Planning a Catholic Funeral
The Catholic Church offers a tremendous gift to those who are mourning in her funeral rites, which contain all the stages of memory, grief, and hope. Whether you are approaching the funeral of a departed loved one or planning ahead to your own funeral, the following resources are meant to assist you in preparing for this moving occasion with dignity, beauty, and all the riches of our Catholic tradition.
The Three Rites of A Catholic Funeral
The Vigil (Wake)
The vigil (also called “prayer service” or “wake”) is an occasion for family and friends to gather at the funeral home or a chapel to pray together, grieve together, and remember the life of our loved one. It often includes:
- A viewing of the body or casket when appropriate
- Scripture reading, singing, intercessory prayer such as the Rosary
- Displays of memorabilia and flowers
- Eulogies or sharing of precious memories of the departed
The Funeral Liturgy
The funeral liturgy normally takes the form of a Funeral Mass, which is held at the parish church. It is also possible to celebrate a “Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass” in cases where the pastor and family deem it appropriate not to celebrate a Mass. The funeral liturgy is the place for the following:
- To give thanks and praise to God for Christ’s victory over sin and death.
- To commend the deceased to God’s tender mercy and compassion.
- To seek strength in the proclamation of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
- To celebrate special ritual moments such as the procession of the casket, the placing of the pall, and the song of farewell, which help us to grieve with hope and support.
The Burial (Committal)
The burial (also called the “committal”), takes place at the cemetery after the funeral liturgy. It may occur immediately after the funeral or at another time. The committal includes:
- Brief prayers, scripture reading, the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father”), and a blessing of the remains.
- Military honors for veterans.
- Placing flowers or earth on the casket if desired.
- The casket may or may not be lowered into the ground.
- Cremated remains are either buried or entombed in a mausoleum during this ceremony.
Printable Resources for Funerals:
Funeral Planning Guide
This 8-page guide is to be used by pastors and parishioners either to plan the funeral of a loved one who has died, or to facilitate a funeral pre-planning workshop hosted by the parish. Includes a fill-in-the-blank planning form.
Funeral Planning Form
This simple fill-in-the-blank form is a resource for priests who are working with families to plan the funeral of a loved one. It is the same form contained at the end of the Funeral Planning Guide.
Editable Funeral Worship Aid
This editable PDF may be downloaded and edited to create a personalized half-legal-sized 8-page worship aid for funerals which can include the name of the deceased, the date, song names and numbers, an obituary, and more!
Permanent Worship Aid
This PDF may be downloaded and used to create a half-legal-sized 12-page worship aid which may be printed by a parish (parish name can be added) and re-used regularly for funerals. It includes a full Order of the Mass, quotations explaining the funeral rite, and music selections for the entrance chant, song of farewell, and recessional.
Complete Worship Aid
This PDF may be downloaded and used to create a half-legal-sized 32-page worship aid which may be printed by a parish and re-used regularly for funerals. It includes a full Order of the Mass, music for the Mass Parts, music selections for the entrance chant, song of farewell, and recessional, as well as a back section of funeral hymns... can be used on its own without a hymnal!