Catholic News Service photos
Members of the parish choir sing at Our Lady of the Isle Church in Shelter Island Heights, N.Y.
Catholic News Service photos
Members of the parish choir sing at Our Lady of the Isle Church in Shelter Island Heights, N.Y.
Music at a Catholic funeral praises God and celebrates the bond between the living and the dead.  The musical lineup should not include deceased’s favorite secular song, such as their alma mater’s fight song.

When people come to Holy Trinity Church in Beaverton seeking help in selecting music for a family member’s funeral liturgy, Ken Canedo is careful to explain the significance of these songs.  

“The liturgy is a moment to encounter Christ,” said Canedo, a composer who assists with the music ministry at Holy Trinity. “The music should allow us to encounter Christ, and let that encounter with Christ lift up family and friends to understand the greater meaning of the loss of the person.”

Church guidelines aren’t about rules or regulations, but about helping people encounter Christ at a very special time.

By the time they talk to Canedo, mourners have already met with the pastor or bereavement coordinator and so they know that, despite what they’ve seen on TV or in the movies, secular music isn’t a part of any Eucharistic liturgy.

“We do have to be compassionate and realize this may very well be the first time the family has come back to the church in several years, and they don’t know a thing about these guidelines,” Canedo said. Family members are encouraged to find a place for personalization of the service at the vigil or reception instead.

Sometimes, parents will have already chosen the songs they would like played during their funeral. Other times, children must pick from long lists of songs.

Years ago, Canedo would play each song for people who are unfamiliar with the church music. Today, technological advances have made this selection easier for mourners – he can email links to the songs.  

All Souls Day, All Saints Day and Easter services often include music that could be appropriate for a funeral Mass, Canedo said.

For a funeral music planning guide, log on to OCP’s website: (English) content.ocp.org/shared/pdf/general/FuneralLitPrep.pdf and
(Spanish) content.ocp.org/shared/pdf/general/FuneralLitPrepSP.pdf.