Fewer Catholics schedule funerals for their dead

A tip of the biretta to Pewsitter for this piece from the Worcester Telegram:

Bishop McManus worried that some omit funeral Masses

WORCESTER — Bishop Robert J. McManus is expressing concern that Central Massachusetts Roman Catholics are not scheduling funeral Masses for their dead.

This month, he sent a pastoral letter to Catholics in the Diocese of Worcester, urging them to include a Mass in funeral preparations for their beloved dead. [I looked for it at the diocesan site, but didn’t see it.  Maybe one of you…]

The sending of the letter coincides with the church’s traditional commemoration, in November, of the deceased.

The bishop’s missive has been read from church pulpits or included in parish bulletins. [Excellent.]

“I’m extremely concerned because of the growing practice of Catholic families in not providing their deceased with a Mass of Christian burial,” said Bishop McManus in an interview with the Telegram & Gazette.

Bishop McManus said the official funeral rites of the church include three parts: the wake, the Mass and the commitment service at graveside.

He said that during the Mass,that the family has a chance to pray for the dead, asking God to forgive the decedents’ sins and to welcome them into heaven. [It is a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the dead.  It is a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead.]

“There’s a presumption today that everybody gets to heaven,” Bishop McManus said. “I don’t think that people should think that’s a given.” [There it is!]

Bishop McManus said the diocese has not taken a formal survey of how many families are taking spiritual advantage of a funeral Mass but added that the numbers are substantially down.

“All you have to do is open up to the obituary page in the morning,” Bishop McManus said. “It’s filled with members of Irish, Polish, and other ethnic groups that have his been important elements of the local church. You look at the obituary and there’s no funeral Mass scheduled.

He said many of the deceased probably wanted funeral Masses scheduled for them but that the children, or others in charge of funeral arrangements, did not do so because they themselves are not practicing Catholics.  [New Evangelization anyone?]

“There are a lot of people who have turned away from the church,” Bishop McManus said.

He said that, before the Second Vatican Council, about 80 percent of Catholics attended Mass. He said that percentage is now between 25 and 30 percent.

“That’s a substantial drop-off,” Bishop McManus said.

He said it’s important for individuals wishing for funeral Masses to let their desires be known, possibly in a will or by alerting family members.

For the deceased who do not get funeral Masses, the bishop said he’s asked their pastors to remember those individuals in memorial intentions.

Kevin Mercadante, the president of Mercadante Funeral Home and Chapel, estimated that at least 30 percent of the Catholic funerals that he’s been associated with, over the past ten years, do not involve Masses.

Mr. Mercadante blamed the drop-off on the growth of secularism and the fact that newer generations of Catholics just don’t go to church.

“They believe in God, they believe in First Communion, and the meaning behind the (religious) holidays,” said Mr. Mercadante. “They just don’t go to church.” [Well… then do they really believe? Or have they also been subtly taught over the decades through what they experience in church that going to church isn’t important?]

He said the cost of a funeral Mass do not factor in on the decision. Mr. Mercadante said the average cost of a funeral Mass is about $300 and diocesan officials said pastors often waive fees for those that can’t pay.

“Years ago, Sunday was a family day with everybody going to Mass and then enjoying the day together,” said Mr. Mercadante. “That doesn’t happen anymore. Instead of Mass, there are Sunday morning soccer games. And some parents have to work the day to make ends meet.”

A while back I had a Requiem Mass in the older, traditional form.  Most of the people there had never been to one or hadn’t been for many years.  After Mass many people told me how moving and impressive the rite had been.

Reason #78 for Summorum Pontificum.

And Fr. Z kudos to Bp. McManus.


A reader sent:

Rev.me Pater,


Litteras episcopi Wigorniensis in chronico dioecesis apparsae sunt: HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    If you’re nice, you go to heaven. What have you learned otherwise, and where? Certainly not in the Church for the past 40 years or so.

