I'm not Catholic but I'm reading at Funeral Mass
August 15, 2015 9:23 AM   Subscribe

I need to read something from the new or old testament at my grandfather's funeral. I was close with him and he was a very special figure in my life. I'm not Catholic or Christian but I'd love to find something that resonates in some way about his life or has some bigger wisdom. I don't know which texts are proper for Catholic Funeral Service/Mass. I don't even know when to sit, stand or kneel... I would be grateful for suggestions from folks on some meaningful and appropriate choices.

A little about my Grandfather:
He was a loving man that had 6 kids and 7 grandchildren who all adored him. He was clever and charming and often the life of the party-- singing songs, telling stories and making jokes. He was a WWII vet and POW and went to school for Forestry (before environmental sciences) on the GI Bill. He was then able to forge a new civil service career as a Parks Director for a big city. He was proud of his ability to think outside the box when it came to running his department and initiating educational and recreational programs. He was a classy guy who had an open mind and gave people the benefit of the doubt. He also knew how to party.
posted by demonstartivepapadonous to Religion & Philosophy (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
On the general questions of etiquette there's this.
posted by in278s at 9:43 AM on August 15, 2015

Are you doing the reading as part of the Mass, or as a reflection after it/ at the reception? If it's part of the Mass, you'll want to consult with the priest or someone else at the parish, since there's often a limited set of appropriate readings to choose from for this. This booklet lists quite a few options.
posted by Bardolph at 9:44 AM on August 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you checked with the church? For our wedding, we were given a booklet with the (limited) choices we could make. My grandmother had the 'The Lord is my Shepard' reading which is lovely and references nature.

As for sitting/standing, a lot of churches will have that written into the mass which you can read along with in the book in the pew pocket in front of you. Basically, you stand to show respect so during prayers, the gospel (last of the readings, done by the priest), preparation for the Eucharist. Actually, you just sit for the first two readings and the homily. Kneeling isn't necessarily done so just keep an eye out on what others are doing.

Sorry to hear about your grandfather. It sounds like he was a great guy.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:45 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't even know when to sit, stand or kneel...

Just do what everyone else does UNTIL it's time to take communion. You can't do that if you are not Catholic (unlike in an Anglican church, where it's up to you whether or not you think it's OK to take it). Just remain seated and wait when that part of the Mass happens.
posted by thelonius at 9:48 AM on August 15, 2015

this depends hugely on his church. talk to the pastor (it's his job to help you!).

sorry, no idea on a suitable reading.
posted by andrewcooke at 9:58 AM on August 15, 2015

I am sorry for your loss. The celebrant (priest) should hopefully be able to guide you about the sitting and standing. He should also guide you and family members on appropriate liturgical choice. Two suggestions to consider from me.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 could be a nice old testament piece for a non-Christian to read. It reflects the balance in your grandfather's life between having being in the military during warfare but also being a joyful person. (The whole book of Ecclesiastes is interesting from a non-believer's point of view - it's all about how everything is futile and you should just enjoy life and be grateful).

2 Timothy (4:6-11) though, is my favourite funeral reading for older people who have lived rich and full lives.

As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to depart.
I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come for me now is the crown of uprightness which the Lord, the upright judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his appearing.

If you can keep it together reading through that "fought the good fight" triplet you'll be doing well. It's from a letter from the early Christian St. Paul to his friend and disciple. Paul knows he is on the way out and is trying to give Timothy advice about keeping it together in the face of adversity, which I think is a nice sentiment to bear in mind given I'm sure your grandfathers kids and grandkids often looked to him for guidance and support.
posted by bimbam at 10:02 AM on August 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi. Just a follow up. This is for actual Mass. I'm not near the church. The Church gave my aunt a booklet, but it was my understanding it was just for reference. We can choose what we want and tell them in advance.
posted by demonstartivepapadonous at 10:12 AM on August 15, 2015

For communion you can also go up with everyone else and cross your arms across your chest when you're at the front (so hands near opposite shoulder, making an X with your forearms) and you'll get a quick blessing instead of the Eucharist.
posted by platypus of the universe at 10:13 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

pretty sure even priests have phones and emails these days ;o)

he(!)'s expecting you to contact him. he won't be worried or phased in the slightest that you're not catholic or anything.
posted by andrewcooke at 10:13 AM on August 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Talk to the priest. This is what priests do.
posted by holgate at 10:42 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing talk to the priest.

Also, if you plan a Bible reading, make sure you have the right translation.

I would choose the beginning of Chapter 44 of Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes).

There may well be passages from secular sources that are especially appropriate. For example, this from Alfred Lord Tennyson is often read for sailors:

Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

posted by SemiSalt at 1:19 PM on August 15, 2015

You might want to read this outline of funeral readings and proceedings. The third reading from the Book of Wisdom seems like it might be close to what you describe of your grandfather?
posted by honey-barbara at 1:29 PM on August 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

My family is Irish Catholic. At my grandfather's funeral this past June, an Old Irish Blessing was shared several times - at the graveside service (private, family only), at the mass, and at the funeral home visitation. It ends with "May God hold you in the palm of His hand."
posted by Ms Vegetable at 2:03 PM on August 15, 2015

Actually, I like a lot of the prayers on this page:
posted by Ms Vegetable at 2:03 PM on August 15, 2015

If this is for the Catholic funeral mass, I would be immensely surprised if the priest were OK with you straying very far from the recommended readings.

The request to choose something from the Old or New Testament makes me think the intent is for you to be reading during the liturgy itself. If this is the case, choosing a secular reading rather than something from the Lectionary (the book of readings pulled from the bible that are used at Catholic services) would 100% not work.

I used this site as one of my references for finding Readings for my wedding - and here is the page for Masses for the Dead We aren't in Easter time, so you would be choosing from the "First reading from the OT" or the "Second reading from the NT".

If you want to go with something not in the normal masses for the dead recommendations (or something different than what the booklet the priest provided you with recommends), I would reach out to the priest. Every parish and pastor is different. They can help guide you with your choice.

I just helped with the funeral mass for my mother-in-law; I'm so sorry for your loss and your grandfather sounds like a wonderful man. Although the recommended readings may seem a bit dreary, you may find something that works well for your family and this ceremony.
posted by kellygrape at 8:48 PM on August 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

kellygrape gives solid advice.

Have a look at John 11.

I love the Beatitudes. Matthew 5. I'd like them read at my funeral.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:25 AM on August 16, 2015

And I'm really sorry for your loss. Sorry for not saying that up front.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:26 AM on August 16, 2015

If this is for the Catholic funeral mass, I would be immensely surprised if the priest were OK with you straying very far from the recommended readings.

While the rules for what's licit are pretty straightforward (i.e., do what's in the Lectionary), the lack of liturgical discipline in the Catholic Church means what's done at a funeral Mass/Requiem Mass/Mass for the Dead/Mass of Christian Burial (it has lots of names) will vary depending on diocese or parish or individual priest.

Go to the parish's website; does it have guidelines published for funerals, weddings, etc.? Does it list a contact person (could be a secretary, could be a music director, etc.)? If not, find out what diocese the parish is in (usually just the biggest nearby city) and check the diocesan website for funeral guidelines. May be under the "Office of Worship" or "Liturgy Director" or some similar link. After you've found what answers are online, then call the parish and ask whether they follow those guidelines. A lot of priests are like totally whatevs when it comes to funerals--whatever the family wants.
posted by resurrexit at 9:40 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

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