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Anonymous Louise wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a Catholic with a question about funerals.

I am divorced and have one child, a son. My ex-husband and my son have not had a relationship since my divorce years ago. When I die, which could be soon, as I am in stage 4 of liver cirrhosis from medications to treat an autoimmune disease for years, I don't want a funeral because my son would be all alone, and I don't want to put him through that.

He has no brothers or sisters, does not speak to his father who left and remarried, and is not married. I don't want him to have to go through that by himself. I just want to be cremated and have my ashes buried in the cemetery.

  • Is this possible or are Catholics required to have a funeral?

Thank you.


  { Can I be cremated and have my ashes buried in the cemetery or are Catholics required to have a funeral? }

Eric replied:

Louise —

  • Have you consulted your son on this?

You don't say how old he is or whether he would be in charge of the arrangements. Funerals are more for the living than the dead. I don't think a funeral is required, but I'm not sure; perhaps my colleague Bob would know better.

I encourage you to talk to your pastor about this, who can answer your question for sure, and help you identify and work through any issues that may arise.


Bob replied:

Dear Louise,

Technically, a funeral is not obligatory, but it is highly encouraged.  Not only does it provide powerful prayers (nothing greater than Holy Mass), but it helps the grieving to move through the loss.

If the interaction between estranged family members is the primary driver of your fears, let it go.  It can be done discretely. If you so desire, talk to the funeral director in advance about that because they handle obituaries and public information.  

As far as being alone, your son would not be alone, if the funeral were done in a parish that merges it into the daily Mass, as mine does; so there is always a contingent of praying, compassionate people.

So have a few discussions with the relevant people, especially your son, so that his wishes are honored too.  Keep in mind, God can work great healing for the bereaved through this Christian rite; don't sell it short before you have worked this through.


Bob Kirby

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