Q. Must a Catholic funeral be conducted within a Mass?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a beautiful reflection on the nature of funerals: “The Church who, as Mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey’s end, in order to surrender him ‘into the Father’s hands.’… This offering is fully celebrated in the Eucharistic sacrifice” (No. 1683).
Because the Mass invites us to participate in Christ’s death and resurrection, a funeral liturgy within a Mass affords the fullest expression of our faith. The funeral Mass reflects our belief that the altar that draws us to share the body and blood of Christ is a sign of the eternal banquet our deceased friend now enjoys — and which we look forward to sharing — in heaven.
However, we must remember that planning a funeral liturgy is a pragmatic affair. Therefore, although a funeral Mass is the ideal, such a celebration is not the only option, nor may it be the most appropriate under every circumstance. If most of those expected to attend the funeral are non-Catholic or, for some other reason, unable to participate fully in the Eucharistic celebration by receiving Communion, a Liturgy of the Word may prove a far happier choice.