Best Catholic Funeral Songs & Hymns

Finding a proper song for a funeral can be hard, to say the least. Funerals take considerable emotional energy at the best of times, and not everyone feels up to wading through music selections.

With that in mind, here are some of what we consider the best catholic funeral songs and hymns for trying times.

“Ave Maria” by Luciano Pavarotti

Song year: 1994

One of the most common songs for a funeral is “Ave Maria.”

The closing injunction to pray for us when we need it and at our death is deeply resonant, and many composers have arranged the prayer beautifully.

This version is by Franz Schubert and sung with appropriate feeling and sentimentality by Pavarotti.

“I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” by Kathleen Battle 

Song year: 1992

Another of the catholic funeral hymns is “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.”

Most people recognize it as the compelling soprano aria from Handel’s Messiah. The aria uses a text from the Book of Job. It’s a powerful text for many reasons, not least of them the fact that Job also struggled with feelings of grief and anguish.

Handel’s music brings the verses to life, filling them with the hope and optimism that so many people long for at a funeral but struggle to find.

“In Our Day Of Thanksgiving” by the St Clement’s Choir

Song year:1998

Another hymn for a funeral is “In Our Day Of Thanksgiving.”

Its tone and relaxed rhythm give it a sad and melancholy tone without becoming too sentimental.

It’s also a touching reminder that the people we lose are everyday saints. As painful as our separation from loved ones is, there are still things we can rejoice about. As the hymn says, they enter the city of God, and while we miss them, that’s hopeful, not least because it offers hope for a reunion in the future.

“Ave Maria” by Leontine Price

Song year: 1982

The fact that no one is exactly sure who wrote this song doesn’t diminish its beauty.

Whether you attribute it to Bach or Gounod, the thrilling accompaniment and soaring melody are beautiful.

As sung by Leontine Price, they become a heartfelt prayer to intercede for our departed loved ones.

“Jerusalem The Golden” by The Choir Of Ely Cathedral

Song year: 2000

Despite its apocalyptic sound, “Jerusalem The Golden” is another of the most played songs for funerals.

Its vision of the New Jerusalem is one full of peace and comfort. It’s a vision that offers comfort and reassurance to families that wonder what happens to their loved ones after death.

“Ave Verum Corpus” by The Choir of New College Oxford

Song year: 2011

One of the most moving Catholic and simultaneously English composers was Sir Edward Elgar. He wrote many beautiful choral works, but one of his most beloved is the “Ave Verum Corpus.”

Its closing petition for mercy and grace makes a moving tribute to someone you’ve lost.

“Laudate Dominum” by The Bach Collegium

Song year: 2003

Mozart was another great composer who wrote many compositions that could be in funerals .

At first hear, his “Laudate Dominum” from the Coronation Mass seems an unlikely choice for a funeral. But its tranquil, floating melody is perfect.

It tenderly reminds the bereaved that death can be as familiar as coming home for some people. And when death comes peacefully, that’s something to celebrate, as are the lives people lived.

“Pie Jesu” by Renée Flemming 

Song year: 2005

Faure wrote his famous requiem for his mother. She was a soprano, so he took time to give some of the most moving reflections on death to his soprano soloist. “Pie Jesu” is a textbook example.

Many Masses of the time omitted it, but Faure went out of his way to include this elegant meditation on finding grace in death as a tribute to the woman he loved. It remains a beautiful way to celebrate the life of a lost loved one.

“Panis Angelicus” by The Choir of King’s College Cambridge

Song year: 2010

Cezar Frank’s “Panis Angelicus” is a favorite for a reason. Whether it’s sung by a choir or a soloist, it’s a touching reflection on the tenants of Catholicism, from transformation to charity.

It’s appropriately religious for people who want a communion anthem that’s about the sacrament. But it’s sentimental enough that you can convey lots of feelings to a grieving audience.

“Ave Verum Corpus” by La Lyre Seraphique 

Song year: 1999

Here’s another of the “Ave Verum Corpus” as a Catholic song for a funeral. The harmony for the female voice is incredibly close, giving Saint-Saens’ arrangement an extraordinarily intimate, prayerful feel.

