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Valerie wrote:

Hi, guys —

My Grandmother was Catholic but rarely attended Sunday Mass. When she passed away this past February, the Funeral Director advised us that a funeral Mass was not an option nor could a priest preside at the funeral home for the funeral service there due to the fact that she was not a regular attendee at Mass. I understood this so an Anglican priest was put in charge of the funeral service.

We were pleased with his kind and understanding service but I have been feeling uneasy about how my Grandmother would have felt about the fact that he was an Anglican priest and not a Catholic priest.

  • How does this affect how her soul is going to be saved?

I should mention that she was given her final rights in the hospital by a Catholic priest, although she was more or less in a coma. I know that it is important to pray for her soul but I can't help but feel that I have let her down terribly.

Thank you for your time and advice.


  { How does the type of funeral service my mother had affect her soul and salvation? }

Eric replied:

Valerie —

I am sorry for your unfortunate experience. I can't vouch for whether the priest was within his rights to do what he did, but it certainly came across as pastorally insensitive.

How the funeral rites were conducted have no bearing on your grandmother's soul, with one possible exception: if a Catholic priest has celebrated the funeral, he probably would have offered the Mass for the repose of her soul. (I am not sure whether funeral Masses, if celebrated, are customarily offered for the deceased or not, but presumably they would be.)

In this situation, all you'd need to do to rectify the situation is to ask your local parish to offer a Mass for your grandmother (customarily a small stipend, probably no more than $15, is offered for this). That's a good idea anyway because it will benefit her soul immensely.


John replied:

Valerie —

Denying a Catholic a funeral Mass is something that is rarely done. Whether or not your grandmother attended Mass regularly [would or] should have no bearing on the subject.

If a person has been officially excommunicated, then I can see where a priest might refuse, but your grandmother received last rites which, presuming her disposition was right, would have put her back in right standing with the Church. In the these cases, the Church always gives the person the benefit of the doubt, relying always on God's Mercy and Grace.

This seems very strange. Were I in your position, I'd look into this further and perhaps contact your local bishop and report the matter.

Now, insofar as how this affects your grandmother's soul, always remember that we ultimately rely on the Mercy of God. God's Grace and Mercy can't be limited by the errors committed by Funeral Directors and local priests, so I wouldn't lose any sleep over how this affects your grandmother's salvation.

The Funeral Mass is an after the fact event. At that point, a soul has either decided for or against Christ. The Mass is more for the family's sake although it does have the benefit of being offered for the soul and therefore assists the soul in its final purification.

Nevertheless, you can have a Mass said for her anytime you want. You don't need the body there.
This is done all the time.


Mary Ann replied:

Valerie —

A agree with what my colleague Eric has said, but the stipend in the US is only $5, if one has it.

Please have a Mass said for the repose of her soul. That way you will be doing the best possible thing for her. The elderly are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass, so the priest was wrong to deny her services, unless she was under 65 and in good health.

Absent any particular public forswearing of the faith, she should have been given a Catholic service. The Funeral Director is not really the authority on this. It is sad that she did not receive a funeral Mass, but having a Mass said for her would help her and you. None of this affects her salvation — that is a question of the state of her soul in the light of God's Mercy at the end of her life.

God bless her and you.

— Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Mary Ann,

Stipends are set by the diocese. While $5 was common some years ago, I think in most places, it's now $10, and I've heard of places where it is $15.


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