Mourning the loss of our loved one is a deeply personal experience. Within those mixed feelings, we must always find space for the practicalities of planning a funeral. Sometimes, the person who has died may have left instructions; sometimes it feels as if it is all down to us. It can often be confusing, especially if we have, for one reason or another, become less familiar with our Catholic faith, and are not sure about what happens at Catholic funeral, or how to go about it.
As well as prayer for the dead, the Church keeps those who mourn in prayer every day. On a practical level, the Church’s ministers are also available for your own pastoral care, so please do not hesitate to contact us any time.
We might have chosen a Catholic funeral for a number of reasons, hopefully, most of all, because it is the religion of the deceased. Even if we ourselves might have traveled a little distance away from the Catholic Church over the years, for whatever reason, it still remains our home, and our journey towards eternal life.
How do I book a Catholic funeral?
When planning with your funeral director, you make it known that you desire a Catholic funeral. The funeral director will then immediately make contact with the appropriate Catholic Church. It is always good to see the priest first before making any final ceremonial plans [e.g. music] with the funeral director, and we ask the funeral director to enable that. When you have seen the funeral director, your details will be passed on to us and a priest will make contact with you. Usually, if you haven’t been contacted with the priest, there may have been an omission on the part of the funeral director. If you feel lost, or un-contacted, or confused, please do not hesitate to contact us anyway.
If, for any reason, you are planning a funeral without a funeral director, you can contact the Cathedral Office directly as part of your own arrangements.
Do I meet a priest beforehand?
Yes. You should be contacted by a priest as soon as possible after meeting your funeral director. You may meet the priest at the Cathedral, or you may ask the priest to come round to your home, according to your convenience. Your priest will go through with you the shape and structure of the funeral liturgy and ceremonies, as well as the choice of music, and any scriptural readings. Please note that the funeral director may unfortunately may not be fully aware of the shape and requirements of the Catholic liturgy, so it is advisable to make all these decisions with the priest when you meet him to avoid disappointment, and to ensure clarity and a beautiful funeral ceremony.
This is also a way for you to get to the know the priest if you do not know him already, and for him to get to know you and the deceased – if he does not know them already – which makes for a fuller offering of prayer in the funeral ceremony itself.
What sort of funeral should we choose?
The Church always warmly encourages the celebration of the Funeral Mass, which is the greatest and highest form of prayer that the Church offers to God. It is the most fitting form of funeral for a person who was a Catholic in life, even if we ourselves might not be or might not identify as Catholic. All are welcome in God’s Holy House.
However, it is possible to have a funeral which is not a celebration of the Mass. It is no less solemn, no less prayerful. In this case, Mass will be celebrated for the deceased anyway at another time by one of the Cathedral priests, as this is our solemn duty as Christians, and as priests, to pray for the dead at Mass.
A funeral liturgy which is not a Mass may take place within the Cathedral. For various reasons, it may also take place somewhere appropriate, such as a cemetery chapel or a crematorium chapel. It should be noted that a choice of Mass at the Cathedral, as opposed to a different liturgy or a different location, does not increase the cost of the funeral.
Any funeral liturgy which takes place at the Cathedral will then go on to the place of burial or of cremation.
The funeral liturgy, within or without Mass, at the Cathedral, or in a chapel, will more or less look the same and would be a structured Catholic liturgy ceremony. It involves scriptural readings, prayers, and a final commendation of the deceased person.
The Cathedral liturgical office is able to produce and print booklets for the funeral; you may choose us rather than the funeral director themselves as a printer.
Can we choose cremation? What happens with the ashes?
It is possible for a Catholic to be cremated, providing the motivating reasons for cremation are not opposed to the Catholic faith. A cremation can take place after a funeral Mass or other funeral liturgy in the Cathedral, or after a liturgy in a crematorium chapel. If, for some reason, the deceased person has already been cremated, then a funeral Mass – or other memorial Mass – may be offered in the Cathedral with the cremated remains before committal for burial. Ashes are buried some time after a cremation in an appropriate place.
What music can we have at the funeral?
At the Cathedral, it is not possible to have recorded music. Indeed, any choice of music, which is made in consultation with the priest, also befits the nature of the ceremony, which is, ultimately, a prayer to God. If you desire music at the funeral, which is always preferable as it helps our prayer and mourning, we will provide an organist, and, if singing is desired, a cantor [employed singer].
Singing at our own loved one’s funeral can be difficult. At the Cathedral, we are able to support congregational singing with a professional cantor, so we always recommend it.
Music does not just involve hymn-singing. Our cantors have a widely-ranged repertoire of sacred music appropriate for funerals. We may not wish to have hymns, but other beautiful sung sacred music, or just organ music, or a combination of sung pieces, hymns or organ music. At a celebration of the Mass, parts of the Mass itself may also be sung, to heighten the beauty of the liturgy in this beautiful Cathedral setting, and offer the greatest prayer we can for our loved one. Since the funeral liturgy is a prayer, we are unable to offer choices of secular music at the funeral ceremony in the Cathedral itself.
In a cemetery chapel, a crematorium chapel, or even at the grave-side itself, there is a little more flexibility about recorded music, even appropriate secular music which may be chosen and played.
Is there a eulogy?
A the ceremony, the priest will preach a homily or sermon. Although the priest would usually weave in elements of the life of the deceased, you may wish to have a separate eulogy which can be read either at the end of the ceremony in the Cathedral, or in the cemetery or crematorium chapel afterwards. It is not a requirement to have a eulogy, and it may even be very difficult, but there is space for a eulogy if desired. The joyful sharing of tributes and memories fittingly takes place in a social celebration after the funeral ceremonies have concluded, or at a wake beforehand.
Can we have the funeral broadcast online?
Yes. Please make this known to the priest when planning. A link will be sent to you before the funeral. There is no extra cost.
How much does it cost?
Usually, the Church is the smallest part of the total cost of a funeral when planning with a funeral director. The funerals of infants incur no charge from the Cathedral.
Our Cathedral fees  are as follows:
- Funeral in the Cathedral itself [Mass or not Mass] including anything afterwards [burial or cremation liturgy]:
- Resident in the parish [or otherwise attended Mass at the Cathedral]: £275
- Not-resident in the parish: £375
- Funeral in a cemetery or a crematorium chapel only:
- Music in the Cathedral:
- Organist: £80
- Cantor: £50
- A full choir is available if desired: cost on request
I want to plan my own funeral; how do I do that?
You can make a formal arrangement with a funeral director about your own funeral, including paying much of the the funeral director’s cost beforehand. As part of this, you would need to state that you would like a Catholic funeral, and it is advisory that you go and see your priest to plan the funeral liturgy, which can be included in the funeral director’s files.
However, you can also simply plan a funeral liturgy with your priest at any time, without involving a funeral director, which you can then keep, and share with your family or other next-of-kin who will have responsibility when the time comes. Planning the liturgy in advance can be very helpful to your family or next-of-kin, especially if they are not Catholic. That way, everybody will know what is the most appropriate thing to do in difficult circumstances. If you would like to start planning your own funeral liturgy, please just get in touch with any of the priests.