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 pastoral responsibility of parishes to provide liturgical music at all Funeral Masses. Sacred music is integral to the funeral rites, able to console, uplift, and unite the assembly in faith and love. (Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, #246) The same liturgical norms applied to music at any Mass apply to the Funeral Mass.

  1. An organist, 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 sung 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 sung from the ambo, the cantor ordinarily leads the assembly from a lectern. The Office of Divine Worship is charged with providing regular opportunities for cantor development and enrichment.
  4. A hymnal or worship program is called for, so that the gathered community may participate fully. Copyright licenses and permissions are necessary, and many parishes have found annual licenses to be both convenient and inexpensive. 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 highly sensitive issue for bereaved families, parish musicians, and pastoral staff. Therefore, it should be chosen with great care. Sacred music at funerals should console and uplift the grieving while expressing a spirit of hope in the Christian’s share in Christ’s victory over death. (OCF #31) 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 (OCF), Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (SttL), and the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM). When choosing music, there are three standards of judgment put forth in Sing to the Lord: Music in
  7.  Divine Worship (SttL) that must be considered. 1) The Liturgical Judgment: is a particular musical composition’s form, placement and style congruent with the nature of the liturgy? (SttL #127) 2) The Pastoral Judgment: The actual gathered community is taken into consideration. Does a particular musical composition help the assembly pray and draw them closer into the sacred mysteries being celebrated? (SttL #130)  3) The Musical Judgment: is this composition technically, aesthetically, and expressively worthy to carry the weight of the mysteries being celebrated? (SttL #134)
  8. The principle of progressive solemnity, described in Sing to the Lord (SttL), applies to the rites found in The Order of Christian Funerals. The dialogues and acclamations, antiphons and psalms, and the Song of Farewell have priority in funeral liturgies (SttL, #115). Many of these may be drawn from the repertoire of the Sunday assembly.
  9. Designated in many places during the funeral rites, singing the psalms takes priority as “they powerfully express the suffering and pain, the hope and trust of people of every age and culture. Above all the psalms sing of faith in God, of revelation and redemption.” OCF (#25- 26)
  10. 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 paraphrased texts and metrical hymns for the Responsorial Psalm is not encouraged, as it is part of the Liturgy of the Word. It ‘holds great liturgical and pastoral importance, because it fosters meditation on the word of God.” (GIRM, #61)
  11. The request for "favorite songs" of the deceased often result in inappropriate performances of music incapable of bearing the weight liturgy demands. Secular music, even if personally meaningful to the deceased or mourners, is never appropriate for the Sacred Liturgy. (SttL #246) Popular songs, sentimental ethnic music, songs from theater or film, and even non-liturgical or quasi-religious music are never to substitute for music of the funeral liturgy. Furthermore, “music should never be used to memorialize the deceased, but rather to give praise to the Lord, whose Paschal Sacrifice has freed us from the bonds of death.” (SttL #248)
  12. 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. (SttL, #93-94).