Dignity Memorial® professionals are experts in understanding a variety of beliefs, cultures and traditions and incorporating those customs into a funeral or cemetery service.
Elements of the Catholic funeral
Catholic vigil (wake)
The Catholic vigil, also know as a wake, generally follows the death but takes place before the funeral mass and the burial. It may be held at a Catholic church, a funeral home, the family home or an alternate location. During this time, those in attendance offer prayers and condolences to the family and may observe the scripture through readings and reflections. Eulogies, singing and poetry readings may also be offered during the vigil.
Catholic funeral Mass (also called the Requiem Mass)
The funeral or memorial mass is traditionally held at the church. The casket or urn is often sprinkled with holy water when carried into the church, and symbols of the Christian faith such as an open Bible or crucifix may be placed on the casket. The first few rows of pews at the funeral mass are likely to be reserved for close family.
Non-Catholics in attendance are invited to participate in, or sit and witness, the service but should bear in mind that only Catholics will receive the communion. Most services will be formal but customized to the wishes of the family in regard to choice of music and readings. Families may wish to further personalize the service through a variety of options which can be discussed with a Dignity Memorial planning professional.
After the ceremony, a gathering may take place at a cemetery or mausoleum for the rite of passage, or burial, during which the casket or urn is committed to the final resting place. Catholicism maintains the position that cremated remains must be committed to a consecrated site. Urns and other cremation containers are not permitted to be stored in a home, nor can ashes be scattered. Dignity Memorial cemeteries have a wide variety of property tailored to those who choose either .
Catholic funeral etiquette
are generally acceptable and may be sent to the family's home or to the funeral home. Charitable donations may also be offered to a church or charity chosen by the family. At the Catholic funeral, traditional attire is modest and dark in colour; however, as become more common, personalized clothing or colour choices may be acceptable. This is especially true at a celebration of life service, which may be held within the following weeks.
If a guest book is provided, visitors are encouraged to sign. Often times, memorial votive candles are present near the front or rear of the Catholic Church and can be lit ceremonially. This Catholic funeral tradition is a gesture of remembrance, and a small monetary donation may be offered in a box located nearby.
Planning the Catholic funeral
Dignity Memorial professionals cater to a variety of cultures and traditions and are experts in planning Catholic funeral and cemetery services. From the Catholic Vigil to the funeral Mass, our associates will help plan a funeral service that honours the Catholic funeral traditions that are important to your family. Contact a Dignity Memorial provider to discuss the options for planning a Catholic service for you or your loved one.
Catholic funeral rites
Catholic vigil (wake)
Catholic funeral rites begin with the vigil, also known as a wake or visitation. Typically held at night, it might take place at a Catholic church, a funeral home, the family home or an alternate location. Guests offer prayers and condolences to the family and may read scripture. , singing and may also take place during a vigil. The rosary will be prayed. Some families prefer to have the wake and funeral on the same day. In that case, a rosary may be prayed prior to the funeral Mass.
Catholic funeral Mass (also called the requiem Mass)
The next of the Catholic funeral rites is the liturgy, or a memorial Mass traditionally held at a church. Most services will be solemn and formal, but they can be personalized according to the wishes of the family with music and readings. Though there can be some variation to account for the needs and preferences of the grieving family, following is the general order of events at a funeral Mass:
- Greetings and introduction
- Procession of the priest, casket and congregation into the church
- Prayers and songs
- Scripture readings
- Concluding prayers and blessing with incense
- Procession of casket out of the church
The loved one's casket or urn is often sprinkled with holy water when it's carried into the church. Symbols of the Christian faith, such as an open Bible or crucifix, may be placed on the casket. The first few rows of pews at a funeral Mass are often reserved for close family. A priest leads the ceremony.
Non-Catholic guests are invited to participate in the service to show support for the family. However, only Catholics will receive communion. Non-Catholic guests can line up with other mourners and cross their arms to indicate they are not receiving communion. They receive a blessing instead.
Catholic burial and cremation
The final part of Catholic funeral rites is the committal—the last goodbye. After the funeral Mass, friends and family gather at the cemetery. Here a priest or Catholic deacon will recite more scripture and prayers. The grave is blessed with holy water. Then the family may wish to see a loved one's casket or urn placed in the ground or a mausoleum. (Catholics believe that ashes must be committed to a consecrated site. Urns and other cremation containers are usually not kept at a home, and Catholics usually do not scatter a loved one's ashes.)
Catholic funeral etiquette
Guests are welcome to to a family's home or the funeral home. Charitable donations may also be offered to a church or charity chosen by the family. At a Catholic funeral or memorial, traditional attire is semiformal, modest and dark in color. At a celebration of life, more personalized clothing or color choices may be acceptable.
A guest book is often provided at a service, and visitors are encouraged to sign. Memorial votive candles are usually present near the front or back of the church, and guests are encouraged to light them in remembrance. A small donation may be placed in a box located nearby.
Questions about Catholic funerals
- How long is a Catholic funeral Mass? A funeral Mass can be as short as 30 minutes or last more than an hour if the Mass includes communion.
- When does a Catholic funeral take place? Catholic funerals take place as quickly as the family can make arrangements and everyone who needs to be present at a service can be. Funerals are not usually held on Sundays, which are reserved for worship.
- Is there a Catholic mourning period? Though friends and neighbors may bring food and keep the family company, there is no specified mourning period in the Catholic religion.
Planning a Catholic funeral
Dignity Memorial® professionals are experts in Catholic funeral rites. When you plan with us, you’re not just choosing a provider, you’re choosing a partner. We can help you plan a service for yourself or a loved one that will honor your family traditions.