Diocesan News

Ask the Register: music at funerals?

Q. Recently a close family member died. We wanted an instrumental polka at the end of his funeral Mass as the deceased was a polka lover. The priest said no. We were hurt. Why could a polka not have been played?

A. I know many readers have faced the difficult task of planning funerals. The heartache is compounded when death is sudden, unexpected or tragic. The pain and grief just about tears your heart out. Thanks for asking a question which is pertinent to almost every family.

Having walked this journey with many parishioners and my own parents, I very much know how you want to make your loved one’s funeral personal and meaningful. At the same time, the Mass of Christian Burial is the funeral rites celebrated in the context of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist (Mass) is the very core of our belief – that ordinary bread and wine become Jesus’ very Body and Blood. Given that understanding and belief, the music which accompanies the Eucharist should be appropriate, lofty and sacred; whose words and melodies grandly represent the incredible mystery we partake in.

From my experience I think it is good for pastors to publish guidelines for funeral planning in their bulletins several times a year so people know what the Church asks regarding funerals and why.

This does not mean that non-sacred music cannot play a role in the remembrance of the dead – perhaps at the funeral home or at the cemetery. Just make sure the music is appropriate in context and lyrics to your Catholic sensibilities. For example, I have had a number of families ask for Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” or Frank Sinatra’s, “I Did It My Way” to be played at their loved one’s funeral. Personally, I think neither of these songs is appropriate at a Catholic funeral. Life should not be lived our way, but Jesus’ way.

Also, please don’t be angry at your priests. All the priests I know truly love their parishioners and want to help them through the pain of death, funeral and burial. By the way of a disclaimer, I love polka music.

This question was answered by a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln. Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.

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