Funeral Guidelines

To schedule a Funeral or Memorial Mass, please call the Parish Office at 714-774-2595

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“Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended.
When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death,
we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven"

(Order of Christian Funerals)


Funeral Guidelines for St. Justin Martyr Parish


We, the St. Justin Martyr Parish community, wish to minister to the family and loved ones of the person who has died, as well as to pray for the peaceful repose of the soul of the deceased.  It is our hope that these Funeral Guidelines will be of assistance to anyone who is preparing for a Catholic funeral or Memorial Mass at St. Justin Martyr Parish.

Upon the death of a loved one, the family members contact and work with their mortuary of choice.  The mortuary contacts the Parish Coordinator as soon as possible so that we can begin the timely and necessary planning of the funeral rites.  Funeral Masses can be celebrated on any day of the week except Sundays, the First Fridays of each month, Holy Days of Obligation, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.  The Parish Coordinator, working with the mortuary, the availability of the priest, and the church’s schedule of availability, will arrange the day, time, and type of service.  This is the first step in planning. 

As Catholics, we celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise and thanksgiving for the gift of life which has now returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just.  The Church identifies three principal rites of celebration, with the flexibility to choose the rite and/or rites that best serves you and your family.


The Funeral Rites

The Vigil (Wake) Service:

The Vigil service usually takes place on the eve of the funeral Mass and may be held in the family’s home (though not a common practice), the mortuary, or in the parish church.  This service generally includes Scripture readings, prayers, and consolation for the members of the bereaved family.  The Rosary, or a portion of it, may be recited since it helps us to reflect upon the Paschal Mystery and so leads us to a greater sense of hope at this time of grief.  A priest, deacon, bereavement minister or a family member may conduct this rite.  The Vigil service provides the appropriate and preferred setting for family and friends to offer eulogies, as well as other remembrances and family traditions.  If there is a viewing of the body, it usually takes place before or after the Vigil.


The Funeral (Mass) Liturgy:

The funeral Mass is the central liturgical celebration, which takes place in the parish church, with a priest as the presider.  The funeral liturgy includes the reception of the body, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Final Commendation and Farewell.  As an expression of our faith in Jesus Christ we actively participate in the funeral Mass.  Family members may cover the casket with the pall, read Scripture, read the Prayer of the Faithful, and present the gifts at the Offertory.  This rite can be celebrated with the presence of the body, cremains (cremated remains), or as a memorial Mass without the body.  Other options, such as a Funeral Liturgy outside of Mass may also be arranged.  A priest, deacon or bereavement minister may lead this rite. 

The Rite of Committal:

The Rite of Committal is the last of the Funeral Rites.  “In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the resurrection.  The rite of committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the church on earth and the church in heaven; the deceased passes with the farewell prayers of the community of believers into the welcoming company of those who need faith no longer but see God face to face” – Order of Christian Funerals.  The Rite of Committal may be celebrated at the graveside, mausoleum, or at sea.  A priest, deacon or bereavement minister may lead this rite. 

Symbolic Elements

Paschal (Easter) Candle:

The paschal candle is first lit at the Easter Vigil, and burns near the casket or urn during the funeral Mass.  The candle represents the Light of the Risen Christ, who has overcome darkness and death by His resurrection. 

Holy Water:

Holy water reminds us of the saving waters of baptism.  At the reception of the body, the priest sprinkles the casket or urn with holy water.  Its use calls to mind the deceased’s baptism and initiation into the community of faith.  In the rite of Final Commendation, it may also signify farewell.


Blessing the casket or urn with incense during the funeral liturgy is a sign of honor to the deceased, which through baptism became the temple of the Holy Spirit.  The rising of the incense smoke is a symbol of our prayers and a sign of farewell of our departed one rising to God.

Funeral Pall:

The funeral pall (a large white cloth) reminds us of the garment given at baptism and therefore symbolizes our life in Christ and that we are all equal in the eyes of God.  At the reception of the body, the pall is draped over the casket following the blessing with holy water.  Family members are encouraged to take part in the placing of the pall, as well as placing a family crucifix, rosary, or a bible on the pall. 


