A reader’s first “Requiem Mass”

From a reader:

Having attended my first Requiem Mass yesterday I must say that I am absolutely shocked they got rid of it and replaced it with the current funeral Mass. Going to Mass last night and actually getting to pray for the souls of my relatives (as opposed to “celebrating their lives”) who died in the past few years made up for their distasteful funerals with inappropriate humour, instant canonizations, etc. Granted I didn’t enjoy getting all sad and weepy throughout and after, but I am so happy it was able to give me the peace I needed to quit being so angry over what transpired during their funerals.

Friends, please pray for the dead rather than merely “celebrate their lives”.

There is room for celebration, of course.  But what the dead really need from us, and what we in charity really need to do for them, is pray for them.

Strive especially in these first days of November to gain indulgences for your loved ones.

It is so very Catholic to pay attention to opportunities for indulgences and then make plans around them.

Your effort to obtain indulgences will also, necessarily, take you to the confessional.

Perhaps you priests out there could expand availability for confessions around those times when people can gain indulgences?  And perhaps talk about them from the pulpit and in the bulletin?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Legisperitus says:

    Everyone ought to read Dante’s Purgatorio sometime. The image of countless souls crowding around Dante when they see that he is a living man, begging him to pray for them, makes a profound impression.

  2. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Thank you for asking your holy brother priests for broader availability of confession. I had yet another failed attempt Monday. I showed up at the time confessions were scheduled to begin, only to find a very long line ahead of me. After 45 minutes of waiting and seeing the line still so long as to call into question the prospect of getting to the box that day, I left for another appointment. Am re-working tomorrow’s schedule so I can (I hope) get to confession on the way to work.

  3. Long-Skirts says:

    Fr. Z said:
    “…what the dead really need from us, and what we in charity really need to do for them, is pray for them.”

    I KNOW

    Yes, I know November
    The tolling of the bell,
    The whispers of the suf’ring souls
    From mountain top to dell.

    The chilly, gray, damp mornings
    The rusting of the leaves,
    The whispers of the suf’ring souls
    Like moans from one who grieves.

    And in the windy noon-time
    When clouds fight ‘gainst sun’s might,
    The whispers of the suf’ring souls
    Cry, “Sanctuary light!”

    So ‘fore the red-glassed candle,
    Compelled, I go to pray,
    The whispers of the suf’ring souls
    Plead, “Sacrifice today!”

    Now, deep, dark sanctuary
    Is lit by candle, bold,
    The whispers of the suf’ring souls…
    “Your prayers are autumn gold!”

    So like the leaves of autumn
    I fall to kneeling posture,
    The whispers of the suf’ring souls
    Beg, “Say a Pater Noster!”

    The flicker in the red glass
    Burns hotter, now, with Creed.
    Oh, yes, I know November!
    The month of Hope…souls freed!

  4. jaykay says:

    I only recently became aware of the “30-days’ Novena for the Holy Souls”, which is a small booklet with appropriate prayer and meditation for each day of the month. Very beautiful, and it takes only a short time each day. It doesn’t have to be restricted to November, of course.

  5. RichR says:

    Our men’s schola did the best they could to sing at a OF All Soul’s Day Mass with Latin propers and many parts of the Ordinary in Latin, and the priest even wore purple instead of white. Even so, I kept wondering what a EF Requiem Mass would be like. The newer Office and Mass emphasize hope (which I think is good), but the emphasis seems to be on us being strengthened in hope rather than they being freed from purgatorial suffering.

  6. Speravi says:

    Yesterday, I said my first requiem Mass in the EF. Earlier that day I said my first OF Mass for the dead as well. I was blown away at the difference. As I said the OF Mass, I noted that the orations were praying for the faithful departed. I even chose readings that conform to the EF. However, when I said the EF, I found it deeply consoling. Compared to the OF, the traditional requiem seemed to be FAR more oriented to the repose of the faithful departed. It was so consoling to say again and again throughout the Mass “give them eternal rest.” The OF prayed for the departed, but it seemed to be more concerned with instructing the living to have hope for eternal life and much less concerned about asking God to grant the poor souls eternal rest (though it did ask for this too).