  2. chantgirl says:

    Not only are the children of my Grandparents’ generation not having funeral Masses for them, the poor souls do not receive Last Rites as they are dying. This is a grave injustice!

    If you want a funeral Mass for yourself, set money aside for the purpose, clearly spell it out in your will, and designate a faithful Catholic as your executor. If you want an Extraordinary Form Requiem Mass, the best way other than being a member of an EF parish is to leave money to your local parish on the strict condition that a solemn Requiem is said for you when you die. A local lady left money to my demographic parish on the condition that she get an EF Requiem. It was a large sum of money, so the pastor quickly found a priest who could say the Mass.

  3. Nun2OCDS says:

    Here is the link to the Bishop of Worcester’s letter. If the link doesn’t work go to the dioscean web site; look under “Departments” and then to “Office of the Bishop.”


  4. Clinton R. says:

    “There’s a presumption today that everybody gets to heaven,” Bishop McManus said. “I don’t think that people should think that’s a given.”

    But isn’t this what we have been told for far too long? Doesn’t matter if you are in a state of grace, or for that matter, it doesn’t matter if you are Catholic. At one time, the faithful were rightfully taught you must be a Catholic in a state of grace to enter into Heaven. Now with the zeal for ecumenism, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Be atheist, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, sun worshipper, etc, all different paths up the same mountain. All people go to Heaven. Why have a Requiem Mass, when we can either incinerate the deceased or have a funeral service with plenty of jokes and niceties to give everyone the fuzzy wuzzys? As Father points out, there is a dire need for a New Evangelization, because we are in prolonged slide in the wrong direction. And again, if Mass, whether a Requiem Mass or Sunday Mass, was said once again in the Old Rite, maybe people would start taking the Catholic faith seriously again, since Mass in the New Rite often comes off like an audition for the Improv. Domine, miserere nobis. +JMJ+

  5. acricketchirps says:

    D***ed Right it’s reason for S.P.. Dad made it clear he wanted the Traditional Requiem Mass. It was hard–no TLM nearby, local Latin rite priest uncooperative, some other local RCs hostile. One helpful local Byz rite priest and many wonderful tradition minded people in the nearest city 120 miles away made it possible. Worth it–every other funeral of a Catholic I’ve been to lately has been utterly banal–Mass or no Mass. I would almost say no mas if that’s all that’s available.

    Bonus: the Dies Irae and universalism… they just don’t go together.

  6. Joe in Canada says:

    I find it a bit strange that the director of the funeral home is giving the price of a funeral Mass. Are parishes charging? Or is this the cost which the funeral home incurs in transporting a casket, and personnel? I think that funeral directors – and Mr Mercadante might be a very devout Catholic, I am not aiming these remarks at him in particular – have ‘taken over’ funerals in the same way as wedding directors. They offer ‘programs’ and ‘services’ which in my experience are generally based on Protestant, secular, and Hollywood models. And probably every city has a priest who is willing to go to the funeral home and do a “service” (usually a deformed Mass) for Catholics at the request of the funeral home, even if the bishop has forbidden it.

  7. TNCath says:

    A lot of it has to do with the idea of convenience and “one stop shopping.” A lot of families opt to simply have the funeral at the funeral home so they don’t have to “go to all that trouble” of bringing the body to the church. This is a paraphrase of the response I have heard many times from “good Catholic families”: “What’s the difference? God is everywhere. We don’t have to have a ‘full Mass’ (I hate that term) for Grandma when Father can just come here at the funeral home and have a ‘service’ (again, a term I despise). Besides, the cemetery is right here on the property. We’d have to drive all the way over to St. Cunnegunda’s and back, and the funeral home charges us extra for that. That’s just a waste of time and money.”

