CHOOSING SACRED MUSIC

Some families are too grief-stricken or overwhelmed with other matters to plan funeral music. In that case, our parish musicians and pastor can choose music that is personalized and prayerful.

This guide is set up in six parts:

  • Guidelines to selecting funeral music.
  • Responsorial Psalm listing.
  • Music selected most often.
  • Music selected less often.
  • Inappropriate sacred music.
  • Diocesan policy regarding popular, secular, favorite or recorded music.

Guidelines for selecting music

If you decide to choose funeral music, choose one psalm and about four to five other sacred pieces from the lists that follow. The organist or music director will place what you have chosen at the best time during the funeral Mass. Popular, favorite and recorded music may not be done at the funeral Mass (see section 4).

If you have chosen funeral music for a previous family death, you might be tempted to make the same choices again, especially for a spouse. We discourage this practice. Each person should be accorded individual honor and recognition. Though some pieces may be the same, family funerals should not be exact duplicates; the people we treasure deserve to be remembered individually.

Other sacred songs can be used during the prelude time while the assembly gathers. The funeral planner will help place the songs at the best times.

Music should be chosen for:

  • Gathering song.
  • Responsorial psalm (must be from the psalm list).
  • Song at the Preparation of the Gifts.
  • Communion song.
  • Closing song.

Responsorial Psalms

(Select at least one.)

Only a psalm from scripture may be chosen as the response to the first reading. Other psalms listed here may be chosen for other parts of the liturgy.

  • Because the Lord Is My Shepherd (Walker)
  • Happy Are They (Porter)
  • In Ev’ry Age (Whitaker)
  • The King of Love My Shepherd Is (Baker)
  • The Lord Is My Shepherd (Alstott)
  • The Lord Is My Shepherd (Wise)
  • My Shepherd Is The Lord (Gelineau)
  • O Lord, The Guardian of My Heart (Browning)
  • On Eagle’s Wings (Joncas) 
  • Shelter Me O God (Hurd)
  • Shepherd Me, O God (Haugen)
  • Shepherd of My Heart (O’Brien)
  • Show Us the Path of Life (Haugen)
  • This Alone (Manion)
  • To You, O Lord, I Lift My Soul (Haugen)
  • Valleys of Green (Schutte)
  • You Are Near (Schutte)
  • You Will Show Me the Path of Life (Haugen)

(See the videos below for these pieces)

Bless the Lord, My Soul

(Instrumental version / see lyrics below)

O bless the Lord who fills my soul, O bless God’s holy name
Remember all the many blessings,
God forgives and heals our wounds, crowning all with mercy.

Who satisfies us all with goodness, as long as we will live;
Renews our youth just like an eagle
Giving justice to the poor, granting peace forever.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, loving always.
God never haunts us when we falter,
Always healing, always near — giving us new freedom.

The steadfast love that is of God is here now and forever.
This covenant will be the promise,
If we serve and do God’s will. Bless the Lord, my soul.

Other choices for the psalm

I Long For You

I long for you O Lord; with all my soul, I thirst for you!
God, my God — it is you I seek; for you my soul is thirsting
Like a dry and weary land, my spirit longs for you.

I have sought your presence Lord, to see your power and glory.
Lord, your love means more than life; I will sing your praise.

Through the night I remember you, for you have been my savior.

In the shadow of your wings, I will shout for joy.

Just Like A Deer

When will I come to the end of my pilgrimage and enter the presence of God?
Just like a deer longs for the stream, so do I long for you my God.
My heart and soul are thirsting for you- longing for you, my God.

Music selected most often

  • Amazing Grace (Traditional)
  • Ave Maria (Schubert) *
  • Be Not Afraid (Dufford)
  • Come To Me, O Weary Traveler (Moore)
  • Covenant Hymn (Cooney)
  • Eye Has Not Seen (Haugen)
  • Hail Mary, Gentle Woman (Landry) *
  • Hallelujah (Cohen)
  • The Hand of God Shall Hold You (Haugen)
  • Hosea (Norbet)
  • How Can I Keep From Singing? (traditional)
  • I Am The Bread of Life (I Will Raise You Up) (Toolan)
  • I Know That My Redeemer Lives (Sopor)
  • I Will Never Forget You (Isaiah 49) (Landry)
  • Jerusalem, My Destiny (Cooney)
  • Let There Be Peace on Earth (Miller)
  • Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory (Battle Hymn of the Republic)
  • Non Ti Scordar (deCurtis)
  • Prayer of St. Francis (Temple)
  • Resta Con Noi (Italian Heritage Piece)
  • Songs of the Angels (Schutte)
  • Song of Farewell (Schutte)
  • There Are Many Rooms (Lawton)
  • When The Saints Come Marching In (traditional)
  • With A Shepherd’s Care (Chepponis)

The “Ave Maria” and “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” are the Latin and the English prayers of the Hail Mary. Both of these pieces are not appropriate at a funeral service. The funeral is not a devotion to Mary; it is a celebration of resurrection. So, if you choose one of these pieces, you may not also choose the other one. “

(See videos below for these pieces.)

