ASK FATHER: “Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass”

From a reader…


Earlier this week, my wife attended what she thought would be a Funeral Mass for a Catholic relative, but was dismayed to find that it was merely a Liturgy of the Word service, followed by schmaltzy songs and a eulogy by a family member (who seemed to have some old scores to settle), all taking place inside the church.

I’d never heard of this kind of service before, but I subsequently
learned that it is called a “Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass”. It seems that this is primarily meant for occasions when it isn’t possible to celebrate Mass, but in this case the priest was present throughout and took part in the lunch afterwards.

My question is this: given that the CCC 1689 emphasizes the centrality of the Eucharist in Catholic funerals for the good of the soul of the departed and the community of the faithful, why is this type of liturgy allowed apart from cases of grave necessity? It disturbs me greatly that this appears to be a common practice, and that many of the faithful go to their rest without the benefit of a Mass.


The law is clear in stating that a funeral Mass is the preferred prayer to offer on behalf of the deceased as well as for the spiritual edification and benefit of the mourners. The rite outside of Mass may be used when a funeral Mass is not permitted (i.e., on Holy Days of Obligation, during the Triduum, and on Sundays of Lent, Advent, and Easter), when a priest is not available, or when “for pastoral reasons the pastor and the family judge that the funeral liturgy outside Mass is a more suitable form of celebration.” (c.f. the Order of Christian Funerals, n. 178).

It’s hard to imagine those circumstances when, outside of those times listed, a priest who is available to offer a funeral Mass would opt not to do so. Perhaps if the deceased were a convert and there was some hostility among some family members to the deceased’s Catholic faith (but that would seem to me to be the perfect time to use the funeral liturgy as a means of evangelization!). Perhaps if the priest already had obligations to offer two Masses that day (presuming it was a ferial day) and could not licitly offer a third. Perhaps if the cineplex in town was offering a one-time only showing of Las Noches del Hombre Lobo with Paul Naschy as Count Waldemar Daninsky at 3:00 p.m., and in order to make it to the theatre on time to get a decent box of Raisinets and an RC Cola, a shorter liturgy would be preferable…

Even with the Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass, there is no rubrical indication permitting eulogies, which are truly foreign to our funeral tradition, though sadly, in some places, they have become commonplace.

Certainly, having a Mass offered for the repose of one’s soul is a most salubrious thing. I would encourage our interlocutor, thus disturbed by the deceased person having been deprived of this benefit, to seek out a good and faithful priest and offer a stipend for a Mass to be said for the repose of his soul.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. deaconjohn1987 says:

    I’m asked to celebrate a Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass quite often. It is not the pastor’s choice but the relatives of the deceased who ask for it. It is always celebrated in a private Funeral Chapel, not in the church. I use the prayers from the ‘Order of Christian Funerals’ I do give a short homily. I try to stress the importance of having a Mass said for the dearly departed. I’m always amazed that the loved ones don’t have a Mass celebrated for the person who passed away! It’s a sign of the times, as many Catholic’s don’t attend Sunday Mass regularly!

  2. grateful says:

    It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.
    St. Padre Pio

  3. Angela says:

    Where I live the Funeral Service is the norm and the Requiem Mass takes place a few days or a week later. Funerals are generally the same day or the next day after one dies.

  4. Titus says:

    This makes me think of the end of the superb Graham Greene novel The End of the Affair. There’s a situation necessitating separation of the funeral and the Requiem for you.

  5. Geoffrey says:

    Would not this be the preferred funeral liturgy for those who should not have a “public” Catholic funeral. I am thinking of “Catholic” politicians who publicly support abortion legislation, for example, with Masses for the repose of their soul being offered later, but not as an actual “funeral” Mass?

  6. MGL says:

    As the asker of the question thanks very much, Fathers, for this informative answer.

    To answer some of the implicit questions in Fr. Ferguson’s answer, the funeral service was on Tuesday, February 4 (Fr. Z evidently has a large backlog of reader questions!), which I believe was a ferial day this year. The deceased relative was a lifelong Mass-attending Catholic, but the rest of the family has largely fallen away, and may have requested the Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass for some reason related to this.

    However, the parish appears to have two Masses scheduled on weekdays, one in the morning and the other in the evening, so if the same priest is responsible for both daily Masses, that may have prevented him from celebrating a third funeral Mass, if I understand Fr. Ferguson’s answer correctly.

    In any case, I will take Fr. Ferguson’s advice and have a Mass offered on behalf of the deceased. Thanks again.

  7. tho says:

    The spiritual future of us, as individuals, and the church, lies with a small group, the SSPX. I am a great lover of all groups that devote themselves to out traditions, but alas, they are subject to the whims of church destroying liberal prelates. Every storm at sea, no matter how bad, has an end, we can relax and repair the damage, the storm created by the spirit of VII is never ending. A prime example, all things being normal, is not having a funeral mass for a deceased catholic. Or a nuptial mass for a couple being married. There is never an end, or a place, that liberals can go and be satisfied. It as if Trotsky himself oversees the people who have our spiritual life in their hands.

  8. Hidden One says:

    If you want more Catholic funerals to be Masses, add to the invoice to the funeral home the standard stipend for a Mass to be said for the deceased, at the parish by one of the parish priests (and then have it actually said, too).

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