  8. Pray for the dead? huh? What for? But aren’t dead people just, like, y’know, gone and out of here?

    Yes this concept is largely lost today. Not only have people forgotten the need for going to Mass at all, they have equally little idea that we owe the dead that work of charity known as praying for them. On the other hand, if anybody understands the concept of the ‘fewness of the saved’…is there anybody really still on their way to heaven today? [if you pray for that someone who didn’t make it, your prayers still help the dead]

    When was the last time we urged anyone to pray for the dead for fear of hurting the feelings of the grieved? It takes courage and kindness to bring this up – yea, your loved one was wonderful, but they need prayers! Yes you can still do something for your lost loved ones!

    Thank you Bishop McManus. Tell it like it is!!

  9. If you want a solemn Requiem Mass, don’t settle for just leaving instructions in your will. Find additional ways to cover that base. Arrange it in advance with relatives or trusted friends. Clamor about it from the rooftops. Sometimes wills don’t get found until after it’s too late. (And don’t leave your will buried at the bottom of a stack somewhere, either.)

  10. Supertradmum says:

    My poor grandmother, a tither all her life, could not get a priest to come and give her the last rites. There was no priest at her graveside for the blessing. They do not do this.

    My godfather, who died just over a year ago, did not have the last rites as no priest goes to the cancer place where he died. No one is assigned and all the phone calls to his pp were not answered.

    He also did not have a priest at his graveside as none would come, even though he gave $45,000 to the parish in his will.

    The priests simply do not answer phone calls. Even the Catholic man who runs the funeral parlor called for the graveside blessing. No answers.

    So, this bishop is good in asking for arrangements but there have to be priests who will answer these calls.

    As to fallen away children, I know of some people who have all their Catholic funeral arrangements made ahead of time and all paid for, including the funeral Mass. I highly suggest this. Those children who are fallen away sometimes hate the Church so much, for their own perverse reasons, that they do not value a Catholic funeral.

    But, in areas where the priests disappear on weekends or are hard to find, there can be issues.

  11. Lepidus says:

    Speaking of praying for the dead…. A few months ago (maybe a bit more than that), our pastor basically discouraged having more than one or two Masses said for somebody. “Masses are of infinite value, so having one should do it….” Why was this said? It seems like a number of families were taking the money donated at a funeral and giving it to the parish for Masses. Apparently, the Archdiocese has rules about that. The priest could only keep the stipend for one person per Mass with the rest having to go someplace else (like the diocese or something). So, if you were having Masses said – no extra money for the Sanctuary Destruction Project. If on the other hand, you gave a “memorial”, all the money could go to the pet projects.

  12. OrthodoxChick says:

    Joe in Canada,

    I don’t know if it’s like this everywhere in the U.S., but in the Diocese of Worcester and Providence, the funeral director collects the donation for the parish (on behalf of the priest) from the family when they come in to make arrangements. They also collect the fee for the grave opening and cement liner for the grave. If the Catholic cemetery has a chapel and you want a graveside burial, that’ll be extra – and you can pay the funeral director for that too. If the cemetery doesn’t have a chapel, (and some still don’t) then the graveside is included with the opening fee because it’s the only option.That way, there are no hidden costs Some parishes also require a separate donation for the organist. Most funerals that I’ve seen from behind the scenes, the funeral director gives an envelope for the priest and another for the organist to the priest in the sacristy upon arrival to the funeral (before the body is carried in). And like the article in the Diocesan newspaper (Catholic Free Press) stated, donations from those who cannot afford to offer them can be waived.

    I heard a parochial vicar give a homily about this last year. He told everyone that wanted a funeral Mass and the last rites to put it in their will that none of the heirs mentioned in the will would receive any portion of their inheritance unless/until all of the conditions had been fulfiled. He also told them to leave enough money in their will to be given to the parish for 20 Masses to be said for themselves once they had become dearly departed. The vicar said that in addition to funerals, no one has Masses like the month’s mind said for deceased souls anymore either. He said if you specify everything clearly in your will and leave a photocopy of those stipulations in the will laying around when family comes to visit, you won’t believe how high they’ll all jump to fulfill your last request – lest they forego their inheritance by their non-compliance.