Music selected less often

  • Come to Me (Joncas)
  • Come To Me (Norbet)
  • I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say (Traditional)
  • It Is Well With My Soul (Spafford/Bliss)
  • Journeys Ended, Journeys Begun (Norbet)
  • Just A Closer Walk With Thee (traditional)
  • Lights of the City (Murphey) ( I Can Almost See the Lights of the City)
  • Like A Shepherd (Dufford)
  • The Lord Is My Hope (Ridge)
  • The Love of the Lord (Joncas)
  • Only This I Want (Schutte)
  • Panis Angelicus (Franck)
  • Safety Harbor (Cooney)
  • Shall We Gather At The River (Traditional)
  • “Sing A New Song (Schutte)
  • Sing With All the Saints in Glory (Beethoven) (Joyful Joyful…)
  • This Day in New Jerusalem (Bessert)
  • These Alone Are Enough (Schutte)
  • We Shall Rise Again (Young)
  • We Walk By Faith (Haugen)

(See videos below for these pieces.)

The People of God

(No video available; lyrics below)

Come to me all who are burdened, come and rest in my love
Rejoice and be glad, your hope lies in heaven,
Your home with the people of God.

Inappropriate sacred music

  • “Here I Am, Lord” is a beautiful hymn; however, its lyrics reflect the call to ministry and service rather than the mystery of life, death and resurrection.
  • Seasonal songs for Christmas or Holy Week are not appropriate for funerals. They celebrate special moments of the Church year and not death and new life.

The following music by David Haas is not allowed at church liturgies in our diocese for the time being. The links are here for your personal prayer.

  • Blest Are They
  • Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled
  • The Guardian’s Farewell
  • I Know That My Redeemer Lives
  • In God Alone
  • Take Me Home
  • When Grief Is Raw
  • We Will Rise Again
  • You Are Mine

(See videos below for these pieces.)

Diocesan policy regarding popular,
secular, favorite or recorded music

“As in all liturgies, music is sung prayer and plays an integral role in the Funeral Mass. It allows us to express our faith, love and hope, drawing us closer in unity to our faith. While favorite songs that are popular or secular may hold special meaning to the deceased and the family, this type of music is not appropriate for the Mass nor is the use of recorded music.” (Guidelines for the Diocese of Syracuse)

Popular, secular, favorite and recorded music can highlight personal memories or reflect significant moments in relationships shared with the deceased. The funeral Mass celebrates much more than personal memories and relationships. It celebrates hope and resurrection. It is a time to commend the deceased person to God — to celebrate his or her homecoming, and to remember God’s promise never to abandon us.

Appropriate funeral music lyrics are based in scripture and are meant to celebrate the sacredness of life and death. The funeral is a time to strengthen the faith of those gathered, to know the consolation of the promise of eternal life and to experience the hope that comes from God’s love and welcoming embrace.

Popular, secular, favorite or recorded music is more appropriate for use during the wake, family private viewing, at the graveside, at funeral receptions, or during private times.

It is important to never diminish the power and sacred dignity of the funeral/memorial service in Church.

Secular music themes for wake services,
graveside or receptions

  • “Someone to Remember Me” — The lyrics speak of how deeply the deceased has affected your life and your own wishes to be remembered as well as he or she is being remembered.
  • “I’ll See You Again” — There is hope that you will see your loved one again who is gone but never forgotten; even though you did not have the right words while he/she was alive, your hope to see that person again sustains you now.
  • “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” — I long to experience your presence again; I seek the strength to say goodbye.
  • “The Prayer” (from the Disney movie “Quest for Camelot”) — This is a prayer for safety and guidance, a world free of violence but filled with justice, hope, peace, fraternity where every child can find love.
  • “To Where You Are” — Your cherished presence remains with me, even from above. The relationship of love we had together will live on.
  • “Time To Say Goodbye” (most lyrics in Italian) — You are with me when I am alone and without words; I desire to travel together with you to places that no longer exist.
  • “Jealous of the Angels” — The deceased person is now one of the angels; it is not our place to question God’s desire to have the deceased person close to God’s throne.
  • “You Raise Me Up” — Your presence brings me strength.
  • “Think of Me” — Remember me when you have the moments to do so after we have said our earthly goodbye.
  • “My Way” — I made my own rules, followed my own creed and lived my life fully as my own person.
  • “Over The Rainbow” — Life is better is another world.
  • “Wind Beneath My Wings” — Even though you walked in my shadow, you are my hero; you give me the strength and inspiration to raise me up.
  • “Tears in Heaven” — Would you know me and would our relationship continue in heaven? (This song says that you do not belong in heaven, contrary to what our faith tells us.)
  • “Angel” — The only comfort for the difficulties, darkness and destruction of this life is to be carried away by the arms of an angel.
  • “Que Sera Sera” — Throughout my life when I wondered about what would happen to me, my mother and sweetheart responded “whatever will be will be.”