Rite of Christian Burial
General Principles and Procedures
Although many Catholics plan funeral liturgies for themselves or a loved one in advance, planning a funeral is a time of grief and sadness, and there are many decisions to be made as families prepare to celebrate the death of a loved one. Whatever the situation, The Cathedral of Saint Patrick clergy and staff are ready to walk with you, and hope to make the planning process clear and supportive for you and your family.
Scheduling a Funeral
Once you have chosen a funeral home, please have the funeral home contact The Cathedral of Saint Patrick parish office at (704) 334-2283. We will work with them and you to coordinate a date, priest and time for a funeral service. The Cathedral of Saint Patrick is available to celebrate funeral services for current or former parishioners and for their relatives. The pastor of the Cathedral will consider and make special arrangements for funerals of individuals with no parish connection. Click here for a list of Charlotte area funeral homes.
Times for Funeral Mass
The Cathedral of Saint Patrick will be available for a funeral Mass every day of the week, except solemnities of obligation, on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday, or on the Sundays of Advent, Lent and the Easter Season. The Cathedral will make every effort to set a funeral time that is convenient for the family. The preferred time for a funeral Mass is in the morning, reflecting the theme of resurrection. During the week, the latest we can schedule a morning funeral Mass is 10 a.m. due to our weekday Mass schedule. An evening Mass of Christian Burial is an acceptable option, if more convenient for the family and mourners. In this case, the internment services would be held the following morning
The Cathedral of Saint Patrick will provide the following funeral services for families:
- The use of the Cathedral for the visitation and/or the Rite of Christian Burial
- The use of the Cathedral clergy to assist with services required outside of Mass or Rite of Committal services
- The use of the Cathedral’s organ director who will assist with music and cantor selection
- The printing of a Mass worship booklet
- The Cathedral has available a parish hall for funeral receptions, but the family must provide their own food and catering staff
The Use of Flowers
We welcome flowers as part of the funeral celebration. Since the Sanctuary is a place where sacred actions and rituals are conducted, no liturgical furniture or environment is to be moved. Flowers for funeral Masses will be displayed in the vestibule. The family may select one or two floral arrangements to be placed to the side of the ambo. No flowers may be placed in front of the altar or casket. Memorial displays are encouraged as part of the visitation or funeral reception – not as part of the memorial Mass.
For Funeral Masses with military honors for United States military personnel, active duty or retired, it is customary that the casket enters and exits the church draped in the flag of the United States. The flag is removed upon entry so that the casket may be sprinkled with holy water and the pall placed for the Funeral Liturgy as a reminder of the baptism of the deceased. At the end of the liturgy recessional, the pall is removed and the flag is once again draped over the casket. Personal memorabilia, such as pictures or cards, are often requested to be present during the Funeral Rites as a reminder of the deceased or as a means to express affection. For liturgies celebrated inside the church building, the proper place for such memorabilia is in the Narthex or Gathering Space so as not to draw attention away from the primary signs and actions of Catholic liturgical worship such as the paschal candle, altar, the ambo, and the celebration of Holy Eucharist.
Recommended Funeral Stipends
While no stipend/fee is expected, families often choose to make a gift as a sign of their appreciation for the pastoral services rendered by the presiding priest and assisting deacon. In addition to the clergy, it is customary for the family to provide a $150 stipend for the organist and a $125 stipend for a cantor if one is used. When working with a funeral home, the stipends are typically paid by the funeral home through the fees collected by the funeral home. When a funeral home is not used, the stipends can be provided directly to the clergy and organist/cantor. The Cathedral parish office will provide the necessary stipend information.
Guest priests or deacons
The Cathedral welcomes visiting priests to preside at funeral Masses. They will be asked to abide by the liturgical customs of the Cathedral of Saint and priests must provide a celebret prior to the Mass. A celebret is a letter from a priest’s bishop giving permission for that priest to offer Mass in another diocese and for this purpose, bears testimony that he is free from canonical censures.
Homily at Funeral Mass
As at all other Masses, and at a Funeral Liturgy outside Mass, a homily may be preached only by a bishop, priest, or deacon. The Homily is to join the death of the deceased to the Paschal Mystery of Christ. It is to include the reality of the need for the Mercy of God, speak of the hope of eternal life, and avoid the presumption that the deceased enjoys now the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Eulogies at Funeral Mass
A euology is not to be given where a homily is prescribed, although examples from the life of the deceased may be used by the priest or deacon in the homily. The literary genre of eulogy is not a homiletic form. Rather, the homily is to “illumine the mystery of Christian death in the light of the risen Christ” (CCC, 1688) as proclaimed in the readings from Sacred Scripture. The Vigil for the Deceased is a more fitting time for individuals to give a eulogy to share remembrances of the deceased. Often, one or more speakers are chosen by the family. The remarks are to be simple, brief, and prepared, with the tone remaining one of faith and hope. Because the focus of a Catholic funeral is first on God, eulogies do not have a place within the funeral liturgy. This does not mean we cannot reflect on and celebrate the life of the deceased. It does mean that such a celebration of the life of the deceased would be more appropriate to a non-liturgical gathering (for example, a post-funeral luncheon).
Although cremation of the body is permitted by the Catholic Church, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. Catholic teaching continues to stress the preference for burial of the body of the deceased. Likewise, the Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for its funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in its rites. Ideally, if a family chooses cremation, the cremation would take place at some time after the Funeral Mass, so that there can be an opportunity for the Vigil for the Deceased in the presence of the body. This allows for the appropriate reverence for the sacredness of the body at the Funeral Mass: sprinkling with holy water, the placing of the pall, and honoring it with incense. The Rite of Committal then takes place after cremation. When cremation takes place before the Funeral Mass, and the diocesan bishop permits the presence of cremated remains at the Funeral Mass, the cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, and the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires. The Cathedral of Saint Patrick requires that the family provide a written letter outlining the date, time, and location of the interment of the cremated remains. The letter should also state the priest or deacon who will preside at the internment.
Since the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church has always set aside ground that is blessed and consecrated by God for the specific purpose of providing Christians with a dignified and holy resting place. The sacred nature of cemeteries is directly related to the Church's belief in the resurrection of the body and the final consummation of the world. Baptized Catholics may be buried in a Catholic cemetery. Non-practicing Catholics or Catholics who may have joined another Christian denomination also deserve the prayers of the Church. Likewise, non-Catholic spouses and other family members of Catholics may be buried in a Catholic cemetery. Many Catholic cemeteries have a reserved area for the burial of unborn children. Click here for a list of Charlotte area Catholic Cemeteries.
Frequently Asked Questions
A Catholic Guide to end-of-life decisions.
When my loved one dies, whom should I call?
When are funeral Masses offered?
Who can have a funeral Mass?
Can a non-Catholic spouse be buried from a Catholic Church?
Can a divorced, remarried Catholic or one who committed suicide have a Catholic Funeral?
Both burial and cremation are permitted for Catholics. Which is the preferred option?
Charlotte, NC 28203
Fax: (704) 377-6403