A Catholic funeral traditionally follows a set of guidelines in the “Order of Christian Funerals.” Four paragraphs explicitly outline what’s expected of the musical selection, with the most prominent direction stating that the music “should express the paschal mystery of the Lord’s suffering, death, and triumph over death and should be related to the readings from scripture.”
With that said, there’s an extensive list of suitable scores, and we’ve compiled what we feel would be the most appropriate 41 Catholic funeral songs.
1. I’ll Be Seeing You – Frank Sinatra
This Frank Sinatra tune has been a classic since the beginning. Originally appearing on the charts way back in 1944, this song embodies multiple emotions in one score. Whether it’s mourning the loss of a loved one or a heartbreak, this song is appropriate for multiple heart-wrenching occasions. It’s certainly been used as a Catholic funeral song, especially considering Sinatra’s popularity among those of Italian heritage, who are largely Roman Catholic.
2. When I’m Gone – Joey + Rory
You can feel the emotion in this heartbreaking song. The singer, Joey Feek, wrote and performed this offering before passing away from cervical cancer in 2016. It’s appropriate for a funeral option, although it might be a tear-jerker. Lyrics like, “You’ll lie down in our big bed, Dread the dark and dread the dawn, But you’ll be alright on that first night when I’m gone” pull on the heartstrings.
3. Who You’d Be Today – Kenny Chesney
This is an especially tragic song depicting what life would be like if someone were to lose someone young, such as a child or grandchild. The song describes what a young one’s life would have been like if it wasn’t for tragedy striking too soon.
4. I Will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan
This Sarah McLachlan tune was a massive hit in the 90s. Released in 1995, many sad moments on television and in movies were outlined by this tear-jerking song. It’s about missing someone in general and carrying their memories with you for the rest of your life.
5. Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest) – Kari Jobe
This song is especially appropriate in the event of a Catholic funeral—or any funeral, for that matter. The lyrics to this soft offering are inspired by Psalms 46:10, reminding wary listeners that their lives and the lives of loved ones are still in the hands of the almighty God.
6. I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin
“I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin is among a number of songs about faith and trusting in God. This particular Tomlin release is about keeping your faith even when your life or the lives of a loved one are on the brink of passing to the next realm. It’s about trusting in the fact that there’s something better beyond the grave.
7. Lift Me Up – The Afters
This 2010 song from The Afters is a beautifully written acoustic score with God at the center of the lyrics. Lyrics like “I know I’m not perfect, I know I make mistakes, I know that I have let You down, But You love me the same” outline the fact that God loves you no matter what.
8. Just a Closer Walk With Thee – Willie Nelson
It’s unknown who penned this Christian/Catholic staple hymn. However, this emotional jazz-laced Gospel has always been popular in New Orleans and other southern cities—especially during times of tragedy and at funerals. Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson perhaps recorded the most famous rendition of the song.
9. I’ll Fly Away – Albert Brumley
This song dates back to almost the turn of the century, written by Albert Brumley in 1929 while laboring in the cotton fields in Oklahoma. He wrote the song as a way to stay in good spirits during the toughest of adversity and keep your faith and continue to trust in God.
10. I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe
Released in 1999 as part of the album “The Worship Project,” famous lead singer Bart Millard wrote this song about the wonders that might await him in heaven. MercyMe is known for its humanitarian work, having donated to multiple charities since its inception, including benefit concerts in 2005 for the victims of the Asian Tsunami.
11. Morning Has Broken – Eleanor Farjeon
“Morning Has Broken” is a Christian hymn first written and released in 1931. English author Eleanor Farjeon originally penned the song about the village of Alfriston in East Sussex, and it eventually became popular for playing during funerals.
12. Come, Holy Ghost – Louis Lambillotte SJ
Originally titled under the Latin name “Veni Creator Spiritus,” this song is a Christian hymn first authored by Rabanus Maurus, a 9th-century monk. The song focuses on the Holy Spirit and has been translated into multiple languages, although it’s originally meant to be sung in Gregorian Chant.
13. Christ The Lord Is Risen Today – The Tabernacle Choir
This early Christian hymn first met the light of day in 1739 and was written by Charles Wesley and his brother John. Originally written as a song for Easter, you probably know it from the infamous “Alleluia” sung at the end of each line.
14. For the Beauty of the Earth – Phillip Keveren & Kent Hooper Ft. Michelle Swift
This song appeared in 1864 in a book of Eucharistic Hymns by a gentleman named Folliott S. Pierpoint. He stated he wrote the song after being amazed by the countryside that surrounded him.
15. How Can I Keep You from Singing? – Robert Lowry
“How Can I Keep You From Singing?” is a folk song authored by American Baptist minister Robert Lowry. The song is widely considered to be a Quaker or Shaker song, meant to spark life into those who sing it in a spiritual environment like church or otherwise.
16. Be Thou My Vision – Mary E. Byrn
This hymn has roots in an old Irish Poem thought to have been written by Dallan Foragill. Mary Elizabeth Byrn gave her own rendition in 1905, catapulting the song to the popularity it’s recognized for today. This song is one of the most popular hymns in the United Kingdom.
17. Be With Me, Lord – Tom Booth
“Be With Me, Lord” is a Tom Booth song released in 1997 on the album “Find Us Ready.” The song is appropriate for funeral situations, as it is performed partially as a prayer.
18. How Great Thou Art – Hillsong UNITED Featuring Lauren Daigle
“How Great Thou Art” was originally a Swedish hymn that went by the name of “O Store Gud” and was released in 1885 by Carl Boberg. This song was ranked as the second greatest Christian hymn of all time by “Christianity Today.”
