Music plays a significant role in funeral liturgies. The ideal Catholic funeral songs can serve as a means of prayer, reflection, and emotional support for those gathered to remember, grieve, and celebrate the life of a loved one.
Great music can have a powerful emotional impact on mourners. The best funeral songs offer solace and support to the grieving family while personalizing the service with the departed one’s favorite musical selections.
As you consider the beautiful hymns and songs in the following list, remember that both the music and the lyrics will convey something about your loved one to those who attend the funeral.
Give careful attention to the texts of the songs. Let the words shape your choice of music to celebrate your loved one.
At the same time, the music itself should convey the emotional range and depth of feeling you want to convey.
Timeless Catholic Funeral Songs
To help you decide, we’ve curated a list of the 50 greatest, most popular, most requested, and most beloved sacred music for the funeral liturgy.
These include congregational hymns and soloist songs that resonate with the decedent’s life and faith, while also following the guidance provided by the Catholic Church regarding the selection of music for the Catholic Funeral Mass.
1. Ave Maria – Franz Schubert
“Ave Maria” by Franz Schubert is a timeless and poignant song often chosen to accompany moments of solemnity, making it the ideal choice for a Catholic funeral.
The iconic piece is based on the traditional Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary, and exudes a sense of deep reverence and solace. The delicate blend of melodies and harmonies creates an atmosphere of peaceful reflection.
2. Hallelujah (from “Messiah”) – George Frideric Handel
The “Hallelujah” chorus from George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” is a powerful work of art. This majestic composition combines grandeur and reverence, invoking a sense of awe and spiritual transcendence.
With its soaring melodies and triumphant chorus, Handel’s most famous piece pays homage to the glory and majesty of God, offering solace and hope to those mourning the loss of a loved one. “Hallelujah” is a stirring choice, one that honors tradition and brings a sense of comfort and peace during a funeral service.
3. In Paradisum – Gabriel Fauré
“In Paradisum” by Gabriel Fauré is a serene and contemplative work that holds a significant place in the Catholic Mass.
Often performed as the final movement of Fauré’s Requiem, the tune evokes a sense of serenity, providing a sacred and comforting atmosphere as a fitting tribute to honor the life of the deceased.
4. On Eagle’s Wings – Michael Joncas
“On Eagle’s Wings” by Michael Joncas holds special significance in times of loss and mourning. Its comforting lyrics and soothing melody evoke a sense of divine protection and solace. The modern hymn reminds us of God’s unwavering presence, offering reassurance and hope as we navigate the journey of grief.
With its heartfelt message adapted from Psalm 91, “On Eagle’s Wings” has become a beloved choice for honoring the memory of a loved one and finding strength in the embrace of faith.
5. How Great Thou Art – Carl Gustav Boberg
“How Great Thou Art” by Carl Gustav Boberg is ideal for a Catholic memorial service due to its profound reverence for God’s creation, its universal appeal and recognition among different Christian denominations, and its ability to foster a sense of collective worship and reflection.
The hymn’s reflective and worshipful tone offers comfort, solace, and a reminder of God’s greatness during the grieving process.
6. Panis Angelicus – César Franck
César Franck’s Panis Angelicus is often chosen for Catholic funeral rites due to its sacred and reverent nature. The Latin text, traditionally attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, speaks of the “Bread of Angels” and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
This hymn beautifully expresses the Catholic belief in the Real Presence and offers comfort and spiritual reflection during a memorial service, emphasizing the significance of Christ’s sacrifice and providing a sense of solace to those in mourning.
7. Ave Verum Corpus – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“Ave Verum Corpus” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a short choral masterpiece that holds deep significance, always a top choice for Catholic funeral music.
Written in Latin, the hymn praises and venerates the body of Christ, emphasizing the profound mystery of the Eucharist.
8. I Am the Bread of Life – Suzanne Toolan
“I Am the Bread of Life” by Suzanne Toolan offers a message of comfort to those mourning the loss of a loved one. Inspired by Jesus’ words in John 6:35, the Catholic funeral song speaks to the eternal nourishment found in Christ and His promise of resurrection.
This hymn resonates with the spirit of hope and reminds mourners of the presence of Christ even in times of loss and grief.
9. You Are Mine – David Haas
“You Are Mine” by David Haas is ideal for a memorial service due to its comforting and reassuring message of God’s unconditional love. The lyrics offer solace and hope, reminding mourners that they are cherished and held by God.
One of the lesser-known music selections for memorial services, “You Are Mine” is a meaningful Christian hymn for a time of loss and grief.
