Divine Worship
66 Brooks Drive
Braintree, MA 02184-3839


Thomas Lyman
Coordinator of Divine Worship
Office: 617-746-5880
Fr. Jonathan M. Gaspar
Archdiocesan Master of Ceremonies and Chaplain
Diane Campbell
Executive Assistant, Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship
Office: 617-746-5761
Fax: 617-779-4570

Divine Worship


Music in the Funeral Mass

Funeral Policy

It is the patoral responsibility of parishes to provide liturgical music at all Funeral Masses. The same liturgical norms applied to music at any Mass apply to the Funeral Mass.

1. An instrumentalist, a cantor, and even a choir where possible should assist the full participation of the assembly in the songs, responses, and acclamations of the funeral Rites ( OCF #33).

2. Certain musical texts are primary and should be sung at the Funeral Mass: the responsorial psalm, the gospel acclamation, the three acclamations of the Eucharistic Prayer, the "Lamb of God" litany, and the "Song of Farewell." These should not be done by cantor, choir, or soloist alone. Rather, they belong to the assembly.

3. In the Order of Christian Funerals, as in all the reformed liturgical books, the cantor/leader of song has an important task. The task of the cantor is to animate and direct the singing of the assembly. With the exception of the responsorial psalm, which is done from the ambo, the cantor ordinarily leads the assembly from a lectern. The Office for Worship is charged with providing regular opportunities for cantor development and enrichment.

4. Some form of hymnal or worship program is called for at funerals. The program might be a computer-generated document with the words and music for the liturgy. Copyright licenses and permissions are necessary, and many parishes have found annual licenses to be both convenient and inexpensive. Some liturgical publishers have offered participation cards and booklets for the liturgy which have proven very useful. A separate sheet might be prepared for the participation of the faithful in the committal at the cemetery.

5. A choir has proven of great worth in many parishes. Members of a funeral choir are often recruited from parishioners who are retired, self-employed, or whose work gives them freedom of schedule.

6. The selection of music for the funeral liturgy is often a sensitive issue for bereaved families, parish musicians, and pastoral staff. The choice of music for Christian funerals must be in accord with all the recommendations governing music in liturgy, especially those found in The Order of Christian Funerals, Liturgical Music Today, and Music in Catholic Worship.

7. The principle of progressive solemnity, described in Music in Catholic Worship, applies to the rites found in The Order of Christian Funerals. A few things sung well, including the responsorial psalm, gospel acclamation, eucharistic prayer acclamations, and the song of farewell have priority in funeral liturgies (Liturgical Music Today #33). Many of these may be drawn from the repertoire of the Sunday assembly.

8. The responsorial form of psalm singing, in which the psalmist or choir sings the verses and the assembly responds with a brief antiphon, is well suited to the funeral liturgy. The practice of substituting metrical hymns based on psalm texts for the responsorial psalm is not encouraged since this form affects and alters the ritual pattern of responsorial singing (Liturgical Music Today, #40).

9. The request for "favorite songs" of the deceased often result in inappropriate performances of music incapable of bearing the weight liturgy demands. Popular songs, sentimental ethnic music, or songs from Broadway hits are never to substitute for the music of the funeral liturgy. There are three standards of judgment proposed in Music in Catholic Worship. The liturgical judgment: is the music's text, form, placement and style congruent with the nature of the liturgy? (MCW 30-38) The musical judgment: is the music technically, aesthetically and expressively good irrespective of musical idiom or style? (MCW 26-29) The pastoral judgment: will it help this assembly to pray? (MCW 39-41) Such a process may not be as easy to apply as an absolute list of permitted or prohibited music, but is more effective pastorally.

10. Music is preeminent among the signs expressed by the participants in any liturgy. Therefore, recorded music is not to be used within the liturgy to replace the congregation, the choir, the organist, cantor, or other musicians. (Liturgical Music Today, #60).