Requiem Masses

Could you please answer the following questions about Requiem Masses (RMs) as I find the rules (rubrics) confusing? I believe that there are three grades or classes of RMs: First, Second, and Third.

My understanding is that a First Class RM is the Funeral Mass. It is a deceased person’s funeral. There can only be one First Class RM for any one person. Is this correct?

Second Class RMs I am less sure about. I believe there can be one when the news of a person’s death is announced. There can be one on the day of Final Burial, which I presume would only occur if the person’s mortal remains where finally disposed of on a different day from their funeral. I also understand that Second Class RMs can be celebrated on the first anniversary of a person’s death. How many Second Class RMs can a person have and when can they be celebrated?

Third Class RMs can I think be celebrated on the second and subsequent anniversaries of a person’s death. Can any other Third Class RMs be celebrated?

I am too young to know the pre-Vatican II liturgy but I believe there was what was known as the Daily Mass of the Dead. What was this Mass? Is it still permitted? If yes, when and how is it used?

I know there is a Table of Rubrics which states on which days RMs of various classes (and Votive Masses of various classes) are permitted. What happens if the anniversary of a person’s death falls on a day when the RM of appropriate class is prohibited? Perhaps if this happened once this RM would not be celebrated. What happens if it is permanently impeded, can it be observed on another day?

I believe that I am also correct in thinking that any Mass can be applied for the intention of any person, living or dead and that if it is applied for the intention of a dead person it is not a Requiem Mass. So, what makes a Mass a Requiem Mass?

Finally, I’d like to clarify what colour of vestments can be used at RMs. I live in England and I believe it’s important for you to know that to answer my question because the rules I think can differ from country to country. In England, I think we can use black, violet, or white vestments. The choice I also believe should be discussed with the family and not be the sole choice of the priest. If no compromise can be reached then the colour used should be violet.

White I understand is appropriate for children, women consecrated to a life of virginity, female religious, and during the Easter season.

Violet is used for adults, other than those mentioned above, outside Easter but white can be used for all funerals to celebrate the person’s life and our hope in the Resurrection.

Black may legitimately be used and may be appropriate during Lent. Black I believe should be avoided during the Easter season and for children, consecrated virgins and female religious.

Does the use of these colours apply to all RMs? I think I read somewhere, although I cannot remember where, that at Third Class RMs the liturgical colour used should be that of the occurring liturgical day.

Could you clarify which “form” of the Mass you are asking about, please? (i.e. the 1962 and earlier Latin liturgy, or the post-1970 liturgy). Some part sof your post lead me to think it is the former, and other parts, the latter.

I am referring to the, for want of putting it another way, the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI, which I believe is currently in its 2nd edition in the vernacular, although in its 3rd edition in Latin. Or, to put it another way I mean what is nowadays sometimes called the Ordinary Form. I hope this clarifies my question.

ETA: whoops, I already started replying with respect to both forms…disregard the un-needful.

Strictly speaking, the revised liturgy after 1970 does not use this type of classification, but yes, they are broadly divided into 3 categories.

According to the 1962 books, there are 4 categories - I, II, III and IV Class. The pre-1962 classification is a bit more complex - I can go into it if you are interested, but it is academic significance only, since those rubrics are not followed.

My understanding is that a First Class RM is the Funeral Mass. It is a deceased person’s funeral. There can only be one First Class RM for any one person. Is this correct?

Yes, for both forms.

Second Class RMs I am less sure about. I believe there can be one when the (1) news of a person’s death is announced. There can be one (2) on the day of Final Burial, which I presume would only occur if the person’s mortal remains where finally disposed of on a different day from their funeral. I also understand that Second Class RMs can be celebrated on the (3) first anniversary of a person’s death. How many Second Class RMs can a person have and when can they be celebrated?

This is where the two forms differ.

The post 1970 system groups all the categories you have mentioned together.
The 1962 system puts 3 things as II Class Masses - (1), (2) and another Mass “pro die obitus”. The anniversary Mass is considered as a III Class Mass.

A Mass “pro die obitus” is a Mass celebrated from the time a person dies to the time he/she is buried. This is/was especially customary for high ranking clergy and secular leaders, for whom Mass was/is often offered when the body is placed for public/semi-public/private viewing.

