Tell me about a Catholic funeral mass (P.S., death, you SUCK)

You know, prior to 2009, I had been to one funeral in 20 years. Tomorrow will be the third in 10 months. :::flips off 2009 again:::

Anyway, tomorrow’s service is a Catholic mass, and I’m unfamiliar with how that whole thing works. Is it a longer ceremony? Is there like a mass, then a regular memorial service? And, uh…what exactly is a “mass” and what happens in it? I’m curious what to expect, as my mother will be driving out here to babysit my 3-week-old and I’d like to give her some idea how long I’ll be gone. Should I take my breast pump to use in the car if needed?

In 2009, we lost my father, two of my husband’s uncles, the husband of a friend of mine, and now, a beloved teacher from my Masters program who is, without question, the best teacher of both children and other teachers I have ever known.

She led my cohort and was my instructor for 80% of my classes, and we all became close over the 2 1/2 years. Boy 1.0 was born during this time, and she welcomed him to class at age 2 weeks, giving me a private area to nurse him where we were removed from others, but I could still listen and absorb what was going on. He went to class with me until he was too mobile and too noisy, and even then, she asked about him. She called him her “DBL [degree was in Design-Based Learning] Baby.”

She was positive, inspiring, innovative (she actually spent a year in Japan at their invitation, sharing her unorthodox methods), and one of the main reasons I finished my Masters and stayed in the profession that was burning me out at the time. I had no idea she was sick–I just graduated 2 years ago, and the post-ceremony party was at her house. She gave us personalized gifts…I got a stuffed animal horse wearing a cap and tassle.

I don’t know what happened; she was young, 53. All I know is she became very ill, was in hospice care for the holidays, and died either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. We need more people like her, not fewer. Fuck you, death.

It can be a funeral mass or simply a service before the altar; its hard to say in advance which is planned here. If it is a full mass, figure about 45 minutes and if its the service it will run about 15 minutes. For most forms of Catholics, a Mass includes the celebration of Holy Communion (non-Catholics are often encouraged not to take part in that ceremony) - anything without Communion is a “service” or “before the altar”.

It’ll be a regular Mass, with some funeral stuff thrown in. Sit when everyone else sits, stand when everyone else stands, kneel (or sit, no one will care, there will likely be plenty of non-Catholics present) when everyone else kneels. Don’t go up to receive communion. At some point everyone will start shaking everyone else’s hands and say “Peace be with you.” It’ll take 45 minutes to an hour.

Mass takes about an hour. Follow what everyone else does for the kneeling/standing/sitting. Don’t worry about the responses. Don’t get in line for communion. It’s over after communion.

I will warn you that it’s boring.

First of all, I am so sorry for your loss(es). I can’t imagine losing my father, but he’s a smoker so it will probably happen sooner rather than later.

Longer than what? In my experience, which consists of having gone to catholic school and being raised in an Italian family, mass shouldn’t run longer than an hour.

It is actually okay to get in line for communion (if you want to for some reason) if you cross your arms over your chest. This tells the priest that you have not made your first communion ceremony and therefore are not allowed to eat the wafer. He’ll make the sign of the cross over you and you’ll be on your way.

It’s also OK, and probably easier, not to get in line, but to stay in your seat. At a funeral mass there are likely to be many non-Catholics, so you won’t stand out if you do. But even if you’re the only non-Catholic, it’s not a problem: my wife’s a Catholic and I occasionally go to Sunday mass with her, where I might be the only person in a congregation of hundreds not taking communion. No one worries about my staying at my seat.

But don’t you worry about old people tripping over your feet? :slight_smile:

Try not to laugh when the priest sings.

Actually, what I usually do is walk out of the row of seats with everyone else, then take a step away from the altar to let them join the queue. When they return, I stand on the other end of the row of seats to let them pass, then walk back along to where I was sitting.

Let me add to what everyone else has already said:

In some congregations they will make an announcement calling all Christians to receive communion. Even though you are not Catholic, if you are Christian you may receive.

Last Catholic funeral I attended, it was a high mass so there was also incense and a few more flourishes, i.e., a tenor solo (Ave Maria). It was a Polish congregation so a lot of the chanting and responses were in Polish. I think mass in either Latin or Polish (rather than English) is quite beautiful. That is how I was raised as a child. I never knew the words but I was enchanted with the ceremony of it. They changed to English (except, for example, Polish congregations) in the late 60s.

Can you elaborate on what a ‘service before the altar’ is? I’ve never heard of this before. Without exception, every Catholic funeral I’ve attended has been a requiem mass.

If it’s a normal requiem mass, then it won’t be over after communion. The ceremony of Committal will follow.

This is not correct. Non-Catholics may not receive communion, despite any announcements that may be made.

In your opinion. I find funeral services quite moving. Somber, but not boring, especially if the music is good.

This is not true unless you are a Christian member of a church in communion with Rome, in immanent danger of death or have permission from a bishop.

So, is there any type of personalization to this sort of service? The services I’ve been to (non-Cataholic) typically involve some sort of presentation of a biography, family members sharing stories, volunteers sharing anecdotes, and select songs performed.

I now find myself torn. I have an appointment with the pulmonologist tomorrow at 9:30am; the funeral mass is at 10am. I obviously cannot do both, and honoring this person is important to me. However, the next available appointment isn’t until January 26, and I’ve been having issues with my lungs since October. I don’t think it’d hurt necessarily to wait two more weeks, but an impersonal ceremony is not what I want to attend.

Thank you so much for your input; I really do appreciate it.

FTR–the information I was given says “Funeral Mass and Services.” What is the distinction between the two?

Is there a visitation tonight at the funeral home? It’s understood that not everyone can make a weekday morning mass, it’s fine if you just go to the visitation.

They may add something personal to the end of the funeral mass, but you can’t count on it, and it won’t be on the order of free-form storytelling. More like a relative singing a favorite hymn or something along those lines. The family can organize a non-religious service later but I’d assume you’ll hear about it if they do. IME there’s also a lunch after the burial but that would really only be for people who were at the mass.

My mother dragged us kids along to many, many funeral masses because they were the only masses offered during the week and she wanted to attend on her days off. As I remember, there was no difference between a funeral mass and a regular mass, except that the casket was present and the masses were shorter by virtue of a lack of singing and fewer people taking Communion. So no, it’s not particularly personal. Is her family holding any sort of wake? That would probably be the better event for you to attend.

Go to a wake or funeral home visitation hours, then go to your doctor. It’s what your teacher would have wanted.

Actually, if you’ve any acquaintance at all with the family of the bereaved, and you really want to help comfort them, visit them one week after the funeral or so, and offer to take them to a meal, or something distracting and pleasant/fun. The hardest part of bereavement is after the funeral, when everybody else goes back to their routine, and you’re feeling like you’re supposed to, except there’s this big hole in your life…

-trupa, catholic, asthmatic.

The only standard opportunities for personalization during the Mass are going to be during the homily (sermon), where the priest might say something more specific about your teacher and the prayer of the faithful, which is basically a list of things that the congregation prays for together. In some churches (the one I regularly attend does this), individual members of the congregation are also given the opportunity to add their own intentions and then there’s a common response. But neither of these is really the kind of personalization you’re looking for.

I agree with others who have said that if there are calling hours, you should go to those. If there’s an interment after the funeral, you might be able to go to that, but it might be hard to figure out the timing. You might also want to just get there after your doctor’s appointment and catch the end of the mass (usually you can just slip in quietly) and maybe have an opportunity to give your condolences to family members if you think that will be appropriate.

I’m so sorry for your losses. 2009 does seem to have been a really crappy year for a lot of people.