19. May the Road Rise Up – Tom Kendzia
This song is originally an old Irish blessing but was rewritten by Tom Kendzia in 2016, appearing on the album “Christ Within Me.” “May The Road Rise Up” is easily discernible as a blessing as it wishes goodwill on the listener along their travels.
20. O Loving God – Paulette M. McCoy
Paulette M. McCoy has been a staple in the church her entire life. This crooner has sung as part of a church since she was a child, and “O Loving God” is one of her most well-known songs. The song was originally written to be sung to the tune of “Danny Boy.”
21. Soon and Very Soon – Andraé Crouch And Jessy Dixon
This popular gospel song was written and performed by famous Gospel Singer Andraé Crouch and released in 1999. The song makes a promise that Crouch stands by, making it fitting for a funeral. He promises that we will meet God not only soon but very soon.
22. On Eagle’s Wings – Michael Joncas
This gospel song has been in circulation at many funerals and other memorial services since 1977. However, it’s most popularized through its play for the people who perished in the September 11th terrorist attacks.
23. Amazing Grace – John Newton
This is perhaps the most famous of all Christian church hymns. “Amazing Grace,” written by the slave shipmaster John Newton who eventually ended up repenting for his wrongdoings, is perhaps the ultimate song of salvation and second chances.
24. Let There Be Peace On Earth – Jill Jackson-Miller And Sy Miller
The song “Let There Be Peace On Earth” was originally intended for a children’s choir but quickly took off as a staple Christian song to sing during the Christmas season. This song is intended to be one of hope and what could be if we all learned a little humility.
25. I Will Never Forget You – Carey Landry
This is an incredible song written by Carey Landry. Written in 1970, this piece is an ode to the scripture Isaiah 49, containing the famous line, “I will never forget you, my people.” This is a promise from God to never forget his chosen people, and this song brings an atmosphere of inspiration.
26. For All the Saints – Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square
The Anglican Bishop from Wakefield named William Walsham authored this song in 1864 and was intended to be a processional hymn. The intended use still holds strong today, as many people choose it during the procession at funerals.
27. The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done – St John LCMS
This is one of the most popular Christian hymns meant for signing around the time of Easter. However, it’s very popular during funerals and other memorial services. The song is meant to be about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the salvation he provides.
28. The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns – Randall DeBruyn
This song was originally penned in the Greek language. However, it was eventually translated to English by John Brownlie, who became popular for performing his song rendition. The original lyricist of the song is unknown.
29. We Will Rise Again – David Haas
This is a special song by the singer David Haas and has significant meaning in the church setting. He wrote the song with inspiration from several verses from the Book of Isaiah.
30. Crown Him with Many Crowns – Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square
This song has appeared in many different hymns for several different church denominations. It was originally written by Sir George Job Elvey and was inspired by the song “Diademata,” an older hymn that appears in older gospel music books.
31. I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say – Horatius Bonar
This is an older song that dates back to earlier centuries to the minister Horatius Bonar. It’s a classic Scottish hymn, passed down between generations through the church. Bonar himself was from a long lineage of Scottish men of the church.
32. Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Redeemer – Charlotte Church
William Williams wrote this song which was meant to follow along with an old Welsh tune. This song is about God’s people, the Israelites, traveling through the wilderness to escape their enslavement in Egypt.
33. In the Sweet By and By – Rosemary Siemens
This song by S. Fillmore Bennett and Joseph P. Webster has a storied history in the Christian church, especially in the south in churches in New Orleans and as a part of the city’s jazz heritage. This well-known, upbeat song has long been a part of many churches during services and funerals.
34. We Shall Sleep, But Not Forever – Zoe & Cloyd
This song is considered one of the most appropriate to sing at the graveside at a funeral. It’s fitting, as the lyrics describe how the deceased will not be asleep forever through the promise from God of resurrection.
35. The Lord Is My Shepherd – Francesca LaRosa
This song by Francis Rous is popular for playing at funerals, and it’s also inspired by one of the most popular Bible verses quoted at funerals. The well-known verse from Psalm 23 is the inspiration behind this hymn.
36. The Day is Past and Gone – Aretha Franklin
You may have heard this popular gospel song by the famous singer who helped put it on the map, Aretha Franklin. It was originally written by Thomas A. Dorsey, one of the most famous original gospel singers. Dorsey was the director of a church in Chicago when he penned this beautiful song.
37. Song of Farewell – Ernest E. Sands
This popular Ernest E. Sands is a staple Christian gospel song and is especially fitted for playing at funerals. It’s about saying goodbye to a loved one who has passed away.
38. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross – Keith & Kristyn Getty
This is another well-known Christian hymn that comes from a much earlier period. Originally written in 1707 by Isaac Watts, this hymn is popular because it was the first song to use Bible verses, but in the author’s words instead of using direct quotes as the lyrics to the hymn.
39. You Are Near – Dan Schutte
“You Are Near” is a song by a talented and well-known writer, Dan Schutte. The hymn is from a collection of songs that share the same name as this song.
40. When They Ring the Golden Bells – Loretta Lynn
The hymn “When They Ring the Golden Bells” by Dion De Marbella is a classic that’s made it through nearly two centuries. This Christian church favorite was originally authorized way back in 1847 and continues to be a staple at church services and funerals to this day.
41. Jesus Walked this Lonesome Valley – Scott Soper
The last offering on our list is a bit obscure. “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley” is a classic American Christian hymn that’s sung in churches all across the country in various Christian denominations. However, it’s unclear who wrote this song originally, as there’s no credit or a specific date attached to this folk song. However, Jack Schrader is credited with popularizing the song, and he was the first to compose an official score and pair it with music.
Thousands of pieces were penned over the years that are suitable for Catholic funeral songs. The most important part of any song that’s performed or played at someone’s funeral is that it embodies the loved one’s memories of those who have departed us for the other side.