A priest may say as many Masses “pro die obitus” as he wishes, respecting the law on how many Masses can be offered in a day. So the number of Masses “pro die obitus” depends on the number of priests and the number of Masses each of them offer. Thus if 6 priests visited the residence of a deceased cardinal to pay their respects, and each of them wanted to offer a Mass, that would be 6 Masses a day. Multiplied by how many days until the cardinal is buried.

This Mass can only be offered in the house where the body is, or a church/oratory connected in some way with the death (e.g. the place of viewing, the funeral, the burial, etc.)

The Mass at the news of death may only be celebrated once by a particular priest. So if you knew 10 priests, and when you died and they were informed, they all decided to celebrate a Mass for you, that would be 10 Masses. But they could not celebrate this Mass for you again. This Mass can be celebrated in any church or oratory.

There can only be one Mass of burial by one priest.

When I speak of a priest for all the cases above, I mean basically one celebration. So there can be concelebrants.

Third Class RMs can I think be celebrated on the second and subsequent anniversaries of a person’s death. Can any other Third Class RMs be celebrated?

The post 1970 liturgy groups several Masses for the Dead into the third category. Masses for subsequent anniversaries after the first, daily Masses for the dead, Masses for pious foundations or cemetary chapels**, Masses to keep pious customs (like a Mass on the 3rd, 7th and 30th day after burial). All these may only be celebrated on weekdays in Ordinary Time if no obligatory memorial or higher liturgical celebration (feast, Solemnity, Sunday, etc.) occur.

The 1962 liturgy does not distinguish between the first and the subsequent anniversaries. All are grouped into the category of III Class, along with Masses on the 3rd, 7th and 30th day after death (actually from the burial) and Masses celebrated in cemetery chapels, etc.

IV Class Masses in the 1962 liturgy is the daily Mass (quotidianae) for the dead.

** Sometimes these places have special indults that allow them to celebrate Masses for the Dead more frequently. In addition, the CDW has ruled that the Masses for the Dead may be regulated in the same way as Votive Masses which means that the priest celebrant can use it on more days for reasons of pastoral advantage, and the diocesan bishop can give permission for it to be celebrated on even higher ranked days.

I am too young to know the pre-Vatican II liturgy but I believe there was what was known as the Daily Mass of the Dead. What was this Mass? Is it still permitted? If yes, when and how is it used?

Yes, as above. The daily Mass for the dead is like a Votive Mass. During Ordinary Time (“after Epiphany” and “after Pentecost” in the 1962 liturgy), the Mass of the day is, as a rule, taken from the previous Sunday. If a saint occurs, then the Mass is taken from the Common/Proper of Saints. The daily Mass for the Dead is simply a Mass that uses the texts for the Dead instead of using the previous Sunday’s or the saints.

In the post 1970 liturgy, the daily Mass for the dead may be celebrated on a weekday in Ordinary Time on which no obligatory memorial occurs.
In the 1962 liturgy, it may be celebrated in the weekdays “after Epiphany” and “after Pentecost” when no saint’s feast occurs.

I know there is a Table of Rubrics which states on which days RMs of various classes (and Votive Masses of various classes) are permitted. What happens if the anniversary of a person’s death falls on a day when the RM of appropriate class is prohibited? Perhaps if this happened once this RM would not be celebrated. What happens if it is permanently impeded, can it be observed on another day?

Yes, it may be transferred to the next free day that it can outrank. The question only arises for the first anniversary Mass. Subsequent anniversary Masses are ranked so low that they may be celebrated whenever a daily Mass of the dead can be celebrated. So, for example, if a saint’s obligatory memorial perpetually impeded your relative’s death anniversary, you could select any of the other OT weekdays/optional memorials and offer a Mass for the Dead that day. It does not matter because anniversary Masses and daily Masses for the Dead are treated in the same way.

In the 1962 liturgy, the anniversary Mass can be transferred to another day that does not impede it; it may be perpetually transferred,

I believe that I am also correct in thinking that any Mass can be applied for the intention of any person, living or dead and that if it is applied for the intention of a dead person it is not a Requiem Mass. So, what makes a Mass a Requiem Mass?