“Sancte Deus” by All Angels

Song year: 2022

It’s difficult to isolate a single Elgar piece when compiling lists of songs for funerals.

The lyrical, if melancholy, ‘Sancte Deus’ makes a gentle serenade of a departed loved one or even a communion anthem during the service.

“Lead Kindly Light” by The Tabernacle Choir

Song year: 2012

Sometimes grief feels like it’s extinguishing all the light and hope in the world. This piece reminds singers that your love for the people you lose is enough to keep that darkness at bay.

“In Paradisum” by King’s College, Cambridge

Song year: 2012

‘In Paradisum’ is often described as one of the most beautiful songs for women’s voices. Its high, floating melody tenderly evokes Heaven. It makes a lovely song for funerals, especially if you find comfort in thinking about your loved ones among the angels.

“How Great Thou Art” by Carrie Underwood

Song year: 2021

‘How Great Thou Art’ is popular at many denominational funerals. Its swooping melodic intervals help many people feel there’s a purpose behind even the most unexpected death.

It’s also a powerful reminder for Catholics that God also knew the pain and loss of a family member. What we cling to is that we will be reunited in due season.

“Love Divine All Loves Excelling” by The All Souls Orchestra

Song year: 2021

One of the reasons “Love Divine All Loves Excelling” continues to be a favorite Catholic service is its message.

Whether you plan the funeral or simply attend, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by death. What “Love Divine” reminds congregants is that there is one thing that can puncture the agony of loss, and that’s love. For friends, family, and the people we continue to mourn.

“A Gaelic Blessing” by The Cambridge Singers

Song year: 2004 

Rutter writes beautiful, sentimental choral music. “A Gaelic Blessing” may be based on an old Irish prayer, but that doesn’t diminish its power. Its’ wish for peace offers comfort to the bereaved and hopes for a gentle transition to death and whatever comes next for the departed.

Heartfelt and evocative, it’s an ideal song for any funeral.

“Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind” by The Choir of Westminster Abbey

Song year: 2017

This song is the perfect hymn for people struggling to find peace after a bereavement.

The melody comes from Herbert Parry’s oratorio Judith, and its noble and serious tone is perfect for a reflective funeral service.

Even more meaningful are the lyrics, which help singers find renewed peace, faith, and order in a world turned upside-down.

“Going Home” by the BYU Choir

Song year: 2011

Originally, “Going Home” was better known as the Largo movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. You can still hear it that way. But the melody was so popular that one of Dvorak’s pupils gave it lyrics.

Ever since, it’s been a staple Catholic song for funerals. Unlike other songs on this list, it’s not overtly Catholic. But the message is effective.

It’s a touching reminder that sometimes death comes as a friend. It can be as soothing as going home, and that’s all we want for our loved ones, especially if they suffered.

Solemn and sincere, it’s a beautiful song for honoring departed friends and family.

“Lord Of All Hopefulness” by St Alban’s Cathedral Choir

Song year: 2012

Sometimes, we want uplifting Catholic hymns for funerals. That’s understandable. Grief can be a morass, and music that moves you is one of the most effective ways to re-discover the world.

“Lord of All Hopefulness” is less obviously joyful, as something like “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee.” But its prayer for the strength to continue is one that mourners everywhere can sympathize with.

Simultaneously it reminds us that there will always be hope and love in the world. They’ll be waiting when you are ready to look for them again.

“Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep” by The Vancouver Cantata Singers 

Song year: 2019

“Do Not Stand By My Grave And Weep” is another less obvious song for funerals.

It hails from a Middle English poem, and at the time it was written, church doctrines were more flexible than they are today.

Nevertheless, it remains a touchingly optimistic meditation on death. We miss our loved ones when they die, but they aren’t gone forever.

What “Do Not Stand At My Grave” powerfully reminds listeners of is that the people we love linger in our memories, whether those are favorite trees or the smell of perfume, or the first snow of the year. As long as we remember them, we keep them alive. And in that way, we’re never wholly alone.

“For All The Saints” by the Plymouth Choir

Song year: 2015 

If you want a hymn that doubles as a triumphal send-off, look no further than Vaughan Williams. The tune for this song requires the organist to literally pull out all the organ stops.

