QUAERITUR: Funeral on a Sunday with the Novus Ordo

From a priest reader:

I have a liturgical question for you. According to the Ordinary Form, do you know how a funeral Mass is celebrated on Sunday? Are the Proper Sunday readings and prayers used, or those for a Mass for the dead? Neither the Instiutio nor the Order of Christian Funerals give an answer. Thanks for your help!

First, people should know that funerals can be celebrated even on Sundays, except if those Sundays are solemnities.  For example, you cannot have a funeral on a Sunday to which Epiphany has been moved.

In this case, I am supposing that you would use the Sunday readings and prayers, for the most part.

However, given that in the Novus Ordo just about anything can be substituted for anything else "for pastoral reasons", perhaps you can use the requiem readings and prayers.  After all, you can celebrate All Souls on a Sunday.

Perhaps some priest readers out there have faced this and know what to do.

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  1. I always believed that every Sunday was considered a Solemnity, and therefore a funeral Mass was not permitted. But your article got me to look at the Ordo, and funeral Masses are permitted on the Sundays of Ordinary Time only. It says no funeral Masses permitted on the transferred Solemnities (as you wrote) as well as the Sundays of Advent and Lent.

  2. Dr. LMF says:

    I know there are probably those emergencies where this is necessary, but just how often do we face a situation where a requiem MUST be celebrated on a Sunday? (Or a wedding, for that matter).

  3. Fr. Toborowsky: It says no funeral Masses permitted on the transferred Solemnities (as you wrote) as well as the Sundays of Advent and Lent.

    I assume you’re talking about the OF calendar, but this would seem to correspond to the EF calendar, where Sundays of Lent and Advent are 1st class, whereas the numbered (ordinal) Sundays after Epiphany and after Pentecost are 2nd class feasts.

  4. Mark S. says:

    I’ve got a copy of the “Ordo Missae celebrandae Divini Officii pesolvendi” for 2009, published by the official Vatican publishers. For e.g. 18 January 2009, the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, there is the Latin rubric: “Prohibentur Missae defunctorum exceptis exsequalibus”. I’m assuming this means that all funeral liturgies are prohibited, APART from the actual burial Mass.

    For today, 4 January 2008, where the Epiphany is celebrated today, it says: “Prohibentur omnes aliae Missae etiamdefunctorum”, which I’m assuming even burial Masses are prohibited.

    In the notes at the front there is the Latin paragraph:

    De Missae defunctorum. Missa exsequalis celebrari potest omnibus diebus, exceptis sollemnitatibus de praecepto, feria V Hebdomadae Sanctae, Triduo paschali et dominicis Adventus, Quadragesimae et Paschae.

    My Latin isn’t too good, but I think this means a burial Mass can be celebrated on any day that ISN’T a solemnity or Sunday in Advent, Lent or Easter. Hope that helps.

  5. Flambeaux says:

    Mark S.,

    Close: feria V Hebdomadae Sanctae is Maundy Thursday and Triduo paschali is the Paschal Triduum. With those additions, you are correct in your interpretation of the Latin.

  6. Mark S. says:


    I was aware of what these mean, my Latin isn’t that bad, I was generalising.

  7. Priest says:

    About the readings and the prayers: Probably you can change them, like in a marriage on Sundays. But if it is the ordinary parish Sunday mass you have to keep the Sunday prayers and readings.

  8. Flambeaux says:

    Mark S.,

    I wasn’t sure, so I posted. Apology offered if offense taken.

  9. Alice says:

    In the United States, there is a long standing tradition of not holding funerals on Sundays and some (though certainly not all) dioceses still forbid it. In fact, my high school religion textbooks (reprints from the 1940’s and 50’s) mentioned that the United States had a special indult to offer funeral Masses on various feast days during the week on which the burial Mass was forbidden in other countries so that Sunday funerals could be avoided altogether. I’m not sure if/how that effects the EF today.

