Traditional Catholic Funerals
A traditional catholic funeral follows a specific order: the vigil and Mass, followed by the burial and informal gathering after the burial. Important prayers and scriptures are included. Catholic funeral rites must take place in the proper order and with required prayers and scriptures, but some choices among valid scriptures and hymns are allowed. When the Funeral Mass does not allow the time for or choice of a particular song or reading, they may be used during the vigil instead.
Catholic Funeral Vigil
Sometimes called the wake or the Rosary, the vigil is held the night before the Requiem Mass. It includes readings from sacred scripture, songs, psalms, and intercessory prayer. Eulogies and/or the rosary may be said. A priest, deacon, or layperson may preside at this liturgy or religious ceremony. During this time, mourners often make votive offerings, commonly lighting votive candles, to demonstrate devotion and pray for divine favor for the deceased.
Flowers are acceptable at the wake, but the quantity should be moderated. Roses, chrysanthemums, carnations, and lilies are all good funeral flower choices as they have religious representations. Similarly, white flowers are often chosen to represent purity and reverence. A rosary or cross of flowers may be placed in the casket with the deceased or adorn the casket.
The Requiem Mass
The Requiem Mass, or Funeral Mass, is a full Mass with Eucharist (Holy Communion) as well as extra funeral prayers. To begin, the priest arrives and sprinkles baptismal water on the casket as the congregation chants, Kyrie Eleison, or “Lord have mercy.” The Introit (entrance) is then made. The casket is brought to the altar while the congregation sings. The casket may be carried by pallbearers or placed on a wheeled table with pallbearers at the side. A popularly chosen hymn for this entrance is Attended Domine.
The Collect (short prayer) is then given, followed by the Epistle. The Epistle is usually I Thessalonians 4:13-18, but can be a reading of other New Testament epistles. Next, The Gradual, or a pair of verses from the Psalms, is read. This is followed by the Gospel, commonly a reading of John 11:21-27. The Offertory prayer is made and an offertory hymn such as, I Heard the Voice of Jesus, is sung. The Secret is said by the priest at the end of the Offertory. Communion is then served, as the “Eternal Rest” prayer is repeated, and We Have Been Told is sung. Finally, the casket is taken out of the church as the choir sings In Paradisum. The congregation sings Salve Regina as the clergy and choir exit. The procession forms and the body is carried to the place of burial.
The Catholic Burial
The burial or committal takes place beside the open grave or place of interment as soon as possible after the Funeral Mass. Included are a short scriptural verse, the prayer of committal, intercessions, the Lord’s Prayer, and a blessing. Lowering the body into the grave or placement into the tomb takes place following the prayer of committal or at the conclusion of this rite. After burial, it is common for the family of the deceased to invite mourners to an informal gathering at someone's home with food.