  7. dominic1955 says:

    Yes indeed, the jettisoning of the Requiem was a travesty amongst travesties. A proper Requiem is so much more better at conveying the proper Catholic belief in the Four Last Things/death as well as the psychological need to mourn and grieve and how to do so properly.

  8. jesusthroughmary says:

    I echo the sentiments of the reader and commenters. The destruction of the funeral liturgies and Mass for the Dead was by far the worst of the abominations wrought by the Consilium and its minions.

  9. Patti Day says:

    We had an evening Mass. Our modest church looked so pretty, the nicks in the paint and scratches on the pews that are visible by day, were softened into nonexitence. The brasses were gleaming in the candle light, the red glow of the sacristy light was more evident in the surrounding darkness, reminding all of the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Even the music seemed more uplifting. The celebrant, an elderly priest whose voice can get lost in the coughs and baby cries of a well-attended Sunday mass, delivered a quietly beautiful homily on the Multitudes of Saints, Holy Souls and Angels in attendance with us, and that we choose where we go, that we are even now on the road to our chosen destination. Truly, I have never felt more serene and united in communion. It seemed to me that others were similarly touched in this way.

  10. Supertradmum says:

    Grew up with the Old Requiem and sang the chant as a child. I love the Dies Irae. I have always preferred the old rite, the Black Mass to the White Mass. The only white Requiem I remember as a child was for my sister who died when she was one. That was in the mid-1950s. I shall try and do indulgences. I also pray the St. Gertrude Prayer frequently for the Holy Souls.


  11. chantgirl says:

    I sing for both EF and OF Masses, and last night I sang for an OF Mass. Only six people showed up to pray for a long list of dead parishioners. The priest, who is new to the parish, looked demoralized. However, he went on to thank the few who came to pray, and assured everyone that God would hear their prayers for the dead. He gave one of the only homilies on the doctrine of purgatory I have ever heard at an OF Mass, and then he proceeded to say the Canon and many of the responses in Latin. After Mass he lamented to me that priests have not preached about purgatory for so long that people no longer pray for their beloved departed. There must be a good number of souls languishing in purgatory without the assistance of prayers from their loved ones.

  12. jesusthroughmary says:

    Supertradmum – The Mass that was celebrated when your sister died was the votive Mass of the Holy Angels.

  13. Nathan says:

    In the context of this discussion, I think it bears repeating that, if anyone desires a TLM Requiem Mass said for them as their funeral, it behooves them to plan now (unless they are members of a purely EF parish, such as FSSP). I would recommend a detailed letter of instruction to whoever would make your funeral and burial arrangements (not in your will, which often is read after the burial), based on quite a bit of arranging now.

    Tell your survivors that you specifically wish to be buried in the traditional (1962) rites of the Church: Office of the Dead, Requiem Mass (low, high, or solemn?), Absolution/Burial. It would be especially helpful to tell them “Fr. X at St Trad’s Parish is willing to do this, his phone number is…; the choir director of St Trad’s schola is Mr. Y, his phone number is…; the altar boys are handled by Mr. Z, his phone number is…” That way your survivors (and the funeral home director, who I’m sure doesn’t get many of these requests) can manage to accomplish what you desire.

    I am aware of situations where the decesased wanted to be buried with a TLM Requiem, but the well-intentioned people who tried to carry it out in the time frame given them after death were unable or unknowlegable enough to do so. Too often the default is the “life celebration” unless we specifically make arrangements otherwise.

    In Christ,

  14. Supertradmum says:


    Yes, thank you for reminding me. I was only seven and remember her little tiny coffin. We still had a wake and rosary, however, for the mourners, as my dear mother was only 26 or so and had already lost another one. In the end, my mother lost four children. But, as I was in the Gregorian Chant choir from eight until I was fourteen, I sang at many funerals and Memorial Masses for the Dead.

  15. Nathan says:

    Oh, and I don’t see why those attached to the more traditional forms of the Novus Ordo wouldn’t want to do the same kind of planning as I mentioned earlier. If you know a priest who is willing to wear black vestments, preach on the Four Last Things, and can find a choir who can sing the traditional music for a Catholic Requiem, you might want to get Father to agree, then specify everything you want (in the OF, even down to readings and music selections) in a letter of instruction that your survivors know where to find and provide to the funeral director.

