At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of Baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end, nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting Word of God and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Source: Order of Christian Funerals, no.4
The Catholic funeral rite is divided into several stations, or parts, each with its own purpose. The following is the recommended structure and use of each station.
Vigil Service (Wake)
At the vigil, the Christian community keeps watch with the family in prayer to the God of mercy and finds strength in Christ's presence"
Order of Christian Funerals, no. 56
The Vigil Service usually takes place during the period of visitation and viewing at the funeral home. It is a time to remember the life of the deceased and to commend him/her to God. In prayer we ask God to console us in our grief and give us strength to support one another.
The Vigil Service can take the form of a Service of the Word with readings from Sacred Scripture accompanied by reflection and prayers. It can also take the form of one of the prayers of the Office for the Dead from the Liturgy of the Hours. The clergy and your funeral director can assist in planning such service.
It is most appropriate, when family and friends are gathered together for visitation, to offer time for recalling the life of the deceased. For this reason, eulogies are usually encouraged to be done at the funeral home during visitation or at the Vigil Service.
The funeral liturgy is the central liturgical celebration of the Christian community for the deceased. When one of its members dies, the Church encourages the celebration of the funeral liturgy at at Mass. When Mass cannot be celebrated, a funeral liturgy outside Mass can be celebrated at the church.
At the funeral liturgy, the Church gathers with the family and friends of the deceased to give praise and thanks to God for Christ's victory over sin and death, to commend the deceased to God's tender mercy and compassion, and to seek strength in the proclamation of the Pascal Mystery. The funeral liturgy, therefore, is an act of worship, and not merely an expression of grief.
The presiding priest usually chooses the readings. If you have a special reading you would like to request, please contact the the priest who will be celebrating the Funeral Mass.
Music adds a wonderful and spiritual addition to the Funeral Mass. Please look over the selection of music by clicking the Funeral Music link above and to the left under Important Documents.
The Rite of Committal
The conclusion of the funeral rite, is the final act of the community of faith in caring for the body of its deceased member. It should normally be celebrated at the place of committal, this, beside the open grave or place of internment. In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before us marked with sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the resurrection.
The Rite of Committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven: the deceased passes with the farewell prayers of the community of believers into the welcoming company of those who need faith no longer, but see God face-to-face.