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July 11, 2019 Beyond The Dash

Popular Catholic Funeral Readings

Meaningful sentiments for the final send-off

Popular Catholic Funeral Readings
If you are planning a Catholic funeral service, let the priest know of your family's preferences for Biblical readings in advance of the service. (Shutterstock)

When planning a funeral, there are many service considerations to make. From the styles of music to be played, to appointing a eulogist, to printing the funeral memorial cards, every minute has an important purpose. Selecting meaningful funeral readings is a critical part of saying goodbye.


If the deceased person was a Catholic, there are several stirring readings from the Bible that will add to the service. 


Order of Christian Funerals


Catholics follow the Order of Christian Funerals, which is a set of guidelines for conducting bereavement rituals. 


The Catholic funeral usually comprises of three parts: 



  1. Vigil

  2. Funeral mass 

  3. Rite of Committal


During any of these services, a priest or person presiding reads Biblical scripture.  


The following scriptures are the most popular Catholic funeral readings. These are taken from various sections of the Bible, and are often read at a Catholic funeral mass. 


Catholic funerals proceed in the following order:



  1. First Reading

  2. Responsorial Psalm

  3. Second Reading

  4. Gospel


Popular readings


The following readings are popular choices for priests presiding over a Catholic funeral mass. Keep in mind there are thousands of verses to choose from. The ones that are ultimately chosen should reflect both the beliefs and the character of the deceased person.


First Reading


At most Catholic funerals, a reading from the Old Testament is paired with Psalm and read by a family member or a close friend of the deceased. These lines are believed to give patience to the family members of the deceased and blessings to the one passed away. 



Wisdom 3: 1–9


But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,


and no torment will ever touch them.


In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,


and their departure was thought to be a disaster,


and their going from us to be their destruction;


but they are at peace.


For though in the sight of others they were punished,


their hope is full of immortality.


Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,


because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;


like gold in the furnace he tried them,


and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.


In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,


and will run like sparks through the stubble.


They will govern nations and rule over peoples,


and the Lord will reign over them forever.


Those who trust in him will understand truth,


and the faithful will abide with him in love,


because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,


and he watches over his elect.


Wisdom 4:7-14


But the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest.


For the age that is honorable


  comes not with the passing of time,


  nor can it be measured in terms of years.


Rather, understanding is the hoary crown for men,


  and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age.


He who pleased God was loved;


  he who lived among sinners was transported–


Snatched away, lest wickedness pervert his mind


  or deceit beguile his soul;


For the witchery of paltry things obscures what is right


  and the whirl of desire transforms the innocent mind.


Having become perfect in a short while,


   he reached the fullness of a long career;


for his soul was pleasing to the Lord,


  therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness.


But the people saw and did not understand,


  nor did they take this into account.


Because grace and mercy are with God’s holy ones,


  and God’s care is with the elect.



Responsorial Psalm


A reading is followed by the Responsorial Psalm, which is usually sung. 



Psalm 23:1-3, 4, 5, 6


The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.


  in verdant pastures he gives me repose;


Beside restful waters he leads me;


  he refreshes my soul.


He guides me in right paths


  for his name sake.  


Even though I walk in the dark valley


  I fear no evil; for you are at my side


With your rod and your staff


  that give me courage.  


You spread the table before me


  in the sight of my foes;


You anoint my head with oil;


  my cup overflows.  


Only goodness and kindness follow me


  all the days of my life;


And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord


  for years to come.  


Psalm 42:2, 3, 5cdef; 43:3, 4, 5


As the hind longs for the running waters,


  so my soul longs for you, O God. 


Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.


  When shall I go and behold the face of God?  


I went with the throng and led them in procession


  to the house of God.


Amid loud cries of joy and thanksgiving,


  with the multitude keeping festival.  


Send forth your light and your fidelity;


  they shall lead me on


And bring me to your holy mountain,


  to your dwelling-place. 


Then will I go in to the altar of God,


  the God of my gladness and joy;


Then will I give you thanks upon the harp,


  O God, my God!  


Why are you downcast, O my soul?


  Why do you sigh within me?


Hope in God! For I shall again be thanking him,


  in the presence of my savior and my God. 



Second Readings


New Testament readings usually omit the Gospels and focus more on the great letters of Saint Paul and Saint John. These letters are taken from the Book of Revelation. Readings from the Book of Psalms are either read or sung by a family member or close friend of the deceased. 


1 John 3:14 



We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.



Romans 5:4–11



Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly.  Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  How much more then, since we are now justified by his Blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath.  Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.  Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


The word of the Lord



Gospel Readings 


The verses from the Gospel Readings are always recited by the priest. These readings are specifically recited with all the attendees standing. These readings remind what Jesus said to his companions. 


John 14:1



Jesus said to his disciples: Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me”. 



A final word


These are some of the most popular Catholic funeral readings. The purpose of reading this scripture aloud is to pay tribute to the deceased soul and pray for their better place in heaven. If a priest is presiding over the ceremony, they may take the character of the deceased into consideration before selecting the funeral readings. 


Each verse has a very deep meaning and proclaims that God is the greatest of all and there is no one but God that will forgive the sins of the deceased soul. 

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