The word is technically not used in the rubrics - it is more colloquial. Both the 1962 and post 1970 missals call them “Masses for the Dead” (Missa Defunctorum). “Requiem” is applied in the 1962 rubrics, but not in the colloquial sense.

A Mass that uses the variable prayers of Mass for the Dead is regarded as being a “Requiem Mass”. This is the Entrance Antiphon, Opening Prayer, Prayer over the Gifts, Communion antiphon, Prayer after Communion.

The post 1970 liturgy does admit the possibility though, of only the Opening Prayer being from the Mass for the Dead (the priest has a WIDE choice of Opening Prayers on weekdays) and the rest being from the liturgy of the weekday (previous Sunday) .

Finally, I’d like to clarify what colour of vestments can be used at RMs. I live in England and I believe it’s important for you to know that to answer my question because the rules I think can differ from country to country. In England, I think we can use black, violet, or white vestments. The choice I also believe should be discussed with the family and not be the sole choice of the priest. If no compromise can be reached then the colour used should be violet.

White I understand is appropriate for children, women consecrated to a life of virginity, female religious, and during the Easter season.

Violet is used for adults, other than those mentioned above, outside Easter but white can be used for all funerals to celebrate the person’s life and our hope in the Resurrection.

Black may legitimately be used and may be appropriate during Lent. Black I believe should be avoided during the Easter season and for children, consecrated virgins and female religious.

Does the use of these colours apply to all RMs? I think I read somewhere, although I cannot remember where, that at Third Class RMs the liturgical colour used should be that of the occurring liturgical day.

In both the post 1970 and 1962 liturgies, white is always used for baptized children who have died. The 1962 missal not not have a Mass for such children and it is forbidden to offer the Requiem. Another Mass such as the Votive Mass of the Angels is used. The 1970 does have such a Mass, but it does not pray for the soul of the child (who is in heaven).

For all other Masses:

  • in the post 1970 liturgy, priests may use any colour that is allowed for Masses for the Dead. In England and Wales, this is white, violet or black. This is not regulated by the state or age of the person, or the liturgical season. It is the choice of the priest (which MAY be influenced by the wishes of the family/deceased)

  • in the 1962 liturgy, black is uniformly used for all persons. Violet could only be used if a Mass was celebrated where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. This type of Mass is no longer permitted.

For Votive Masses, in the 1970 missal, it is allowed to use the colour of the day. While the CDW has declared that rubrically Masses for the Dead can be treated like Votive Masses, I am unsure whether this also applies to the colour the Mass is celebrated in. If the priest takes only the Opening Prayer from the Mass for the Dead, then yes he may celebrate in green, but if not, I am not sure.

Thank you for the information AJV. Although as you say it’s ‘academic’ I would like to know what the old rules for Requiem Masses were.

Thanks again, MH

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Just ot be clear: the 1961 rules I gave above are the ‘old’ rules for the Latin Mass.

However there are older rules- which ones would you like? 1956, 1953, 1933, 1919, 1903/8, 1889, before 1889?

None of the above, thank you! I must have misread your previous posts. I thought you said you would provide the old rules and it was my understanding that you would provide the rules that were the ones in use at the time the liturgy was revised following Vatican II. But, in your most recent post you say you’ve already given me the 1961 rules (I assume these were the most recent ones prior to Vatican II).

Regards, MH

For want of a better way of expressing it I think I got my “colour scheme” based on what I read some considerable time ago in Msgr Peter Elliott’s book Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite. I believe he suggested that it would be pastorally sensitive for the priest to allow the family to choose the colour, e.g. if the priest insisted on white the family may feel he’s not respecting their grief; to insist on black may be insensitive if the family saw the funeral as a celebration of their loved one’s life. I think he also suggested that black would be inappropriate during the Easter Season. I am of course relying totally on memory. I know I still have the book but do not know where it is. I do not recall where I read that white was appropriate to use at the funeral of say a female religious.

Thank you anyway for the previous posts. It is not as complicated as I thought it was.

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