    In Christ,

  16. jesusthroughmary says:

    Your mother must have been a woman of great faith to be able to endure such pain and still impart the Faith to her remaining children.

  17. Agellius says:

    I too attended my first requiem mass, this past weekend. It was simply marvelous. Afterwards my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Now that’s a funeral!”

  18. Supplex says:

    I’m used to attending requiem masses in the Extraordinary form. Yesterday was my first requiem mass in the Ordinary form. The music was quite beautiful and the homily was nice.

    I was a little surprised that there was no actual talk of Purgatory or praying for someone’s soul. It more sounded like we must remember those in heaven. Oh well.

  19. Lioba says:

    Yesterday evening there was a beautiful EF Requiem Mass for All Souls Day at Saint Paul’s Church in South Philadelphia, followed by Absolution at the Catafalque. (I became a Catholic in 1980, and this is the first time I have seen any of this.) The mass setting was chant and Palestrina’s Missa pro Defunctis, and the six tall candles in their black candle stands flanking the catafalque were natural beeswax — you can see that everything was as it should be. Kudos to the pastor, Father Carey, and the servers and musicians for upholding the high standards of the Church’s worship, and many thanks to our Holy Father for making this possible!

    The previous evening there had been a splendid EF All Saints mass, and the many saints’ relics in the possession of this early-nineteenth-century church were displayed on Our Lady’s side altar. Last night they were still there and added to the impression of a “cloud of witnesses” praying for the dead.

    Switching to the Ordinary Form: a very happy feast day of Saint Martin de Porres to Father Z and all who read this! Wikipedia has an excellent article on this wonderful saint, accompanied by what looks like a portrait painted from life. I didn’t know before reading it that Saint Martin (called “the Good”, for his kindness to man and beast) had some of the spookier spiritual gifts, like bilocation. He was outstanding for his deep humility and penance, and that’s probably the only kind of person who could be trusted with such extraordinary powers. He had a sister who helped him in his works of charity and seems to have been pretty saintly as well. Saint Martin, pray for us!

  20. Jayna says:

    They did an OF Requiem Mass for All Souls at the cathedral. Card. George celebrated and one of our orthodox priests gave an excellent homily. Did I mention the cathedral choirs and an orchestra provided Mozart’s Requiem Mass? No black vestments, but at least they had purple.

  21. Joanne says:

    I was told recently by a non-denominational Christian that praying for dead is pointless. We either do what we need to to attain salvation while we’re alive, or we’re not saved. I told her, among other things, that in Maccabees, it says that it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, etc. Maccabees is not in her Bible, so I’m not sure that made much of an impact. Praying for the dead is a venerable tradition of the Church, but I’m wondering if there are any other Biblical references that I can give people (her or anyone else) who does not believe there is any use in praying for the dead. Thank you ~

    I told this person also that one of my favorite prayers as I go through my day is, “May the souls of the Faithful Departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.” I believe that prayer is really fruitful. I hope she has tried it.

  22. priests wife says:

    Joanne- you might read through this page for ideas to help your friend.


    As a former Protestant (my family and I converted when I was 12) and as a non-theologian, I think of purgatory as heaven’s ‘waiting room’ – there is only heaven and hell…but then it gets complicated

  23. jesusthroughmary says:

    Those in purgatory have certainly already been saved, so your friend is correct that only one’s actions while on earth have any bearing on one’s salvation.

  24. NoraLee9 says:

    I attended the 8:30 AM Mass at Holy Innocents, NYC on Wednesday. Father K said the Mass. Afterwards I was quietly saying my Rosary when, at about 9:45, the bell rang and Father Than came out, vested in black! “Hmmm,” I said, “This looks interesting.” Father Than proceeded to say, with the assistance of the two same altar servers who had attended Father K an hour earlier, the Mass in its Extraordinary Form! I was bowled over. I need not spell out the implications here.
    Brick by brick, Father.

  25. Joanne says:

    “Those in purgatory have certainly already been saved…”

    True. I guess what I took exception to was being told that there was no point in praying for the dead. Thanks, priest’swife, for that link. I’ll check it out!

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