In times of grief and mourning, it's expected that we turn to our faith for comfort. It comes as no surprise, then, that funerals for the faithful are almost always accompanied by readings from the Holy Bible for nearly every denomination of Christianity.
Roman Catholicism is no different, of course - in fact, as truly one of the oldest and most influential Christian denominations, Catholic Bible readings for funerals are so common that they're often simply considered a standard and accepted practice. There are a number of readings from the Bible that you may encounter if you attend a Catholic funeral; here are some of the most common and why.
Readings from the Old Testament
There are many excerpts from the Old Testament that are popular choices for Catholic funerals. One of the most appropriate is often from the Book of Ecclesiastes, more specifically Ecclesiastes 3:1-15. In fact, it's become such a part of Western culture that portions of the reading have entered high levels of recognition - if you've ever heard "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by the Byrds, then you're likely familiar with many of the words, as they are instantly recognizable:
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
Readings from the New Testament
As to be expected, readings from the New Testament are also quite common, though they might not have the same cultural recognition as Old Testament Catholic Bible readings for funerals. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all have wonderful passages that can be used during Catholic funeral masses, as well as passages from the Acts of the Apostles. The letters of Paul to the Romans are also popular as well. Here are a couple examples.
"Peter proceeded to speak and said, 'In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. You know the word (that) he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and (in) Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised (on) the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.'"
"For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous. The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
While You're Here - Did You Know?
One of the greatest gifts we can leave our loved ones is to remove the stress of planning a funeral for us.
Advanced planning allows you to select the details of your own funeral — from the type of burial to the inscription on your headstone — decades in advance. This benefits everyone by:
- Allowing you to tell your life story your way
- Saving years of inflation-related cost increases
Learn more about the gift of advance planning now.
- Sparing your family the stress of having to choose what you would have wanted and determining how to pay for it.
Choosing an Appropriate Passage
If you're tasked with planning the funeral of a loved one, it's important to have their funeral mass reflect their faith, as well as who they were as a person. If you know that your loved one had a favorite Bible passage, talk to your parish priest about whether it would be an appropriate choice for that passage to be read at their funeral. Your priest can also suggest alternatives that might fit better and that will still reflect both the deceased's faith and personality.
The process for choosing Bible passages for yourself is not much different, except that any discussions you have between yourself and your priest will likely be much more in-depth. Be sure to listen to your priest's opinions and consider their words carefully before making a decision together, and be sure to record the decision somewhere, such as in your own funeral planning documents. This way, those who you leave behind will have clear instructions on your wishes and will have the security of knowing that your decisions have been well thought out beforehand.
Funeral Planning — Now or for the Future
If you need to plan a funeral for someone now, the experts at PhilaelphiaCatholicCemeteries.com can help.
However, it is also worth considering planning your own funeral well in advance. This allows you time to decide the type of burial and details you would want to help tell your life story. You can begin paying for these items now, in today's cost, to avoid years or even decades of inflation. This helps in removing an extra level of stress from your loved ones during their time of grief. It also allows you to choose which Catholic Bible readings you would like at your own funeral. You can download a free planning guide for more information.