10. Precious Lord, Take My Hand – Thomas A. Dorsey
“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” is a cherished hymn for those seeking God’s guidance, strength, and comfort in times of sorrow and loss. The timeless lyrics reaffirm the listener’s faith in the presence of God throughout this life’s journey and beyond.
11. Time to Say Goodbye – Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bocelli
While there are some reports of priests who do not want this song played or performed during the funeral Mass, for the most part it is an acceptable and truly meaningful choice. Just remember to speak with the parish priest beforehand.
12. Here I Am, Lord – Dan Schutte
“Here I Am, Lord” is a modern Catholic hymn based on Samuel’s response to God’s call in 1 Samuel 3:1-10 and Isaiah’s answer to the Lord’s commission in Isaiah 6:8. Ideal for use as an offertory hymn, Dan Schutte’s contemplative hymn has become a favorite at funerals.
13. All Things Bright and Beautiful – John Rutter
While “All Things Bright and Beautiful” is a beloved tune that celebrates the beauty of God’s creation, it may not be the most typical choice for a Catholic funeral mass. This hymn is more commonly associated with joyful occasions and is often sung in praise of God’s creation during regular worship services.
However, in recent years John Rutter’s gorgeous version has become a popular choice for funerals, perhaps coinciding with the rise of considering the funeral to be a “celebration of life.”
14. Sing with All the Saints in Glory – William J. Irons
“Sing with All the Saints in Glory” is a joyful hymn that celebrates the eternal glory and triumph of the saints. The spirited lyrics embody the hope and assurance found in the Christian belief in the resurrection and eternal life. This hymn is often included in liturgical celebrations, including the Order of Christian Funerals.
15. Amazing Grace – John Newton
While “Amazing Grace” is not a traditional Catholic hymn, it holds great universal appeal and spiritual significance for many individuals, including Catholics.
The song’s powerful lyrics and moving melody resonate with individuals on a deep, personal level, regardless of their religious affiliation. It speaks to themes of redemption, grace, and finding solace in the face of adversity, which can provide comfort during times of loss.
It’s important to note that while “Amazing Grace” is not part of the official Catholic liturgy, the Church recognizes the song’s spiritual value and often permits its inclusion in Catholic funeral or memorial services.
16. Gift of Finest Wheat – John Michael Talbot
“Gift of Finest Wheat” by John Michael Talbot is a communion hymn that draws its imagery from Psalm 81:16. The song emphasizes God’s abundant provision and nourishment for His people, using the metaphor of wheat to symbolize the Eucharist
17. I Know That My Redeemer Lives – Samuel Medley
The lyrics from this 1775 hymn are taken from Job 19:25-27, where the suffering Job affirms his faith in God as his redeemer and makes perhaps the earliest affirmation in Scripture of the hope of the resurrection.
As the words of this gospel song proclaim, “I know that my Redeemer lives – What comfort this sweet sentence gives!”
18. Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) – Traditional
The Salve Regina, also known as “Hail Holy Queen,” is frequently used at the end of the Catholic funeral liturgy.
The traditional Marian hymn is often chosen because of its comforting and reverent tone, which helps it serve both as a source of solace for the grieving family and as a prayer for the deceased.
Regularly ranked among the best Catholic funeral songs, the Salve Regina is a meaningful choice for a memorial.
19. Pie Jesu – Gabriel Fauré
Fauré’s “Pie Jesu,” which means “merciful Jesus,” is one of the most lovely segments of the Latin Requiem Mass. The words focus on seeking mercy and eternal rest for the departed, making it a popular choice for funeral services.
20. Ubi Caritas – Audrey Assad
The Latin text of this ancient song speaks of love, charity, and the presence of the Holy One.
Audrey Assad’s contemplative version fosters a sense of comfort and unity, reminding listeners of the importance of love and the promise of Christ’s presence among those who love and fear him.
21. Holy God, We Praise Thy Name – Ignaz Franz
“Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” by Ignaz Franz is a cherished paraphrase of the traditional Latin Te Deum. Both pieces hold a place of significance in Catholic liturgical traditions, especially during funerals.
Franz’s slightly more modern version is in a singable hymn style, making it ideal for congregational use.
22. O God, Our Help in Ages Past – Isaac Watts
This classic hymn, with lyrics based on Psalm 90 and a tune adapted from Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, proclaims that God is our help not only in ages past, but also in the age to come.
The timeless message paired with a fitting melody has made this not only one of the world’s most popular hymns, but also one frequently used at funerals across denominations.
23. Be Still, My Soul – Catharina von Schlegel, Jean Sibelius
Comforting lyrics explore the meaning of Psalm 46:10, in which God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
The third verse is especially poignant for a memorial service:
Be still, my soul; when dearest friends depart
and all is darkened in the vale of tears,
then you will better know his love, his heart,
who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears.
Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay
from his own fullness all he takes away.
24. Jerusalem My Happy Home – F.B.P.
These lyrics express so well what every mourner feels in the longing to be with the Lord: “Jerusalem, my happy home, when shall I come to thee?”
The gentle melody pairs perfectly with the hymn text, making it a classic choice for congregational singing at the funeral.
25. Shepherd Me, O God – Marty Haugen
One of the newest songs on this list, Marty Haugen’s version of Psalm 23 is somehow haunting and comforting at the same time.
Minor chords emphasize a folk-style melody in a prayer for God’s guidance and gently shepherding hand in the midst of the valley and trials of life.
More Catholic Funeral Songs
Here are more beloved and frequently requested songs suitable for the Catholic funeral Mass.
As with several of the selections above, this list includes hymns written by Protestant authors. However these songs have a long history of being accepted across Christian denominations and have been sung and used in the Catholic Church.
- The King of Love My Shepherd Is by Henry Baker
- Dies Israe (Traditional)
- Lift High the Cross by George Kitchin
- Shelter Me, O God by Bob Hurd
- Day by Day by Carolina Sandell
- Abide with Me by Henry Francis Lyte
- For All the Saints by William Walsham How
- Kyrie Eleison (Traditional)
- O Sacred Head Surrounded by Bernard of Clairvaux
- All Creatures of Our God and King by St. Francis of Assisi
- Come, Holy Ghost (Traditional)
- Make Me a Channel of Your Peace by Sebastian Temple
- Lift Up Your Hearts by Roc O’Connor
- Come to Me by Gregory Norbet
- Holy, Holy, Holy by Reginald Heber
- I Will Choose Christ by Tom Booth
- Eye Has Not Seen by Marty Haugen
- Tantum Ergo (Traditional)
- Blest Are They by David Haas
- Now We Remain by David Haas
- Lord of All Hopefulness by Jan Struther
- Soul of My Savior by Jean-Baptiste Gounod
- City of God by Dan Schutte
- When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts
- There Is a Balm in Gilead (Traditional)
- Hail Mary, Gentle Woman by Carey Landry
- Love Divine, All Loves Excelling by Charles Wesley
- O Salutaris Hostia (Traditional)
- Softly and Tenderly by Will L. Thompson
- I Am the Bread of Life by Steve Angrisano
- Prayer of St. Francis by Sebastian Temple
How many songs do you need for a Catholic funeral Mass?
Catholic funerals may have up to five songs: an Entrance Hymn, a Responsorial Psalm, an Offertory Song, a Communion Song, and a Song of Farewell.
These songs are noted in bold in the service order outlined below.
What happens during a Catholic funeral service?
In the Catholic Church, a funeral takes place in the context of liturgy, either Mass or a Liturgy of the Word. Therefore the funeral service should take place in the church, typically with the body present in a casket or cremation urn.
The funeral service can include:
- Processional (Entrance Hymn)
- Lighting of the Paschal Candle
- Sprinkling of the decedent’s body
- Placing a pall over the casket
- Scripture reading(s) (Responsorial Psalm)
- Funeral homily
- Bidding prayers (prayers of the faithful)
- Preparation of gifts (Offertory Song)
- Holy Communion (if the funeral is a Mass) (Communion Song)
- Recessional (Song of Farewell)
- Committal to a final resting place
- Reception or wake
Why is “Danny Boy” banned from Mass?
Despite the claim from Wikipedia, “Danny Boy” is not universally banned from Catholic Mass. However, it is worth noting that the music selection for Mass is subject to the guidelines and preferences set by the local diocese or the specific priest presiding over the Mass.
The primary consideration for music during Mass is to ensure that it aligns with the liturgical setting and reflects the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church.
What are the most played Catholic funeral songs?
The most popular songs at Catholic funerals appear to be Ave Maria, Amazing Grace, and Danny Boy.
Though common at Catholic masses, Amazing Grace is a Protestant hymn (written by the Anglican clergyman John Newton) and Danny Boy is considered secular (as opposed to sacred) music.
Ave Maria was written by Franz Schubert, who was baptized as a Catholic and retained his association with the Roman Church throughout his life, writing many sacred and liturgical pieces.
Therefore, out of the three most popular hymns, Ave Maria is perhaps the most played and most appropriate song for a Catholic funeral service.
Can you play secular music at a Catholic funeral?
Secular music is not permitted during religious services of the church, including the funeral Mass.
Popular secular songs, even those that were the favorites of the decedent, should be saved for other memorial gatherings. Consider using your loved one’s favorite popular songs for a memorial slideshow at the reception, or on a playlist at an informal life celebration.