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St. Richard Parish, Danvers MA

Arrange Funeral Services

In the face of death, the Church confidently proclaims that God has created each person for eternal life, and that Jesus, the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, has broken the chains of sin and death that bound humanityAt the funeral rites, especially at the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the Christian community affirms and expresses the union of the Church on earth with the Church in heaven in the one great communion of saints.  While proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and witnessing to Christian hope in the resurrection, the funeral rites also recall to all who take part in them God’s mercy and judgment and meet the human need to turn always to God in times of crisis.”

- From the “General Introduction” to the Order of Christian Funerals


In the current custom of our area and time, many of the preparations for a funeral service are arranged through the funeral director chosen by the family. The director will discuss various options, including the day and the time of the funeral, with the family and then confirm these with the parish office. The staff of Saint Richard Parish stands ready to assist the family in whatever way possible in the planning of a funeral for a loved one, not only when a death has already occurred but in advance planning as well.

Day and Time of Funeral

Funerals may be celebrated on most days of the year. (Although it is not the custom in this part of the world, most people would be surprised to learn that the Church’s calendar permits the celebration of a funeral Mass even on the Sundays of that season called “Ordinary Time”!) However, please note that there are certain holy days and feasts on which funeral Masses are not permitted by liturgical law. The practical consideration that most often governs the choice of day and time is the schedule of the various cemeteries and their workers. Your funeral director will inquire about your preferences for day and time and then discuss these with our parish office on your behalf.


The Vigil or “Wake”

Most often, the family of the deceased chooses to have a time when they will receive visitors on the day before the funeral. The Catholic funeral ritual provides several options for a prayer service, which takes place at some point during these calling hours. This service is usually led by a priest or a deacon, but may also be led by a lay person who has been trained for this ministry.


Choice of Readings and Music

The Catholic funeral service proclaims the hope and consolation that is given to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This central focus must therefore govern the choices that are made in planning the elements of the funeral service. The readings that are used at a Catholic funeral must come from the Bible; if there is a particular non-biblical reading that the family would like to use, it finds its appropriate place either during the gathering at the funeral home or incorporated into the Eulogy.


The Church’s directives for the music used at funerals reflects the same concern: “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.” If the family wishes a certain non-religious “favorite song” of the deceased to be incorporated into the funeral, it likewise should be used during the gathering at the funeral home or at the conclusion of the Cemetery Rites. Our Music Ministry Staff will be happy to assist the family in making these choices, and in arranging for soloists and/or other instrumentalists, as the family desires.



Although the directives of the Church prohibit a eulogy to substitute for the homily that is preached on the readings, these same directives provide that “a member or friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation” of the funeral service. If the family of the deceased wishes for such a remembrance to take place at the funeral, it is the policy of Saint Richard Parish that only ONE individual be chosen to speak during the church service. The individual chosen should be one who is capable of speaking clearly and in a composed manner. Indeed, the Church expresses its concern on this point when its directives state that family and friends “should not be asked to assume any role that their grief or sense of loss may make too burdensome.”


Furthermore, the text of the eulogy is to be WRITTEN out beforehand and not to be delivered in an extemporaneous or “off-the-cuff” manner, so that the eulogy shall be limited to a maximum duration of three (3) to five (5) minutes. The content must reflect the sacredness of the Catholic funeral by avoiding any material of inappropriate humor or content that is disrespectful of the deceased or the sacred setting. Indeed, the ideal held up by the Catholic Church is that a eulogy should focus more on giving God praise and thanksgiving for the blessings that He bestowed upon the deceased during this life, and less on a recitation of what the deceased person accomplished.


If the family wishes to provide an opportunity for others to speak in remembrance of the deceased, this may be done most appropriately during the gathering at the funeral home or even at the gathering, which typically follows the burial.



The text which follows is quoted from “Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites” published by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy in 1997.


“The long-standing practice of burying the body of the deceased in a grave or tomb in imitation of the burial of Jesus’ body continues to be encouraged as a sign of Christian faith. However, owing to contemporary cultural interaction, the practice of cremation has become part of Catholic practice in the United States and other parts of the Western world. Although cremation is now permitted, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. Catholic teaching continues to stress the preference for burial or entombment of the body of the deceased. Likewise, the Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for its funeral rites, since the presence of the body better expresses the values that the Church affirms in its ritesthe presence of the body most clearly brings to mind the life and death of the person.


“However, when circumstances prevent the presence of the body at the funeral liturgy, it is appropriate that the cremated remains of the body be present for the full course of the funeral rites, including the Vigil for the Deceased [the “wake”], the Funeral Liturgy, and the Rite of Committal. The funeral liturgy should always be celebrated in a church. The cremated remains of the body should then be reverently buried or entombed in a cemetery or mausoleum.The practices of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.”

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