Funeral Practices: Catholicism

Catholic funeral rites all over the world follow the Order for Christian funerals, the only liturgically approved text in English. There are three distinct parts to a Catholic funeral: the Vigil for the Deceased; the Funeral Mass; and the Rite of Committal.

The Vigil for the Deceased is the first part of the Catholic funeral. It happens in the home, the funeral home, or the church, wherever the casket or coffin is interred. This series of prayers is usually led by a priest (or if one is not available, one who knowledgeable about these prayers). This first rite is usually for mourners who cannot attend the final interment. It includes prayers for the deceased, and also its mourners. A eulogy can be said during this rite instead of at the funeral.

The second rite of the Catholic funeral is the Funeral Mass. This mass cannot be celebrated during holy days of obligation, like Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter Sunday. It is usually done in the parish to which the deceased belonged. The church is obligated to provide the music, such as appropriate hymns, so as to alleviate the grief of the mourners. Before the casket is placed in front of the priest to be blessed, mourners are required to stay standing as a sign of honor and respect. Only priests and deacons can preside over the Funeral Mass and to give the homily. The Funeral Mass is the deceased body’s final visit to the House of God, and will add to the purification of the departed for their journey to meet God.

The Rite of Committal is the final rite of the Catholic funeral. It cannot be done in the church; rather, it is done in the interment chapel, mausoleum, or cemetery. This is the final gathering of mourners for prayers and blessing of the casket or coffin, or in the case of cremation, urn. The Catholic faith considers burial to be the utmost honor to the dead, and requires its departed to have one, even if cremated. The Rite of Committal is also where cultural or military rites can be performed. This is the final stage of the Catholic funeral, in which the body is buried and given its final blessings.

Anyone can have a Catholic funeral if they wish to do so, unless they have been expressly excluded by the church. A Catholic cemetery can also include non-Catholics if they lean towards the religion. The Catholic funeral is the honoring of the dead and expressing sympathy to the grieving. It is also the remembrance of the sacrifices of Jesus Christ, offering the faithful hope and offering their best for the loved one who has passed over.

 

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