Funerals in "Sing to the Lord"
  • Paul F. Ford
    Posts: 797
    Order of Christian Funerals

    The Importance of Music in the Order of Christian Funerals
    244. The Church’s funeral rites offer thanksgiving to God for the gift of life that has been returned to him. Following ancient custom, the funeral rites consist of three stages or stations that are joined by two processions. In Christian Rome, “Christians accompanied the body on its last journey. From the home of the deceased the Christian community proceeded to the church singing psalms. When the service in the church concluded, the body was carried in solemn pro-cession to the grave or tomb.” Throughout the Liturgies, the ancient Christians sang psalms and antiphons praising God’s mercy and entrusting the deceased to the angels and the saints.

    245. The psalms are given pride of place in the funeral rites because “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.” Effective catechesis will allow communities to understand the significance of the psalms used in the funeral rites.

    246. Sacred music has an integral role in the funeral rites, since it can console and uplift mourners while, at the same time, uniting the assembly in faith and love. Funeral music should express the Paschal Mystery and the Christian’s share in it. Since music can evoke strong feelings, it should be chosen with care. It should console the participants and “help to create in them a spirit of hope in Christ’s victory over death and in the Christian’s share in that victory.” Secular music, even though it may reflect on the background, character, interests, or personal preferences of the deceased or mourners, is not appropriate for the Sacred Liturgy.

    247. Music should be provided for the vigil and funeral Mass. Whenever possible, music should accompany the funeral processions and the rite of committal. For the processions, preference should be given to “settings of psalms and songs that are responsorial or litanic in style and that allow the people to respond to the verses with an invariable refrain.”

    248. 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.

    The Vigil for the Deceased
    249. If the Vigil for the Deceased is celebrated with the body’s reception at the church, a special rite is used. The minister, with the assisting ministers, meets the coffin at the door of the church; and the coffin is sprinkled with holy water and the pall is placed, the entrance procession begins and proceeds to the place the coffin will occupy. “During the procession a psalm, song, or responsory is sung.” The Vigil for the Deceased then proceeds as usual and may conclude with silence or a song.

    250. After the minister greets those present, the Vigil for the Deceased begins with a song. Following the opening prayer, the Liturgy of the Word begins. For the Responsorial Psalm, “Psalm 27 is sung or said or an-other psalm or song.” Silence or a song may conclude the vigil.

    251. The rite for the transfer of the body to the church or to the place of committal includes an invitation to prayer, a brief reading of Scripture, a litany, the Lord’s Prayer, and a concluding prayer. Following the concluding prayer, the minister invites those present to join the procession to the church or the place of committal. “During the procession, psalms and other suitable songs may be sung. If this is not possible, a psalm is sung or recited either before or after the procession.” The rite specifically suggests Psalm 122 with its provided antiphon.

    The Funeral Liturgy
    252. If the body has not yet been received at the church, the priest, with the assisting ministers, meets the coffin at the door of the church; and after the coffin is sprinkled with holy water and the pall is placed, the entrance procession begins to the place the coffin will occupy. “During the procession a psalm, song, or responsory is sung” while the priest and ministers take their place in the sanctuary.

    253. Unless it is to be celebrated at the place of committal, the final commendation follows the Prayer after Communion. After the invitation to prayer, the song of farewell is sung.

    254. “The song of farewell, which should affirm hope and trust in the paschal mystery, is the climax of the rite of final commendation. It should be sung to a melody simple enough for all to sing. It may take the form of a responsory or even a hymn.” If the song of farewell is sung, it is not recited.

    255. Following the prayer of commendation, the deacon or priest invites those present to join the procession to the place of committal. One or more of the psalms provided by the rite may be sung during the procession to the entrance of the church. If convenient, singing may continue during the journey to the place of committal. The psalms particularly appropriate for this procession are Psalms 25, 42, 93, 116, 118, and 119.

    Rite of Committal
    256. The rite of committal is the conclusion of the funeral rite and is celebrated at the grave, tomb, mausoleum, or crematorium. It may also be used for burial at sea. The rite begins with an invitation to prayer and is followed by a Scripture verse, a prayer over the place of committal, intercessions, the Lord’s Prayer, a concluding prayer, and finally a prayer over the people. A song may conclude the rite.

    257. The practice of developing funeral choirs within parish communities should be encouraged. The funeral choir is commonly made up of individuals who tend to be available on weekday mornings and who gather to lend their collective voice in support of the assembly song at the funeral Mass.
  • "254. “The song of farewell, which should affirm hope and trust in the paschal mystery, is the climax of the rite of final commendation. It should be sung to a melody simple enough for all to sing. It may take the form of a responsory or even a hymn.” If the song of farewell is sung, it is not recited."

    All this reminds me how far the place of music in the liturgy has drifted. We wouldn't need all this nonsense if we stuck to assigned chants. Are the bishops telling me that everyone who died before 1970 left their families in anguish because there was no congregational singing? Regarding 254, The song of farewell is not a liturgical term at all. The In paradisum should be sung as the body leaves the church. This is not a time for congregational singing IMO. People are focused on other matters at this point.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    In the OF, the farewell is "Saints of God..." or "I know that my Redeemer lives." The "In paradisum" (which has traditionally been joined to "Chorus angelorum") may be sung as the body is carried out. It is not the same as the Song of Farewell. At any rate, STtL makes it seem like the position of these two songs is reversed.
  • Point:
    31. When the choir is not exercising its particular role, it joins the congregation in song.
    The choir’s role in this case is not to lead congregational singing, but to sing with the
    congregation, which sings on its own or under the leadership of the organ or other instruments.

    Counterpoint:
    257. The practice of developing funeral choirs within parish communities should be encouraged. The funeral choir is commonly made up of individuals who tend to be available on weekday mornings and who gather to lend their collective voice in support of the assembly song at the funeral Mass.


    Ok, so there isn’t direct opposition here, but these don’t seem to have been written with a common ideology in mind.

    The prescription in SttL for congregational singing during the processions, IMO, is overly specific. Given that SttL doesn’t express such a preference in the case of normal Sunday Masses, and given how much stronger the congregational singing is at Sunday Masses than at funerals, I am really led to wonder how realistic the SttL framers’ conceptions of things are. I mean, I know Ruff, Foley, et al. know their stuff, but ....

    As much as I advocate for congregational singing and am frustrated when I see people not even attempting to participate in it, I have lately wondered if there is a good reason why congregations don’t sing at this or that time.

    So, since SttL says we “should” have congregational singing during the processions, which really are about the only place the GIRM allows choirs to sing alone, and since SttL states that the choir’s purpose is to sing with the assembly, not to lead it, wherefore the exhortation to form/maintain funeral choirs?

    (It seems to be a good thing on many levels that SttL did not become binding law!)

    I personally am reticent against starting a funeral choir in my parish until I can see that they would have anything to do besides merely singing the congregation’s part—which they can do better standing among the congregation than in the choir area. I am completely with Fr. Ruff on this one: choirs’ first purpose is to perform their distinct liturgical role.

    As an aside, everyone who works with Catholic funeral music should know about Fr. Dennis Smolarski’s hymn paraphrase translations of “Subvenite” (“Saints of God”) to CM and LM. The LM one is especially effective, I think, sung to Old 100th.