Attending a Catholic Funeral For the First Time
Going to a Catholic funeral for the first time might cause some to be concerned, which is common when dealing with something unknown, much less something unfamiliar surrounding the death of a friend or family member.
But paying your respects at someone’s funeral by attending is really the most important thing, so put those worries behind you. This article is meant to help you feel comfortable enough to know what to expect at a Catholic funeral, and that you won’t be shocked by anything that’s really out of the ordinary.
What Do Catholics Believe Happens After Death?
While there are different orthodoxies within the Catholic religion, they all believe, for the most part, that death is the passing of a spirit from the physical world into the afterlife, which could mean the soul will live on in Heaven, Hell or Purgatory (a place between heaven and hell). Then, when Jesus Christ returns, most Catholics believe that the bodies of the dead will be resurrected.
The Catholic Funeral
To its fullest, it could be said a Catholic funeral contains three stages: the Prayer Vigil, the funeral Mass, and the committal.
Usually, a Catholic funeral is held in a Catholic church or a chapel at a Catholic cemetery or assisted living care facility. Once again, a Catholic priest will preside over the services, although, a deacon might take on this responsibility as well. A sermon will be delivered, which will help memorialize the deceased, with stories about their life.
Often, a “Vigil” is held the night before the funeral, which many people consider to be similar to viewing or wake, where friends and family members gather together to pray for the deceased. This could happen in a funeral home, a church or someone’s house, or even outside in a park. Usually, a priest leads the Vigil and presides over the prayers. Since eulogies are not delivered at the funeral, the Vigil would be the appropriate time for someone to deliver a eulogy.
It is common for practicing Catholics to have a funeral Mass, which includes Holy Communion. By doing this, they’re literally commemorating Christ’s death and resurrection. A Catholic Mass can be profoundly moving, as they include music, prayers, and hymns.
What to Expect at a Catholic Funeral?
Although these events may vary from funeral to funeral, most Catholic funerals follow the church’s structure. This is what to expect a Catholic funeral during each stage.
Reception at the Church
Usually, the priest will greet all the mourners at the doors of the church. Before the Mass begins, the priest may sprinkle holy water over the coffin, this is often done as the coffin enters the church. At the altar, family members receive the coffin as they place a bible or a cross over the coffin. Mass cards, photos of the deceased and flowers are often set at a near table by the casket.
Reading During a Catholic Funeral
Usually, family members or friends read at least one reading from the Old or New Testament. Followed by a reading of the Gospel by the priest. After his reading, the priest often reflects on the meaning of the readings, and may also talk about the person who passed. Family and friends sometimes read prayers as well.
The Eucharist at Catholic Funerals
If they’re having a funeral Mass, family and friends bring bread or wine to the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer. Holy Communion follows their offerings. After Communion, a family member or very close friend speaks in memory of the deceased.
After the Holy Communion, special prayers are recited to accompany the deceased. Usually, the priest sprinkles holy water and incenses the coffin. A farewell hymn is often chanted while the priest sprinkles the holy water.
After the funeral Mass, mourners accompany the coffin to the graveside. At the cemetery, the priest recites special prayers. The rite ends with the mourners reciting the Lord’s Prayer and a blessing by the priest.
If the body is to be cremated, the short committal service is often done in the chapel. However, the funeral is not concluded until the ashes are given to the family so they can be buried.
Many Catholic burials occur at The Gardens at Boca Raton Cemetery and Funeral Services so you can feel comfortable in asking attendants working there if you are unsure about something at your first Catholic funeral.