Things You Should Know When Organizing a Catholic Funeral

Organizing a successful Catholic Funeral is easy, if you know what to do. You are here, because you want information on how to get it done.

It starts really, before the person dies. If possible, you should get the priest involved during the last days to administer Last Rites. A local priest normally stays in contact with the family to offer prayers and comfort.

As soon as you receive the death certificate and inform the priest, you should find a good Funeral Director. Someone who understands the catholic funeral process.  

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4 Elements of a Catholic Funeral

  1. Vigil (Wake)
  2. Funeral Liturgy (Mass)
  3. Committal Service (Cemetery)
  4. Disposition of the Body (Burial or Cremation)

The Vigil or Wake – Preparing to say goodbye

An important part of a Catholic funeral is The Vigil, sometimes referred to as a wake or a watch. It is the first opportunity for the Church to interact with the grieving family as it relates to the Catholic Faith.

The Vigil is solemn event and best described as a catholic funeral rehearsal. It includes a prayer service, selected scripture readings to commemorate the life of the deceased and a homily, delivered by the priest. It is intended to provide comfort and hope to the grieving.  An important part of the Vigil is the reading of  intercessions, short prayers or  pleadings on behalf of the grieving family.

You should consider carefully selecting the Prayers for the Vigil. Their purpose is to prepare those attending the service to enter into the appropriate mood for the funeral liturgy. It is customary to recite the Rosary after the viewing. You may choose all elements of the Catholic Funeral yourself, including the liturgical readings, funeral music and readers or rely on the Funeral Director to organize this for you.

Elements of a Catholic Funeral Liturgy including the Celebration of Mass

  1. Processional Hymn or Music
  2. Welcome
  3. Tribute or Eulogy
  4. Opening Prayers
  5. First Reading
  6. Responsorial Psalm, Hymn or Music
  7. Second Reading
  8. Gospel Acclamation
  9. Gospel Reading
  10. Homily
  11. Catholic Funeral Mass
    • Presentation of Gifts
    • Offertory Hymn or Music
    • Communion
    • Communion Hymn or Music
  12. Prayers of Farewell and Final Commendation
  13. Recessional Hymn or Music

Saying Goodbye and remembering their life.

The Catholic Funeral triumphantly begins with a Processional Hymn or Music. This is followed by the priest’s welcome message to the congregation. Family or friends will at this point, have an opportunity to talk about the deceased in a Tribute or Eulogy. The Catholic Church recommends having only one eulogy.

It is your choice whether or not you want to use someone other than the priest for the First Reading. The reading is followed by a responsorial psalm or hymn music. The Second Reading is optional and again you can choose to have the priest, a family member or a friend do the reading.

The choir performs the Gospel Acclamation just before the Gospel Reading by the priest.  It is advisable to discuss this with your priest before including it in the funeral.

After the gospel, reading the Priest reads the homily . It addresses he mystery of  Christ's death and resurrection and how it relates to the deceased. The homily is an integral part of a Catholic Funeral.

The Funeral Mass – the Central Point of a Catholic Funeral

Celebrating Mass during a Catholic Funeral, in the parish church enhances the entire experience. There is more pomp and ceremony involved there than in the local church.

  • Presentation of gifts. It is normal to have family members participate by bringing the wine and bread to the priest. They can also assist by draping the casket with the pall and selecting the scripture readings. Liturgical Homilies are a part of delivering the Eucharist and only the priest or deacon can perform this function.
  • Offertory Hymn or Music. This is the music or hymn sung by the choir as the bread and wine are brought forward to the priest.
  • The Eucharist or Communion.  During this portion of the ceremony, the priest blesses the bread and the wine and serves those receiving as a remembrance of Jesus' death
  • Communion Hymn or Music.  This is the music or hymn sung by the choir after the communion is over.

To end the church portion of the Catholic Funeral, the priest reads the Prayers of Farewell and gives his final commendations. The casket is accompanied by the Recessional Music or Hymn as it leaves the church

The Committal Service- The Final Goodbye at the Cemetery

The Rite of Committal is the final step in the order of a Catholic Funeral. Like the Vigil Service, the Rite of Committal uses Scriptures, a few words of hope by the presider, intercessions and prayers. While the presence of a priest is a consolation to the grieving family and friends, if a priest is unavailable, a deacon or a trained bereavement minister may represent the Church at this final moment.

Disposition of the body or remains

There are different ways to dispose of the body.

  • Cremation
  • Burial in the ground
  • Burial in a mausoleum or Columbarium

In the last few years, there has been an increasing trend for cemeteries to be located far away from residential areas. Grieving families who prefer to be closer to loved ones are opting for cremation.

The Catholic Church recommends internment of the cremated remains as soon as possible after Mass. This is to discourage the family from keeping the remains at home or in a funeral home. Out of respect for the deceased, the Catholic Church does not permit the scattering of the remains over water or at a favorite place. The remains should be given the same respect as the body.

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