Planning a Catholic funeral?

| May 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

Choice of sacred hymns and readings should provide comfort, Christian hope to loved ones left behind

I wish I could be at my own funeral.

Before you send for the men in the white coats, hear me out.

What I mean to say is, I wish I would be alive to enjoy my own funeral.

Not getting any better, is it?

How’s this?

Even though I will be dead and not able to enjoy my own funeral, I hope it has meaning to anyone who might attend.

The knowledgeable among you will realize that the subject of this editorial is prompted by the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.

The extremely perceptive reader, on the other hand, will conclude that this editor is beginning to acknowledge his own aging, comfortable to the point of thinking of planning his own funeral.

Yes, I’m eligible for Social Security now — have been for a year.

Yes, I’ve lately been observing older people, watching the difficulties some of them have just getting around, seeing the health issues some of them are dealing with and finding myself thinking, “That could be you someday, and soon.”

And, yes, death hasn’t been a stranger. Another of my high school classmates has passed on, and I just attended the funeral of a terrific Catholic woman who was five years my junior.

To top it off, my wife mentioned that she wanted to have “On Eagles Wings” and Schubert’s “Ave Maria” sung at her funeral.

The combined effect of all these incidents led me to the Internet to research Catholic funeral planning.

Do a Google search for “planning a Catholic funeral” and you’ll find volumes of helpful websites from parishes and dioceses.

Many take a very pastoral approach, walking one gently through the Church’s philosophy about death and eternal life. They not only list what happens when someone is to be buried from a Catholic church, but explain the purpose behind the rites.

One place to look for context is the site of the U.S. bishops:

Several websites I looked at included complete texts of a variety of Scripture passages that are options for both the first and second readings and for the Gospel as well.

Almost all include lists of options for hymns that are appropriate for the various parts of the funeral liturgy. I liked the caveat one website used about the music, explaining that it should be “sacred and reflect the idea of resurrection and hope.”

That leaves out Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” should you have wondered, as well as AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”

But the lists of hymns that are appropriate for funerals are lengthy and include both traditional and relatively new (post-Vatican II) songs for worship. You’re sure to find more than you can use, those that console, those that uplift.

Personally I thought it extremely apropos that “When the Saints Come Marching In” was both the processional and the recessional hymn — complete with drums — for the funeral of a friend who truly was a saint.

Planning to have that particular song at my funeral would be more than a bit presumptuous on my part.

Whatever the readings and whatever the songs at our funerals — ones that, remember, we won’t hear because we’ll be in the casket — they should give comfort and give a certain hope to those who will be able to hear them.

Hopefully, whatever funeral we plan, whether for ourselves or for a loved one, will be a liturgy that truly celebrates the great gift of a life that God has given us or allowed us to share in and enjoy.

Zyskowski is editor of The Visitor, newspaper of the St. Cloud Diocese.

Category: Memorial Day