    The following may be helpful: http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/q&a/general/liturgycalendar.shtml

  10. Fr. A says:

    Alice is correct. In the United States, neither funeral or nuptial Masses are allowed on Sundays even though such are allowed in the universal church. While I can no longer remember where I read this, I am assuming it can be found in the documents of the USCCB or the NCCB. It seems to me, we were also taught this in the seminary and I was ordained in the 80s.

    That is why we have no custom of celebrating these events on Sundays. Given the shortage of priests, it is unlikely such a practice would find favor among the clergy or family members anyway. Celebrating Nuptial and Funeral Masses in addition to or in place of the regular Sunday Masses on a Sunday would lead to all sorts of difficulties.

  11. Fr.G says:

    It’s in our diocesan statutes.

  12. Fr. A says:

    I should qualify my comments after checking out the link provided by Alice. I am wondering if the link is providing faulty information. I notice there is no mention of the previous practice of not having nuptial or funeral Masses on a Sunday in this country. It causes me to think whoever wrote that piece, was not aware of the prohibition but rather assumes such Masses are actually offered in this country. The practice is completely foreign in my diocese and I would venture to say the entire state. So it seems to me, the link is unaware that in the United States, neither funeral or nuptial Masses are celebrated on Sundays even though such are allowed in the universal church. The fact that such is not celebrated and there is no custom, leads me to conclude there was a prohibition against such a practice.

  13. Fr B says:

    The Ordo for the Dioceses of Ireland states the following:
    The Funeral Mass has first place among the Masses for the dead and may be celebrated on any day except solemnities that are days of obligation, Holy Thursday, the Easter Triduum, and the Sundays of Lent and Easter. It may be celebrated during the Octaves of Christmas and Easter. on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday a celebration of the Word takes place with the Rite of Commendation and Farewell, but Holy Communion may not be celebrated.

    So, Funeral Masses are not forbidden on Ordinary Sundays or on the Sundays after Christmas. However, in practice, if a funeral is being celebrated on such a Sunday, the usual practice is to offer the Mass of that Sunday with the Sunday readings. The Rite of Commendation and Farewell then follows.

    Please note… this does not mean that Funerals are forbidden on days when the Funeral Mass is not allowed. Rather, the Funeral is celebrated with the Mass of the appropriate feast.

  14. Fr. Guy says:

    Just because one can do something doesn’t mean one should.

    In addition, substituting Sunday readings with something else even for “pastoral reasons” is not a decision that should be undertaken by individual priests without seeking the advice/consent of the Bishop.

  15. Mila says:

    In my former parish in suburban Chicago, Nuptial Masses were celebrated on Sundays (usually early afternoon) after all Masses for the day. I always found this odd, but… No funeral Masses on Sundays, though.

  16. Mike says:

    To follow up on Mila’s observation: Nuptial Masses are not normally prohibited on Sundays (at least not during Ordinary Time; don’t have the resources at hand to check the other seasons – though, obviously, they would be prohibited during the Easter Triduum). However, the readings of the day are to be used in those cases; I believe that also applies to feasts and solemnities that fall during the week. It may be the choice of a parish or diocese, however, not to celebrate Nuptial Masses on Sundays.

    As for funeral Masses, they are allowed on Sundays during the Christmas season. In the universal calendar, all Sundays of the Christmas season are feasts (or second class for the EF), similar to the Sundays of Ordinary Time – including the Second Sunday after Christmas, which is not observed in the US (and many other English-speaking countries) because it is replaced by the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

  17. Ellen says:

    Actually, Nuptual Masses are said in the US on a Sunday, but they require the Sunday readings. When I was a cantor I sang Nuptual Masses on a Sunday and my aunt got married on a Sunday as well (and that was in two different diocese in NJ). I never knew that there was a prohibition against it.

  18. Ed the Roman says:

    I had a boss who traveled very extensively, and was not very practicing.

    He and his fiancée happened to pick Easter for their wedding.

    In the cathedral.

    They were disabused of this fantasy.

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