  13. Supertradmum, that is so sad!!

    Its true – when my Godfather died years ago, he had specifically asked in writing that the Deus Irae be said. Even when my mother begged the priest, he steadfastly refused!

    Echoing others here, those with non-practicing family members, it is tragic the number I have seen of faithful church-goers who at death barely get a Mass, if at all, or get prayers or any sort of kindness so desperately needed. In planning your death, not only should exact instructions be written out [type of Mass, specific music, choir members, rosaries at the viewing, etc] but pray to St Joseph for a happy death and that there will be someone to look after your needs in your helplessness. If anyone has a program from a beautiful requiem Mass that they attended, file that as an example.

    Here in the Diocese, I was invited to sing at a Requiem Mass for a priest who was suddenly killed by a tree in a storm – while on his way to the funeral of a fellow priest [!]. Apparently this devout priest had never thought to document what kind of Mass he wanted. The parish choir director, of a liberal bent, had us sing the most obnoxious happy-clappy drippy stuff which, for her, was a devout and heartfelt effort. Many priests attended the Requiem of this popular [and hilarious] priest. After the priests had filed out and flowed into the foyer, I heard them break into a hearty Salve Regina. They were now out of the Mass and could sing for Father what they thought best.

    Make your wishes known, and entrust these wishes to several friends or family members that you can trust to make it so!

  14. Kathleen10 says:

    Supertradmum, I have to tell you I remember your eyes in my prayers still. I hope they are better?

    Personal anecdote. When my Mom passed two years ago, I wanted her to have the Requiem Mass. I made the arrangements, pulling together as many elements as I could, regretting I don’t have the incredible knowledge of the various masses that you all seem to have, and which I admire. I put it on paper, and submitted the request to Father, who approved it and carried out everything as requested.
    My family, who to my disappointment to this day, did not “do well” during and after my Mom’s passing, considered the Mass “depressing”, and I had to counter them when they wanted a eulogy for my Mom at the church. I said the wake was the time for that.
    The idea of praying for my Mom’s soul seemed an insult I think. She was a great woman, and what possible need was there in prayer for her soul? This can only be chalked up to inadequate teaching and a secular mindset.
    This has all made me think and I am going to put down my requests in writing.

  15. Imrahil says:

    That. Is. Disturbing.

    Disturbing because it is new.

    We have got used to the fact that people don’t go to Church, think chastity is something for a strange group of few which, perhaps, can be respected (excepting actual adultery), and that one has to make the one or the other compromise with morality while going through life.

    But precisely the kind of people that believes in God, believes in First Communion, believes in the family and family feasts and even in pious Christmas silence (though spending not many thoughts on the mystery of the Incarnation), that keeps still up some (civil) decency, and just does not go to Church – precisely that rather loveable, but in some parts mistaken kind of people hitherto always and without exception had Mass (and a Rosary) said for their deceased relatives, and even appeared at the Rosary (and of course Mass and funeral) and actually prayed it.

    If people forget to get their relatives properly buried, then something seriously, and something new, has gone wrong.

  16. John V says:

    Don’t put your wishes regarding your funeral in your will. The will usually isn’t read until the decedent is buried. Put your funeral plans in a separate document, give it to a person you trust will carry out your wishes, and make sure plenty of family and friends know who has that information.

  17. Uxixu says:

    I very much regret not pushing at my mother and aunts for a funeral mass for my grandmother. Or for begging her to go to confession. I did say a rosary for her before All Saints.

  18. Kathleen10 says: My family, who to my disappointment to this day, did not “do well” during and after my Mom’s passing, considered the Mass “depressing”, and I had to counter them when they wanted a eulogy for my Mom at the church.

    I can think of something even more depressing: people going before the seat of judgment utterly unprepared because meditating on the Four Last Things is such a downer.