While a white pall is not used in a funeral liturgy with the cremated remains, an ossuary may be used to hold the urn.  It is a hand-crafted chest, which offers the ideal receptacle for an urn, and stands in a place of honor near the altar.  Like the pragmatic usage of the pall, an ossuary avoids any distinction between urns and containers, and assures that the rich and the poor are given their rightful dignity during the funeral liturgy.


Some Practicalities


The Church prefers that cremation take place after the full funeral liturgy with the body.  The presence of the body most clearly brings to mind the life and death of the person and better expresses the values that the Church affirms in its rites.  However, when this is not possible, all the usual rites which are celebrated with the body present may also be celebrated in the presence of the cremains (cremated remains).  During the rites, the cremains are treated with the same dignity and respect as the body.  The cremains are to be sealed in a worthy vessel, and may be carried in procession and/or placed on a table or in the ossuary near the altar.  It is a Catholic practice that the cremains are buried in their entirety in a Catholic cemetery.  If the burial is to take place at sea, please check with your mortuary regarding civil regulations.

Planning Funeral Services:  (Reference used:  Through Death to Life, author Joseph M. Champlin)

When possible and desired, family and friends should actively participate in planning the funeral rites.  Our parish priests contact the family directly to assist them in choosing the Scripture readings, readers, intercessory prayers, pall bearers, presenters of the gifts, and the appropriate music with the life of the deceased in mind, to encourage and console those who mourn. 

Music for Funeral Liturgies:

Music is an important part of ritual, and we encourage families to make full use of the Church’s rich tradition, and our parish’s musical resources. The Music Director and Music Ministries of St. Justin Martyr Church are allowed to play the grand piano and organ and sing at funerals.  They will also be able to assist the family in selecting the appropriate hymns for funerals.  Outside musicians are not allowed.


We welcome flowers as part of the funeral celebration.  They will be displayed in the vestibule.  One or two floral arrangements may be brought to the sanctuary area and placed at the side of the altar.  The floral casket spray is removed before the funeral liturgy, in order that the pall may be placed, the spray is later returned at the end of the funeral liturgy. 

Words of Remembrance:

The appropriate time for Words of Remembrance would be at the Vigil service prior to the funeral Mass.   If this is not done and the family desires to have Words of Remembrance at the funeral or memorial Mass, the following guidelines should be observed:

·   The appropriate time for Words of Remembrance for the funeral Mass will be at the discretion of the presiding priest.

·    Our parish custom permits one or in certain cases two speakers.

·   The Words of Remembrance must be brief, 3-4 minutes each, and not exceeding a total time of ten minutes.

·    Other opportunities for speakers are at the graveside service or at a gathering after the graveside service.

Parish Receptions:

Parishioners may request to use the Parish Center for a reception following a funeral Mass, subject to availability, where family and friends can gather for a time of refreshment and remembrance.

Priests from other Parishes:

If a family would like to invite a priest from another parish to preside at any of the funeral rites, they are most welcome but approval must be granted by our pastor.  The visiting priest must submit prior to the funeral a letter of “Good Standing” from the visiting priest’s Bishop in order to obtain the pastor’s approval.

Funeral Donations and Fees:

There is no charge for a funeral at St. Justin Martyr Parish.  It is customary to give a donation to the parish, and the suggested donation is $200.00.  The stipend for the Cantor, Organist/Pianist and/or musicians is $200.00.  The suggested donation for each altar server is $10/$15 cash.  There are no charges or suggested donations for the services of the priest or deacon.  This would be considered a gift to the priest or deacon and should be given to them directly.


A Final Thought on Catholic Funerals:

As members of the body of Christ, when one suffers, we all suffer.  Therefore, we are called on as a community to care for the dying, to console those who mourn, and to participate in the funeral rites.  The celebration of a Christian funeral brings hope and consolation to the living.  Prayerful preparation and planning of the funeral rites will help you and your loved ones deal successfully and gracefully with the ultimate rite of passage through death to eternal life.



Revised 7, 2018