When A Loved One Dies

The death of a loved one can be a soul-wrenching experience. Through the sacred rituals and traditions of the Church, the St. Malachy's community embraces the family of the deceased with compassion and grace. This difficult and vulnerable experience leaves one yearning to understand the loss of a loved one and carry on with their lives. By invoking our Christian faith and giving due honor to the deceased also brings comfort to those who grieve. The principal Catholic ritual on behalf of the deceased is the Funeral Mass which concludes with the prayers of Final Commendation.

Why is the Funeral Mass so important?

Central to our faith is the proclamation that Jesus suffered, died, was buried and rose from the dead. He passed through death into eternal glory with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. We firmly believe that all who are baptized in Jesus and profess faith in him by word and deed are claimed by him. Whether in life or death, we belong to Christ. Death is not the final word for us. We reaffirm these truths at every Eucharist and in particular at the Funeral Mass. These truths in faith give us hope and consolation in the face of death. However, we cannot deny the grief we feel at the loss of someone we love. Even Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Through the wake, funeral Mass, and final commendation, our sadness and grief are tempered by our confidence that the one we love now rests in the peace of Jesus Christ.

Practical Considerations

The family should inform the funeral home director of the intention to have a Funeral Mass for the deceased. The funeral home director will contact the Parish to arrange the details. A priest from the Parish will normally come on the last evening of the wake to offer a brief prayer service to commend the deceased to God. Graveside services are normally provided through the cemetery staff. The funeral home director will also assist in these arrangements.

Music at the Liturgy

All music at a Funeral Mass must be of a sacred character and reflect our belief in the saving power of Jesus Christ and the mercy and compassion of God. An organist and cantor are provided for each Funeral Mass and the parish Director of Music determines the appropriateness of any requests for special pieces of music. Arrangements for non-staff musicians or singers must be made through the music department and entail additional cost. Contact the Director of Music at 212-489-1340 or email


First Preference: Funeral rites with the Body present

The Catholic Church prefers that the body of the deceased be present for the Vigil Service. In addition, the body of the deceased should be brought to the local parish church for the Funeral Mass. The Rite of Committal of the body normally takes place at the cemetery although the committal can be done at the end of the Funeral Mass. The body of the deceased is to be interred, either in the ground or in a crypt following the Funeral Mass.

Second Preference: Funeral rites with the body present and cremation afterwards

If the choice to cremate a body has been made, the Church recommends that the cremation take place after the Funeral Liturgy. In this case, the Vigil for the Deceased and related rites and prayers should be celebrated in the presence of the body. Then, the body should be brought to the parish church for the Funeral Liturgy with cremation taking place afterwards. After cremation of the body, the cremated remains should be committed for burial according to the Order of Christian Funerals. The cremated remains should be treated with the same respect given to the human body. Therefore, they should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium (but not a common/communal columbarium). This is the reverent disposition of the cremated remains that the Church requires.

Third Preference: Funeral rites with the cremated remains present.

The Catholic Church does allow the celebration of the Funeral Liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains of the deceased, but it is considered the least desirable choice. The Church strongly prefers that the body of the deceased be present for its funeral rites since the presence of the body clearly recalls the life and death of the person. For several reasons someone may choose cremation first. When this happens, the Vigil for the deceased may be celebrated in the presence of the cremated remains. Likewise, the cremated remains may be brought to church for the celebration of the Funeral Mass and then buried properly.


The funeral director will normally be allowed to bring floral arrangements into the church. The placement and number of floral arrangement in the sanctuary is limited. Any further inquiries should be directed to the priest celebrant or sacristan for the Funeral Mass. Flowers are not permitted in Church during the Lenten season.