Looking through our records of music sung at funerals brought to light some interesting insights into the most popular Catholic funeral songs and hymns.

Top Catholic songs for funerals

We all had our ideas for the most popular songs for Catholic funerals. Schubert’s “Ave Maria” was always going to come out on top. However the Irish Blessing “May the road rise to meet you” is proving popular too! And a new comer to the list is John Rutter with 3 items in the top 15 most popular catholic funeral songs. (I do love his music.)

The surprise was, that despite my dealings with many Catholic priests and what music they will (or won’t) allow in church, “Time to say Goodbye” comes in at number 6!

Check with your priest

I always tell families to check with their priest about music choices, as the parish priest has final say on the music choices that he feels are appropriate for his church. Very often most priests do not permit any music other than that which is religious to be sung in church.

However, the inclusion of “Time to say Goodbye” shows there are priests out there who are more lenient than other when it comes to family choices of music for funerals.

Admittedly, “Time to say Goodbye” is almost always sung as a recessional item. By this point, in effect, the Mass is finished and hence non-religious funeral music is permitted. It’s got a great tune and does make a good number to leave the church to, with its final, positive high note.

Top 10 Catholic funeral solos (or perhaps Top 15) from Singers for Funerals

  1. Ave Maria (Schubert)
  2. Pie Jesu (Lloyd Webber)
  3. The Lord is my shepherd (Goodall)
  4. Panis Angelicus
  5. Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod)
  6. Time to say goodbye
  7. I’ll walk with God
  8. Ave verum corpus
  9. May the road rise to meet you (Irish Blessing)
  10. All things bright and beautiful (John Rutter)
  11. Laudate dominum (Mozart)
  12. Sancte Deus (Nimrod, by Elgar)
  13. Our lady of Knock
  14. The Lord bless you and keep you (John Rutter)
  15. Pie Jesu (John Rutter)

Hymns we all love to sing

On the hymn front, there’s a real mix of types from the traditional “Soul of my saviour” and “Love divine, all loves excelling”: though to “On eagles’ wings” and “Hear I am, Lord”, aka “I, the Lord of sea and sky”. But what tops the list is “Amazing Grace”, a hymn written by English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton (1725–1807).

Newton was brought up as a Catholic but had Protestant sympathies. His mother was a devout Independent unaffiliated with the Anglican Church. Does this explain the hymn’s popularity with Catholics? Or is it more to do with familiarity?

The soloist’s favourite

Some of my favourite hymns are on the list including “This is my body”, perfect for the offertory procession. New to the list are “On eagle’s wings” a good hymn for communion and “May the choirs of angels” often sung when the coffin is blessed.

I’m also always happy to sing “Go silent friend”, sung to the tune of “Danny Boy”, aka the Londonderry Air. The words are very appropriate for a funeral, and the tune is lovely, lilting and known to most of us.

My absolute favourite on the list is “I watch the sunrise”. This  hymn is so soft and gentle, and expresses the emotions many of us are dealing with at a funeral.

Top 20 Catholic funeral hymns from Singers for Funerals

  1. Amazing grace
  2. The Lord is my shepherd (Crimond)
  3. I the Lord of sea and sky (here I am, Lord)
  4. Make me a channel of your peace
  5. How great thou art
  6. I watch the sunrise lighting the sky
  7. Abide with me
  8. Soul of my saviour
  9. May the choirs of angels come to greet you
  10. This is my body
  11. As I kneel before you
  12. Morning has broken
  13. On eagle’s wings
  14. The old rugged cross
  15. Go, silent friend
  16. Dear Lord and Father of mankind
  17. Going home
  18. Lord of all hopefulness
  19. Praise my soul the King of heaven
  20. Love divine, all loves excelling (Blaenwern)