, the entrance and communion songs and especially the song of farewell at the final commendation.  (OCF#157)

  4. May the family request a popular song which is “special” to them or was a favorite of the deceased?

    Since music can evoke strong feelings, the music for the celebration of the funeral rites should be chosen with great care.  The music at the mass should support, console and uplift the participants and should help to create in them a spirit of hope in Christ’s victory over death and the Christian’s share in that victory.  Therefore, secular music (music which was composed for Broadway or a Top-Forty tune) is not permitted for the Mass of Christian Burial.

  5. Could a family’s “special” song be sung before the Mass of Christian Burial begins or played as prelude or postlude music?

    Secular music, which is not permitted during the Mass of Christian Burial, would also not be permitted before or after mass.

  6. But this “special” or favorite song was used at a relative’s funeral.  Why can’t it be used again?

    While secular music has been used at times in some parishes, it is, nevertheless, not permitted.  The present diocesan guidelines do not allow the use of secular music in the funeral mass.

  7. Is there any music during the Final Commendation?

    Yes.  There is a Song of Farewell.  This should be sung and the whole assembly should be able to participate in some way.  It should express trustful confidence in the paschal mystery and be experienced as the climax of the rite of final commendation.

  8. Is it possible to have a friend or relative of the family sing at the funeral mass?

    The musical demands of a Mass of Christian Burial are complex and require considerable expertise and experience to be done well.  Since there is little preparation time between the time of death and the funeral, this is not always a feasible option.  However, it would be better to leave this decision to the parish musician.

  9. May a family hire another organist, cantor or musical group not associated with the parish?

    Many parishes have contractual agreements and/or policies concerning the use of anyone other than the parish organist or musicians.  The pastor will advise you in this matter.

  10. How are musicians compensated for providing the ministry of music at a Mass of Christian Burial?

    Arrangements for payment should be made in consultation with the funeral director or the pastor of the parish.

July 1, 2006         

The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Burlington

Reverend John J. McDermott