When you’re planning a funeral for a Catholic loved one, you will be eager to honor their religion’s rituals.
But where to start organizing an event steeped in tradition?
That’s where our guide to Catholic funerals and what to expect comes in. We take you through how Catholic funerals in America work and what you need to plan one.
There are three main parts to a Catholic funeral: the prayer vigil the evening before, the service itself, and the committal of the body. Let’s look at each one in more detail.
At the prayer vigil, mourners gather in the church where the funeral will be held or at home to pay their respects around the coffin. Participants say prayers and, have readings and share their memories.
The funeral service usually takes place in the deceased’s parish church. It may be a requiem mass where holy communion is offered or a “funeral outside mass” without communion.
If the coffin is not already in church, it is brought in by coffin bearers, made up of the deceased’s close family and friends. The priest walks ahead, and the coffin is brought before the altar and covered with a white cloth (“a pall”).
The service includes readings from the Bible, with the priest reflecting on the life of the deceased. Prayers are offered.
Holy communion takes place, if chosen. A family member or friend may then speak about their departed loved one.
To finish the ceremony, closing prayers and a hymn are offered. The priest sprinkles the coffin with holy water again and burns incense over it.
If the deceased is being buried, the next stage takes place at the graveside for the Rite of Committal. Prayers are read, and a hymn is sung before the coffin is lowered into the grave.
If the body is being cremated, a short service takes place at the crematorium chapel. Once the ashes are returned to the family, they must be buried in accordance with Catholic practices.
After the committal, you may want to organize a reception at home to gather the mourners together and round off the day.
You will need to make lots of decisions inas preparation offor your loved one’s funeral. Here’s a checklist of the main steps to take:
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