It’s a sweeping melody. But buried in that grandiose melody is the message that death can be a celebration. Whether that’s life or the person who died is a matter of personal preference.

Whatever you decide, “For All The Saints,” with its hopeful alleluias and speculation on the world to come, is an uplifting way to remember a loved one.

“The Lord Is My Shepherd” by The Choir of Westminster Abbey 

Song year: 2012

Psalm 23 is always popular as a funeral text. Many classical composers have done a version of it, from Mozart to Dvorak to the more recent theme for The Vicar of Dibley.

The hymn setting called “Crimond” is one of the most accessible arrangements of this list.

It’s a melody anyone can sing, with an understated descant. It tells us that however terrifying the transition to death looks, our loved ones shouldn’t be afraid, and neither should we. Afterward, there’s the promise of unconditional love and the comforts of home.

“Be Thou My Vision” by Audrey Assad

Song year: 2016

“Be Thou My Vision” is another of the more uplifting songs for funerals.

Like many hymns and songs in the Catholic tradition, it explores themes of closeness to God.

At a funeral, it can be an excellent way of remembering that however alone you feel, there’s always someone to experience the pain and desolation of loss alongside you.

“I The Lord Of Sea And Sky” by The National Youth Choir of Scotland

Song year: 2016

Based on an amalgamation of texts from the books of Isiah and Samuel, “I The Lord Of Sea And Sky” remains one of the most popular Catholic hymns.

Its urgent call to risk earth for heaven cuts to the heart of the Catholic message. It also works as a metaphor for what happens when we die. Traveling forward without your loved ones can be lonely, but by living those things they couldn’t, it’s possible to continue demonstrating your love for them and to find hope in unlikely places.

“Soul of My Saviour” by Truro Cathedral Choir

Song year: 2009

Another important facet of Catholic funerals is the communion hymn. “Soul of My Saviour” is short, sweet, and one of those hymns everyone knows by heart.

Hidden behind the well-known lyrics is the joyous message that after death there is endless love and the company of angels. It’s one of those songs for funerals that is comforting partly because it’s familiar but also because of what it has to say about death.

And what it says is that there’s always someone prepared to intervene and save you from creeping darkness.

“Sweet Sacrament” Divine by The Ely Cathedral Choir

Song year: 2000

“Sweet Sacrament Divine” is another popular Catholic communion hymn at funerals.

Its lyrics explore themes of refuge and solace when life feels challenging. The lyrical, even lethargic melody reflects that.

It’s a musical haven for anyone seeking peace and an excellent funeral selection.

“Abide With Me” by Keith and Krystin Getty

Song year: 2020

This Catholic song for funerals is an old favorite for a reason. It cuts to the heart of our loneliness when we lose a loved one. In the process, it offers one way to look for consolation.

When hope seems unreachable and the darkness of sorrow overwhelming, it reminds us we can never be truly alone. What’s more, it reassures us that that’s true, even when we don’t feel ready to reach out to the loved ones still with us.

“If Ye Love Me” by Tenebrae

Song year: 2020

Thomas Tallis wrote this beloved Catholic song for funerals in 1565. It’s based on Christ’s instructions to his disciples, and it’s a potent reminder of the importance of love.

The subtly shifting rhythms also remind listeners that comfort comes from unlikely places. At a time when it’s tempting to give in to despair, Tallis’ music urges mourners to embrace love and light instead.  

“Ubi Caritas” by The Central Washington University Choir

Song year: 2011

“Ubi Caritas” is usually associated with the Mandatuum or foot washing services of Maundy Thursday. More pertinently, it’s a song about the omnipresence of love.

That can be God’s unconditional love or the love we carry for people we’ve lost. It might even be the love we share with our fellow mourners.

One of the reasons this antiphon makes a compelling song for funerals is that it understands that love overcomes everything, even death and devastation. It won’t happen instantly, but it plays an important role in making grief more bearable.

“On Eagle’s Wings” by Michael Joncas

Song year: 2020

Psalm 23 might be the best-known psalm, but it’s not the only one suitable for funerals.

One of the powerful things about Psalms is that they let you shout at God. After a loss, that can be cathartic. But psalms can also be quieter reflections on life.

