What is a Funeral Vigil?
A vigil or sitting with dead bodies before the actual burial is nothing new. In ancient days, people used to die out in the grasslands or forest. Then people would sit with these corpses to prevent predators getting to the bodies.
Today many people look upon the vigil, also known as the wake, as a time of great comfort. Friends and family come together in support of one another. They pray for each other and the deceased. People sit for a period of 1 to 3 days in a room often decorated with flowers, photographs, candles and some cherished possessions of the deceased.
Vigil – Essentially a Catholic Rite
The Catholic Church has always believed that the wake held for the dead be made up of prayers, scripture readings and a sharing of memories of the deceased. Today, Catholic churches still assist families in the planning of such services.
In modern society, the devotional watching is essentially considered a Catholic rite, and often it is held in the home of the deceased where it can become quite celebratory. Sometimes viewings of the deceased form part of the ritual. Even today, a deacon in the church or a priest will presides over the prayers, although sometimes even a lay person who is well acquainted with the process will preside over the event in the absence of the priest.
Make Your Devotional Watching Location Easy to Reach
The location for the wake should be easy to access for next of kin and members of the community. After selecting the venue, determine the time that it will take place. The location can be in a church if the person was a Christian, it can be in the deceased person’s home or it could even be outside in the garden or a park if the deceased person was a nature lover.
Many people today alert mourners to the time and venue of the wake through SMSs, emails and on social media sites. Sometimes the next of kin request a candlelight event and instead of flowers, they will suggest on the invitation that the money mourners would have spent on flowers, rather go towards the illness that the person died of. These candlelight vigils are often events where candles are lit in support and to remember the person who has passed away, and to also raise awareness for the disease the person had.
A funeral wake isn’t something that is set in stone and each one chooses what they want. While speeches, readings, music, poems and prayers are the norm at these events, you can plan your own service. Even today, every August, Elvis fans from all corners of the world arrive in Memphis for a week of celebration of his music, and to hold an Elvis candlelight wake. Also, with the Paris attacks in November 2015, many people also gathered in city squares around the world to hold a candlelight vigil for the 120 people who died.
Sometimes the 1st day of a vigil is for family and close friends. But often when someone famous is involved, it becomes a public mourning as fans pour forth their grief and their feelings. Every vigil is different but most of all its a time of support for the deceased and their family before the healing starts.