As for hymns, most dioceses include in their guidelines a provision that only liturgical music be used at a funeral.
Q. I would like to know who sets the guidelines for scriptural readings and hymns at a funeral Mass. I have written out a list of readings and hymns that I would like to have used at my own funeral. Do the families have the final word, or does each diocese and parish make its own rules? (Winchester, Virginia)
A. The Order of Christian Funerals, which is the church's official text and "rulebook" in such matters, lists a wide variety of scriptural readings from which a family may choose.
There are 19 different Gospel texts, 19 others from the New Testament and seven Old Testament passages. There is also a provision (No. 344) that says, "As a general rule, all corresponding texts from sacred Scripture in the funeral rite are interchangeable," which I have always taken to mean that families may choose alternate biblical passages beyond those specifically listed.
As for hymns, most dioceses include in their guidelines a provision that only liturgical music be used at a funeral. (This helps to forestall requests -- though they still come -- to use the deceased's college fight song or the ballad to which the deceased and her husband danced at their wedding!)
Many dioceses also specifically encourage music that highlights not just the sorrow of loss but the promise of eternal joy with the Lord. Particular parishes may have their own guidelines as well: Some, for example, specify that music be chosen from their parish hymnal so as to encourage congregational singing at the Mass.
What you might want to do in your own case is to show your selections to your parish priest or musician and get their view in advance.
Q. I am a Catholic who will be marrying a Methodist (baptized and confirmed) who now attends a Christian church. We have decided to have her Christian pastor marry us at a "neutral" venue outside of either faith's church.
However, it is still very important to my family and to me to receive the blessing of the Catholic Church on this marriage. What options do we have to receive that blessing? Also, are Catholic pre-Cana classes required, or will the pre-marriage class that her Christian church offers cover us? (Chicago)
A. It's even better than you think. Not only can you have your marriage blessed by the Catholic Church, but you may not even need a separate ceremony to do that. Instead, it's likely that your upcoming wedding, just as you have planned it, can be recognized by the church as a valid marriage ceremony -- provided that you take the proper steps.
This would involve meeting with a Catholic priest and filling out the necessary paperwork. (He will ask whether either party has ever been married before, whether both parties recognize this to be a permanent commitment, etc.)
The priest will then submit those forms to your local diocese, requesting permission for you to be married by the Christian pastor in an other-than-Catholic setting.
In the course of your discussion, the priest will ask your intentions regarding the religion of children.
The current law (as reflected in Canon 1125 of the church's Code of Canon Law) is that you, as the Catholic party, must pledge to continue to be faithful to your own religion and to do all that you can to see that any children are baptized and raised as Catholic. (The non-Catholic party, your wife-to-be, does not have to promise anything but is simply made aware of the commitment that you have indicated.)
As to whether the Christian pre-marriage classes can fulfill the Catholic pre-Cana requirement, you should ask that of the priest since there might be local guidelines of which I am unaware.
It would seem to me, though, that the specifically Catholic parts (the theology and moral teachings regarding marriage) might be covered by the priest in his conversations with you and your fiancee and that the bulk of the pre-Cana material (conflict resolution, finances, etc.) could be covered by the Christian classes.
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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St. Albany, N.Y. 12208.
Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service