The Memorial Service Guide

In a normal sized Memorial Service there will be a Priest, who can be either gender. There is no need for an altar as the service is non-eucharistic. A Priest or Minister will say some words to invite personal reflection and then lead the congregation in prayers. Memorial Services are often used when somebody opts for cremation of the deceased.
There will be many opportunities to light candles – at least three sets of these are usually present. It is normal to light one candle for the deceased person, then others for those who are grieving or in some way affected by the death. There may also be candles lit in memory of other people’s loved ones.
Candles will often be placed at the foot of an image on which a cross is pre-fixed, such as a crucifix. In some churches, candles are also placed at the foot of an empty cross.
Candles will be lit from left to right, then from right to left – this is usually explained by the Priest or Minister before the service begins.
In some areas it is traditional for a lighted candle to be passed around so that each person can hold it for a short while before passing it on to the next person. This may be accompanied by silence, or meditative music.
In some traditions a candle will remain burning at the altar after the service. In others, no candles are ever left alight in perpetuity and throughout Catholic tradition, care should be taken with candles in churches.
Although the music is very important, it is not usually sung by the congregation. The service will last for about 30-40 minutes, but this will vary depending on the length of the addresses etc.
A Memorial Service has no eulogy or sermon; speak directly to me before or after Mass (or email), to decide what you would like to say.
I am aware that some people do not speak at a Memorial Service – it is fine if this is your preference – but I will be very happy if you feel able to share something with the congregation.
The words spoken during a Memorial Service may be used in a Celebration of the life later on, or at a Service of Thanksgiving.
Every Memorial Service is unique. The best way to find out what to expect at one, is to attend another first! There are several opportunities during the service for people who knew them to pay their respects and remember how special that person was.