“On Eagle’s Wings” has its share of strong emotions. But it also promises that God will comfort you in your hour of darkness, making it an ideal Catholic song for funerals.

“All Things Bright and Beautiful” by Bill Staines

Song year: 2000

Another uplifting song for funerals is “All Things Bright And Beautiful.”

It can be hard to find reminders of joy and hope in the wider world when you are struggling with loss. This song reminds us that those things never go away.

They always re-emerge after the winter to give us new hope.

“Blute Nur” by Hana Blažiková

Song year: 2015

Bach had a composition or anthem for every occasion. This aria’s title means roughly “bleeding hearts,” and it shows.

It’s an aria that sounds like a heart breaking. Sad without being weepy, it’s one of music’s most perfect expressions of grief ever written.

“Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” by The Netherlands Bach Society

Song year: 2014

Here’s more Bach. This piece is calmer and less raw. But its cry to Christ for help is equally suitable for a funeral.

After all, death brings seismic change into our lives. Nothing is more natural than reaching out for help from someone you trust.

“Hear My Prayer O God” by Bernarda Fink

Song year: 2012

This Catholic song for funerals comes from Dvorak’s Biblical Songs cycle. It’s spiker than “Going Home” and expresses how discombobulating grief feels.

But then the psalm text blossoms into a tender reflection on what it means to be at peace. For a song that walks with you through the nuances of loss, look no further.

“How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings Fair” by St John’s College Choir

Song year: 1997

One of the best-known pieces from Brahms’ German Requiem, this anthem beautifully envisages the hereafter.

The gently reflective melody reminds people that Heaven is the place souls long for. In death, that’s where we find them.

It can be hard to find that comforting. But the lyrics also talk about the peace souls experience once there, and that’s all we want for the people we love and lose.

“O For A Closer Walk With God” by The Cambridge Singers

Song year: 1992

This song isn’t explicitly about death, but it could be. In many ways, Catholic doctrine sees death as another, a closer walk with God.

A gorgeous middle section also serves as a reminder that because God is always with the grieving, so are the dead that precedes us.

“Mine Eyes For Beauty Pine” by The Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

Song year: 2014

Howells sometimes gets lost in lists of great religious composers. Here his intricate composition offers a moving meditation on the soul’s search for Heaven and what it finds there.

Crucially, it reminds listeners that love is everywhere, even in death. It’s by holding onto that love that we keep our loved ones’ memories alive and fresh.

“Never Weather-Beaten Sail” by Stile Antico

Song year: 2019

Campion’s “Never Weather-Beaten Sail” is a touching image of the soul’s journey to the afterlife.

At a time when many people want answers, this Catholic song for funerals can be soothing.

Even if you can’t take the metaphor of the battered boat literally, it’s a beautiful way to remember your loved ones.

“Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer” by The Westminster Abbey Choir

Song year: 2010

The beauty of this Welsh hymn is that its lyrics apply to the living and the dead. We all need guidance from time to time, and never more so than after a heartbreaking moment.

They promise safe passage for lost loved ones but also strength and comfort to those left behind.

“A Prayer of St Richard of Chichester” by the Litchfield Cathedral Chorus

Song year: 1998

“A Prayer of St Richard of Chichester ” is another excellent song for funerals. Sung by the Litchfield Cathedral Chorus, it encourages listeners to draw strength from the people around them while grieving.

Only by doing that does it become possible to achieve St Richard’s prayer to know and love God and, through him, his people, better. In doing so, it can help come to terms with the loss.

“Easter” by the Polymnia Choral Society

Song year: 2013

Finally, it may seem odd to end with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ anthem to Easter.

But Easter brings the promise of resurrection and life after death. That gives this anthem a hopeful note.

It’s a thoughtful, uplifting meditation on the enduring power of love and its ability to endure all things. There’s no more moving or powerful message to take away from a funeral.

Top Catholic Songs For Funerals, Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this list of the best Catholic funeral songs and hymns helps make funeral planning a bit more bearable.

Death can be painful, especially for the people left behind. But music has tremendous power to capture feelings, and it’s an excellent way to honor your loved ones.

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