Roman Catholic Funeral Customs
November 14, 2015
Catholics believe that death signals the end of this earthly life. It signals instead an entry into eternity and Roman Catholic funeral customs reflect this view.
The immediate family bears a heavy burden of sorrow. And the priest and parishioners provide a lot of support over this time.
Times are changing and customs and traditions are not what they once were. But there are those who carry out a Roman Catholic funeral in accordance with the rites of the Catholic Church.
Roman Catholic Funeral Customs – More and More Catholics Opt for Cremation
Roman Catholic funeral customs and practices have absorbed the popularity of cremation. Catholics embrace burial practices which are not traditional according to the ‘Order of Christian Funerals’. For cremation, the Church prefers that it occurs after the Funeral. This allows the body to be present at the Funeral Mass. Otherwise the ashes in an urn take the place of the casket.
Where it has always been customary in churches to eulogise, in 2003 Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, New Jersey stirred things up when issued a decree banning eulogies during funeral Masses in his archdiocese. So Roman Catholic Funeral customs are a-changing.
Roman Catholic Funeral Customs – Distinct Purposes with the Vigil, Mass and Burial
Part of Catholic funerals still involve a Vigil for the deceased, the Funeral Mass as well as the Burial/Committal and each have distinct purposes:
● It is the Vigil which is the official prayer for the dead person and is the first of 3 major rites of celebration in the Christian community. The vigil can take place in the home of the deceased, in the Catholic Church or at the funeral home, concentrating on readings from sacred Scripture and intercessory prayer. The vigil service is an excellent time for family and those close to the deceased to offer stories and eulogies on the life of the deceased.
● The funeral Mass takes place the evening before, or on the day of burial in the parish church, with the priest presiding over it. The funeral Mass always starts at the entrance of the church with the priest receiving the body of the deceased. The priest sprinkles the coffin with holy water. The congregation sings special psalms and hymns as part of the funeral Mass. A parish priest or even the music director will help in the selection of appropriate and meaningful hymns. During the funeral Mass anyone who feels like it can speak of the deceased.
The body is carried in procession toward the altar and when the coffin is in place, symbols such as the Cross may be placed on the coffin. After readings and prayers the final commendation follows the prayer after Communion and the deceased is entrusted to God’s care. The song of farewell affirms hope and trust in the paschal mystery, and the body may be incensed during the song of farewell. The body is then carried to the place of burial/committal.
Roman Catholic Funeral Customs – Mass is Still an Integral Part
The focus of the Catholic funeral is the Mass. The last ritual in Roman Catholic funeral customs is the rite of committal. Customs may be disagreed upon and are changing, but Catholics all agree that their dead will rise again to a better life.
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All info was correct at time of publishing