Choosing funeral songs can be difficult, and even more so if you’re choosing for a Roman Catholic Funeral.

We have sung at a number of Roman Catholic funerals, when there has been some confusion beforehand about what music may be sung during a requiem mass.

Many people wish to celebrate a loved one’s life with music that is special to them. So families have been surprised by the restrictions on the type and content of the songs and hymns which are considered acceptable for a funeral mass in the Catholic church.

Having looked at various Catholic organisations’ websites, and speaking with the Catholic Faith Centre in London, there seems to be subtle differences in what is acceptable.

Here is the information we found:

“Music at a Funeral Liturgy should always be drawn from the broad repertoire of Christian hymns and compositions. A piece of music from another source may be used after the formal Liturgy has finished provided there is nothing in it inconsistent with the sacred nature of the place and the occasion.”

The Diocese of Westminster’s: “Preparing for a funeral” webpage
and the
Guide: Preparing for a Catholic funeral leaflet 

“There are opportunities for personal choices in each of the three stages of the funeral. Secular poems and songs often fit best in the prayer vigil, but there is also an opportunity for ‘Words in Remembrance’ towards the end of the funeral liturgy. Care should be taken that the words of any material is in keeping with our Christian faith”

The Liturgy Office: Catholic funerals: a guide  

“Only readings from the Sacred Scriptures and only music with texts that ‘express the paschal mystery of the Lord’s suffering, death and triumph over death’ may be used in church. When choosing music to be played at the funeral, please take care that the texts are ‘related to the readings from Scripture’ (Order of Christian Funerals 31).  Sometimes people request secular songs and music to be played in church. The Church does not usually permit this, as secular songs and poetry often do not accord with the Church’s faith and her joyful hope in the Lord’s resurrection. However, such songs etc. might be appropriate after the committal in the Crematorium.”

The Diocese of Portsmouth: Guidelines for funerals

“The use of music in the various stages of the funeral is important, and carefully selected hymns and music will enhance the service, bring back memories of a loved one and provide consolation for the bereaved.”

The Archdiocese of Liverpool: Planning a Catholic Funeral

“Note also that only Christian music is appropriate at Catholic funerals, and all readings are taken from the Bible. The appropriate place to read poems or play your loved one’s favourite music is at the reception afterwards.”

St Mary Magdalen Church, Ponty Pridd: Funeral page

“We provide an organist and we have facilities to play tape or cd music, (however the Bishops of England & Wales have restricted the styles of music)”

Saint Ambrose Barlow Roman Catholic Church, Hall Green: Funeral page 

“Non-religious Music: This is not permitted in churches. Music of a non-religious kind, whether sung ‘live’ or played on CDs or audiotapes is best suited either for the crematorium or even at the graveside itself. The songs of the liturgy, like the liturgical texts, should be expressions of faith in the saving mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, and appropriate to the part of the liturgy in which they are sung. ‘You’ll never walk alone’ and ‘I did it my way’ and the like, do not have a proper place in the Church’s liturgy and they should not be used. It is possible to include quiet instrumental music so long as its secular associations will not distract from the liturgical prayer proper to the funeral liturgy.”

Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Harpenden: Funerals Page 

What’s allowed can be a Diocese lottery

  • If you’re in the Diocese of Westminster, you could have a song after the formal liturgy is finished providing it’s not: “inconsistent with the sacred nature of the place and the occasion.”
  • The Liturgy Office suggests having secular music at the vigil or after the funeral liturgy providing: “The words of any material is in keeping with our Christian faith”.
  • Portsmouth Diocese: Forget it – secular songs belong in the crematorium!
  • Liverpool Archdiocese: Hymns and music need to be carefully selected.
  • St Mary’s Ponty Pridd: Only Christian music; anything else at the reception please.
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Harpenden: Non religious music not acceptable in church, and best at crematorium or graveside.

So, our advice is to check first with your priest what they will allow, and  use your powers of persuasion if you really want a particular number. In some cases, we’ve found that the fact that we’re singing the music live (not a CD) they are less inclined to say no!