All Souls Requiem and Absolution at the Catafalque

This is the principal service in observance of All Souls and features a requiem setting performed by the choir within the context of the full requiem mass. The requiem mass follows most of the forms of a standard eucharistic service, with some notable changes. This document outlines where practice for this mass differs from our usual custom.

Key Participants

At a minimum, the following servers are required:

  • Celebrant

  • Deacon

  • Subdeacon

  • Acolytes (2)

  • Crucifer

  • Thurifer

  • Choir

Other servers, such as ushers, readers, and additional chalice bearers can be added provided that the attendance at the mass is sufficient to warrant it.

Notable Changes

The following changes or unusual features should be noted regarding the celebration of this mass:

  • Incense is not laid on or used until the Absolution at the Catafalque

  • There is no Old Testament lesson

  • The Gospel procession is limited to the subdeacon and deacon (no crucifer or acolytes)

  • The creed and confession are omitted

  • The offertory procession is omitted

  • The Peace is omitted

  • There is an absolution for the departed offered after the conclusion of communion

  • There is a dismissal but no blessing



All sacred ministers will vest in black cassock, alb, white cincture, and black tunicle/dalmatic/chasuble (according to his/her station). A black cope should be laid out for the celebrant to don just prior to the Absolution at the Catafalque. All other servers will vest in black cassock and white surplice.

Altar and Credence

All flowers as well as any frontal or superfrontal should be removed from the altar prior to the service. If possible, the liquid candles on the altar should be replaced with unbleached beeswax candles. The chalice and paten should be veiled in black and the black burse used. As there will be no offertory procession during the mass, the flagon and ciborium should be laid out on the credence in advance of the service.

The Catafalque

A catafalque should be set up in the crossing, veiled in a black pall with the head of the catafalque facing toward the west door. Six bier lights, fitted with unbleached beeswax candles, should be set up flanking the catafalque three on each side. These candles are lit prior to the start of the service.


An aspersorium filled with water along with an aspergillum should be placed on a small table near the catafalque for ease of access by the sacred ministers during the Absolution at the Catafalque.

The Service


The choir enters in silence through the sacristy passage and takes their place in the stalls. The choir begins the service by singing the Introit of the appointed requiem setting, waiting for the start of the altar party procession to begin. 

During the singing of the Introit, the altar party, led by the crucifer and two acolytes, enters through the side door near the baptismal font and to the ambit of the altar. The order of procession for the altar party is:

Acolyte  Crucifer Acolyte

Thurifer (without thurible)

(Lay Servers)

(Minister of Ceremonies)




Kyrie, Salutation, and Collect of the Day

The crucifer, acolytes, and other servers go to their normal places. The sacred ministers, after reverencing the altar, arrange themselves in a single file facing the altar, with the celebrant at the center of the footpace, the deacon on the second step of the altar, and the subdeacon on the pavement, where they remain for the singing of the Kyrie. 

After the conclusion of the Kyrie, the celebrant turns to address the congregation with the salutation and collect of the day. When the celebrant turns, the subdeacon turns and moves to the gospel side of the pavement, while the deacon turns and moves to the epistle side; both face the altar while the celebrant is addressing the congregation. 

Epistle, Gradual, and Tract

Immediately after the salutation and collect of the day, the sacred ministers move to the sedilia and are seated for the epistle reading, gradual, and tract. Where the gradual and tract are a congregational hymn, it is appropriate for the sacred ministers to stand in their places at the sedilia to sing the hymn.

Gospel Procession and Reading

NOTE: Only the deacon and subdeacon participate in the gospel procession for this service. All other servers remain in their places. The deacon retrieves the gospel book and follows the subdeacon out of the ambit of the altar to the place where the gospel will be read. The deacon does not make the sign of the cross on the forehead, lips, and chest when announcing the gospel. At the conclusion of the reading, the subdeacon carries the gospel book back to the ambit of the altar, followed by the deacon, and they resume their seats in the sedilia for the sermon.

Prayers and the Necrology

After the sermon, the celebrant offers prayers for the departed, and appointed readers read the parish necrology while the congregation and other servers remain seated. There is no exchange of peace or announcements prior to the offertory.


After the necrology, the choir sings the Offertory of the appointed requiem setting. During the offertory, the deacon sets the table and returns to the sedilia if time allows. There is no offertory procession.

Preface and Sanctus

Once the offertory concludes, the sacred ministers approach the altar and arrange in single-file formation at the center - celebrant on the footpace, deacon on the second step, and subdeacon on the pavement. When the celebrant turns to the congregation to sing the Sursum Corda, the subdeacon turns and moves to the gospel side of the altar, still on the pavement, and faces the altar. The deacon moves to the epistle side, still on the second step, and faces the altar. When the celebrant turns back to the altar for the Preface, the subdeacon and deacon turn and move to the center, still on the pavement and second step respectively, and face the the altar (in the same single-file arrangement as before). When the celebrant reaches, “Therefore…” just preceding the Sanctus, the subdeacon and deacon move to the footpace on either side of the celebrant – subdeacon on the gospel side and deacon on the epistle side – still facing the altar. The choir will sing the Sanctus of the appointed requiem setting. At the start of the Sanctus, the subdeacon bows, with the other sacred ministers, to the words, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts,” and then resumes an upright posture.

The Canon of the Mass

The canon of the mass proceeds as normal. The Prayer for Humble Access is omitted. The choir will sing the Pie Jesu and Agnus Dei of the appointed requiem setting.


Communion proceeds as normal. During communion or earlier, the thurifer should exit to prepare the thurible.

Post-Communion Prayer

The subdeacon and deacon arrange themselves behind the celebrant, facing the altar single file as before (subdeacon on the pavement, deacon on the second step, and celebrant on the footpace) for the post-communion prayer. At the conclusion of the prayer, all sacred ministers take the footpace (subdeacon on the gospel side and deacon on the epistle side), reverence the altar, and then retire to the sedilia where the celebrant is assisted in donning the cope. 

Absolution at the Catafalque

While the celebrant is donning the cope, the other servers should arrange themselves for the procession to the catafalque, using the same order as outlined above, with the thurifer now carrying the thurible and boat. During this time, the choir will begin singing the Libera Me from the requiem setting appointed for the day. When the altar party is ready, the crucifer leads the party to the catafalque. 

On reaching the catafalque, the crucifer and acolytes move around the catafalque into the center aisle, and take up position facing the catafalque pointing in the direction of the altar. The sacred ministers should be arranged fanned out, with the celebrant in the middle, subdeacon on the gospel side, and deacon on the epistle side, facing the head of the catafalque and the west door. The thurifer stands to the side, ready to hand the thurible to the celebrant.

At the celebrant’s cue, the subdeacon offers the aspersorium and aspergillum to the celebrant, who then sprinkles the catafalque. The celebrant hands the aspersorium back to the subdeacon, and signals the thurifer for the thurible. The celebrant censes the catafalque, and hands the thurible back to the thurifer, who exits through the side door.

The celebrant says the absolution, after which the choir begins the In Paradisum of the appointed requiem setting. All remain standing for the In Paradisum. At the conclusion of the In Paradisum, the crucifer and acolytes move around the catafalque to the crossing and lead the party out of the nave through the side door near the baptismal font. There is no blessing.

The choir exits silently through the sacristy passage.