Steeped in traditions, rituals and customs. The Catholic funeral service draws its origins from the ancient Jewish burial practices, that were used on Jesus’s body after his crucifixion.
The deceased are shown respect, and their bodies are anointed prior to burial. We do this to express one’s own union in Christ’s death and to demonstrate our hope to share in his resurrection.
The Catholic funeral is not the end of life. But actually the beginning of the after life as a soul blessed at baptism is returned to God in a thanksgiving at Mass.
There are some variations that occur before, during or after a Catholic funeral. These differences in funeral proceedings can be a result of finances, location and even time or date of the death.
We will be looking to go over as many variations as possible in the hope of answering any questions you may have, and to help prepare you for a funeral.
Do All Catholics Receive a Full Service?
Unfortunately not every Catholic will receive the correct and appropriate funeral proceedings. There may be complications in providing the deceased a timely funeral due to isolation or their body having gone undiscovered for an extended period of time.
In the event that an extended period of time has past following the passing of the deceased person. There are services that the church may perform to help guide this persons soul into heaven.
The Mass service may still be similar, but depending on the situation there can be differences in the sermon given. The deceased’s lifestyle and choices or manner of death may even prevent them from receiving a proper service.
In the event that circumstances surrounding the deceased’s life or death may prevent the church from providing a full service. They might still provide a service for the family and friends of the deceased to have there chance to say farewell.
The most important thing with any and all funerals, is that the deceased receives a proper and dignified burial.
Where Will The Funeral Be Held?
Many funerals will have a Requiem Mass, as it includes Holy Communion and be hosted in the local Catholic Church.
Some parishes celebrate funerals at a regular weekday Mass as part of the parish’s weekly services and the actual funeral itself will be held else where.
A practicing Catholic may likely ask that their service have a funeral mass in their Church, officiated by their favored pastor.
While it might be inappropriate for a loved one who may have been separated from the church for an extended period of time to have a Funeral Mass performed.
In the event that the Mass is held separately from the actual funeral proceedings. The funeral can still be performed somewhere else other then at the church.
Funeral homes are among some of the more common places in which a funeral may be held.
The local priest, deacon or bishop may attend and perform the service or the funeral home itself may have someone qualified on hand.
In some cases a lay minister may officiate the service.
Other locations can also include the family home, in a chapel at the cemetery or even at the graveside itself.
What Types of Burials Are There?
To determine where the burial will be held, will largely depend on budget and whether the deceased will be buried or cremated.
Traditionally Churches prefer that Catholics be buried in consecrated grounds. Namely that of a Catholic cemetery, but other cemeteries may be chosen.
Optionally cremation is permitted, so long as the Christian hope of resurrection is still upheld. Cremations must keep the ashes contained in a sealed urn or container and not be openly spread across land or sea.
The cremains need to be shown proper respect and be buried in a cemetery grave, or stored in a columbarium niche or mausoleum. They can not be stored on a mantel place at home.
Burial at sea can also be permitted, so long as the body or cremains remain sealed in a container, urn or burial sewn sailcloth.
To uphold the hope of resurrection, the body needs to remain as intact as possible. This leads to the unfortunate debate over organ donations. Some religious leaders view organ donation as a final act of charity. While others may view this as sacrilege as the decease’s body is no longer whole and they believe that this would prevent resurrection.
Additionally graves and urns need to be marked in some fitting manner. Traditionally a cross or the deceased’s name will be used to both mark and identify the grave or urn.
It is preferable to celebrate the funeral Mass in the presence of the deceased’s body. To express our love for the deceased, we use prayer and hymns to ask for their soul to be guided into heaven and the embrace of the God almighty. Where it might be inappropriate to hold a Mass in the church or the Mass is to be forgone.
A funeral liturgy of the Word and Final Commendation of the deceased can be celebrated in lieu of the Mass. There may also be issues where Mass can not take place due to no priest being available for the day. Or the day would fall on a time when the Church prohibits the celebration of funeral Masses.
Holy days such as the Holy Thursday, Triduum, Solemnities of Obligation, Sundays during the season of Advent, Lent or Easter, would be such a day.
If the day Mass is needed falls on one of these days, a memorial Mass should be scheduled for a later date.
Open caskets, reception of the body and prayer vigils are an opportunity for family and friends to come together, console one another and pay their last respects prior to the funeral and burial. Receptions and prayer vigils usually occur the evening prior to to the funeral.
The body is prepared with respectful and appropriate attire. Great respect is shown towards the body.
Consideration is also given to display some Christian symbols in, near or on the casket at the time of the gathering. Symbols such as a Bible, crucifix or rosary may even be buried with the deceased.
The reception or prayer vigils can be conducted at the church the evening prior to the burial, at the family home or funeral home.
The origins of the wake, comes from the Christian celebrations of vigils, often associated with feasts and major events. These are a social events that allow for the friends and family to share the impact of the passing of the deceased. They are able to console one another, recall fond memories and relive moments shared with the dearly departed.
Some wakes are somber events, while others are lively, festive, and upbeat. The wake is our final chance to give our loved ones the send off that they deserve and would appreciate.
During the month of November, the church traditionally sets aside the month to pray for the dead. You may want to consider honoring your deceased loved ones on their birthday, anniversary or the day of their death every year. This can be done through prayer, and by visiting their place of rest.
Another more personal and private way would be by partaking in something that they were fond of. Traveling to a spot that they would visit regularly. Having a shot of their favorite whisky or pouring some on the ground for them. Or even reading their favorite book or listening to their favorite tracks are all good examples.
Organizing The Funeral
If you are looking to organize the funeral, you need not deal with the stress of it yourself. You are allowed to grieve and ask for a helping hand in dealing with the proceedings.
Your local parish staff may offer the help you need and you may leave all or some of the decisions up to them. They could organize the arrangements with the funeral home on your behalf.
A burial is often held a few days following the deceased’s passing, while a cremation can be delayed a few extra days.
If an open casket viewing is to be held. It would be best to not leave it too long either way.
You will need to have someone in direct contact with either the parish staff and/or the funeral directors though.
Things that you will need to ensure for yourself, first and foremost would be the overall costs. We all want to give the best service for our loved ones that we can. But at the end of the day, your loved one would not be wanting to have to take on a financial burden just to send them off.
Something to consider is that more and more families are opting for cremation these days to decrease funeral expenses. Other costs to consider would be flower decorations and the cost of the casket.
Finally, you would know your loved one best and should pick their favorite attire for them to be buried in, as well as the music and text they would like.
Grieving For Your Loss
Mourning the loss of a loved one even years later is perfectly fine.
Just remember that this is only temporary as we are all eventually reunited with those we’ve lost when we to finally move on from this world.