Catholic Funeral Traditions Do Not Take Kindly to Cremation
September 8, 2018
The Catholic calendar is full of special events apart from weddings, baptisms, Epiphany, Easter and Christmas. On death, Catholics experience sadness just like people the world over. No-one can escape death and all its unhappy consequences. Catholics believe in eternal life, and this offers some form of consolation when a loved one passes away. Catholic funeral traditions help ease the pain.
With Catholic funeral traditions, the Catholic priest tries to be at the bedside of the dying person. After the person’s last breath, the priest says a prayer for the repose of the person’s soul. That’s because it will be facing the judgment of God. With Catholic funeral traditions, because they believe in the physical resurrection of the dead and reunification with the soul when Christ comes again, the church treats the bodies of Catholics with respect. It is against Catholic custom to cremate the body. Catholic funeral traditions and customs are changing, and Catholics consider their unique situations and plan for them. They realise that dying as a traditional Catholic is becoming more difficult than living as one.
Catholic funeral traditions include preparation of the body to repose in the person’s bed for 12 hours, during which time family members offer their last respects and prayers. The coffin then stands in the living room so that friends and neighbours could come and offer their condolences. One person watches over the body at this time until the body moves to the church for the requiem Mass and burial. That is where the term ‘wake‘ comes from.
Catholic Funeral Traditions – Made Up of 3 Parts
These days it is the tradition to remove the body to a funeral home for embalming. However, in some Catholic countries, it isn’t custom to embalm. Funeral traditions and customs vary according to each country. But the body stays in the family home, and often in an open coffin. Catholic funeral traditions dictate that the funeral still consists of 3 parts – the Vigil or Wake, the Requiem Mass, and the Burial, followed by informal after-burial gatherings.
The Vigil (Wake)
The vigil takes place at home, chapel or funeral home. The family gathers around and prays for the deceased. The Vigil can last a few hours or up to about two days. The priest will often lead the mourners with the Rosary (Glorious Mysteries) for the soul of the departed. During the Vigil, the casket remains open, and candles burn at each end of the coffin. It is custom for Catholics to kiss their loved one goodbye.
The Requiem Mass
This mass takes place at the end of the Wake with the body in the church. The priest, dressed in a black robe, greets the coffin at the door of the church and sprinkles it with Holy Water. There are readings and prayers and at the end of the Postcommunion the priest asks for purification of the deceased. The priest grants the departed absolution. Requiem Masses are said on the 7th- and 30th day after the death. It is considered a social obligation to attend the 7th day Mass for those people who couldn’t be at the funeral. Mass is said each year on the anniversary of the death, and family and close friends attend the service.
Burial and Informal After-Burial Gatherings
The coffin is taken to the cemetery. The ground or mausoleum will be blessed by the priest. After further prayers and sprinkling the body with Holy Water, the priest makes the sign of the Cross over the body.
Catholic Funeral Traditions – Eat, Drink and Eventually be Merry Again
After the funeral, it is tradition to gather at the home of where the departed lived. It is a time to eat, drink and relax and is seen as the first step towards getting back to normal after the death of your loved one. Once family and friend have gone home after the funeral, bereaved people can feel lonely and deserted. Life doesn’t just return to normal overnight. If your life becomes unbearably lonely, look for a counsellor who can help you slowly ease back into life and give you reasons to want to live life to the full again.
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All info was correct at time of publishing