  19. mimicaterina says:

    Joe in Canada: i had to deal with 2 family deaths within a short period of time. Both were several states away from me and one was the unexpected death of my only sibling. In both cases the funeral homes worked with me for all funeral arrangements including notifying social security and obtaining death certificates. I cannot tell you how comforting and helpful they were. The director was not Catholic but was thoroughly knowledgeable of Catholic practices. He even asked me what image and prayer I wanted on the Mass cards. The funeral directors contacted the Catholic parish and made an appointment for me to meet with the priest to discuss the Mass details. To simplify billing matters, the invoice included the Mass stipend for the parish ($100) but there were additional transportation charges. I was in such grief and dealing with anti-Catholic members that the funeral directors’ help was ver much needed and appreciated.

  20. mimicaterina says:

    The last line should read that I was dealing with anti-Catholic family members.

  21. frjim4321 says:

    We’ve had a number of deaths in the parish of very pious Catholics (daily mass and so forth) whose children did not want to go to the “inconvenience” of a funeral mass. I find it very sad.

    The financial excuse is bogus. People will run out and buy a large screen HD TV at the drop of a hat, but $ 100 for music and $ 100 for the clergy stipend is “outrageous.”

    We had an interesting funeral this year for a dear woman who passed away. The entire family was no longer Catholic. They came in very honestly and said “we do not believe but we are doing what our mother would have wanted.”

  22. liturmatt says:

    I live in the Diocese of Worcester, but I have to admit that I didn’t even realize that this was a problem until I saw the article in the Catholic Free Press and read the Letter. I was stunned, but my pastor confirmed it. I thought for sure that even the crowd Imrahil describes always had a funeral…part of their wiring. That a Catholic would be denied a Funeral Mass was unthinkable. I know better now, but I’m still shocked and saddened.

    I agree, $200 for a funeral is not very much, considering the inestimable value of the Mass.

  23. DavidR says:


    May GOD bless that non-believing family.

  24. Cathy says:

    Supertradmum, unfortunately your story is not the exception. I can’t tell you of the bitter stories I’ve heard regarding people begging for a priest to come and administer last rites. I don’t know what our pastor is thinking in this regard, we have the anointing of the sick at the noon mass every other Sunday. Perhaps he believes this is sufficient. When my dad died, he was fortunate to have been at the VA hospital which had it’s own Catholic chaplain. He was a very old man, but we saw him daily at my dad’s bedside. There seems to be almost a hierarchical hostility to priests being “relegated” to hospital chaplaincies, and these good men are seen as put out of the way of parish service. I can’t help but to express my greatest gratitude for his presence, hearing dad’s confession, and giving him the last rites. Truly, to give a man an opportunity to be relieved of the deadness of his sins in his final moments is such a great grace and such a great mercy!
    As regards the funeral, my one complaint is the expectation that friends and family members should be selected to “do” the readings and prayers of the faithful. A family member trying to catch her breath while sobbing through a reading is not a great memory.

  25. Will D. says:

    People griping about the cost of the Mass are full of baloney, I think. When my father went to his reward, the funeral was the least expensive part of the affair. The parish asked $100/each for the priest, the musician, and the cantor, and made it clear that it was a free-will offering and not required. The bugler at the National Cemetery (since, sadly, the military no longer guarantees an actual bugler, but often supplies a soldier with a boombox who pantomimes playing “Taps”) wanted more than that.
    My only disappointment with the parish was that the priest did not go to the cemetery (in fairness, it is 70 miles away) so the graveside service was done by a very nice protestant army chaplain.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    This not going to the graveside now seems to be the thing. I wonder why? Any insights on this?

  27. lsclerkin says:

    Put it in writing. Tell everyone in your family. Tell your pastor.
    Heck, HAVE a pastor.
    Then ask God every day, please don’t let me die without the sacraments of the Holy Church.
    Go. to. confession.
    Consecrate yourself to the Blessed Mother. That alone is huge.

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