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Order of Christian Funerals

Choosing the Readings




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The Word of God

The word of God is of great importance in the funeral rite. The readings proclaim the meaning that Christ himself gave to death, teach us to remember the dead, nourish our hope of being gathered together again in God’s kingdom, and encourage us to live the Christian life. Above all, the readings tell of God’s design for a world in which suffering and death will be destroyed. In the readings all present have an opportunity to hear God speak to them in their needs, sorrows, fears and hopes.

At the funeral liturgy the biblical readings may not be replaced by non-biblical ones. But during prayer services with the family non-biblical readings may be used in addition to readings from Scripture (see below).

Members of the family may be invited to read the scripture readings.

Many people nowadays wish to include in the funeral a reading or poem which is not from the bible. Please bear the following points in mind.

In the celebration of the word of God at the funeral liturgy, the biblical readings may not be replaced. However, an additional reading, inspired by faith, could be appropriate as a meditation after the homily. Alternatively, a non-biblical reading may be incorporated into the words of remembrance spoken by a member of the family or a friend later in the funeral liturgy.

In a service at home or in hospital, non-biblical readings or poems can be used effectively, as these services are less formal than the funeral liturgy in church, though the Scriptures should not be entirely displaced.

The psalms express the suffering and pain, the hope and trust of people of every age. Above all they sing of faith in God and of redemption. They enable us to pray in the words that Jesus himself, who knew anguish and the fear of death, used during his life on earth.

Psalms are used in many places in the funeral rites, in particular as responses to the readings, and at the vigil service.

The psalms are songs, and should be sung whenever possible.

from Into Your Hands:
planning a Catholic funeral: readings and prayers

Scripture Readings are part of the Liturgy of the Word at funerals. There will be a Liturgy of the Word as part of both a funeral Mass and funeral service (without Mass).

The structure of the Liturgy of the Word is as follows:

  • First Reading
  • Responsorial Psalm
  • [Second Reading - may be omitted]
  • Gospel Acclamation
  • Gospel
  • Homily
  • Prayer of the Faithful (Intercessions)

The family of bereaved may wish to choose the readings or at least one of them. They may be helped by the advice of the priest or another minister from the parish. It is also possible to use the readings for that day in the liturgical calendar.

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