This guide to Catholic funerals explains everything you need to know about Catholic beliefs about death, Catholic funeral rites, including the recommended dress code and etiquette for mourning, as well as any other questions you may have about these topics. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide religious and traditional funeral services.
What Is a Catholic Funeral?
A funeral is a religious service that is held for a deceased member of the Catholic faith. A Catholic funeral is a type of religious service. It is an extremely important function for those who have survived, as they believe that the soul continues to exist after death.
All Christians adhere to this doctrine, which states that after death, a person's eternal destination is predetermined by the amount of goodness they displayed during their life and can be either heaven or hell.
However, Catholics believe that there is a third place called Purgatory that the soul can go after death.
Purgatory is a temporary resting place for souls that have committed sins that can be forgiven during their lifetime and who still have a chance of entering Heaven in the afterlife.
Therefore, in order to foster such a sense of forgiveness, the Catholic funeral service is a time to pray to God to have mercy on the soul of the person who has passed away.
Keeping this in mind, you should prepare yourself for a significant amount of time spent in prayer during the Catholic funeral that you will be attending.
To comfort those who are suffering from loss, there will most likely be a lot of talk about how the deceased person is now with God in Heaven.
In some cases, the officiant, who may be a priest, minister, or professional celebrant, will give the eulogy. Many families choose to have more than one speaker to cover different aspects of their loved ones' life.
Someone has died, and stopping the clocks in the house of the deceased, silencing them, is an old tradition, similar to closing the blinds or curtains and covering the mirrors. The clock would be set going again after the funeral. Some people believe stopping the clock was to mark the exact time the loved one had died.
It is believed that an open window in the same room as a death bed is needed to allow the souls of family members who have already died to come to retrieve the soul of the person who is dying, to take them into the next life. Others believe that if the room is closed, the soul will be trapped and unable to move on.
In fact, Victorians believed if it rained after there had been a death, the rain signified a cleansing of the soul of the deceased. The arrival of the rain meant the soul was moving on to the next life, since in nature rain always brings new plant life and growth.
How well does it preserve the body? Embalming does not preserve the human body forever; it merely delays the inevitable and natural consequences of death. The rate of decomposition will vary, depending on the strength of the chemicals and methods used, and the humidity and temperature of the final resting place.
How Long Is a Catholic Funeral?
If you are curious about how long a Catholic funeral service typically lasts, the answer will change depending on whether or not a Requiem Mass is part of the ceremony.
If one is included, the length of the funeral is approximately sixty minutes. Aside from that, it lasts for approximately half an hour.
How Long Is a Catholic Funeral Mass?
As mentioned above, a funeral mass lasts around 30 minutes – taking the overall funeral to around an hour.
What Happens Before a Catholic Funeral?
After the death of a Catholic, the family of the deceased person may choose to hold a prayer vigil on the evening before the funeral, which is also referred to as the reception of the body.
The prayer vigil is traditionally held at the church where the funeral will take place; however, it may also take place at the residence of the deceased's family or at a chapel of rest operated by a funeral director.
Those who have come to pay their respects and attend the prayer vigil are urged to say some prayers in honour of the deceased person.
This gathering is typically presided over by a priest or a deacon; however, a lay priest who has not been ordained can also serve in this capacity.
In addition, the family of the person who passed away may put in a request for eulogies or other forms of tribute to be given at the Vigil.
What Happens at a Catholic Funeral?
Whether or not a Requiem Mass, which consists of the Eucharistic Prayer and Holy Communion, is celebrated at a Catholic funeral service determines the structure of the funeral.
The celebration of a Requiem Mass is not required, but it is strongly encouraged by the Catholic Church and is typically the wish of Catholics who actively participate in the faith.
In the event that the church was unable to receive the casket the evening before the funeral, the priest would stand at the front door to welcome it on the day of the service. He will then bring the casket into the church and anoint it with holy water before entering.
A catafalque will be brought to the altar, and the coffin will be placed on top of it. The catafalque will then be draped with a pall.
At the funeral liturgy, there will be at least one reading taken from the Old Testament, as well as a psalm that will be read either by family members, close friends, or the priest.
A passage from one of the gospels will be read, and then the priest will preach, and then the eulogy will be given for the person who has passed away.
In the event that a Requiem Mass is part of the funeral service, it is possible that bread and wine will be placed on the altar in preparation for Holy Communion.
Participants in the funeral will line up in a procession to receive Holy Communion or, if they are not Catholic, a blessing from the priest. Those who do not follow the Catholic faith will receive the blessing.
Following the distribution of Holy Communion, there may be a further eulogy delivered prior to the Final Commendation, which is a special set of prayers.
After that, more holy water is sprinkled on the coffin, and friends, family, and loved ones say their final goodbyes to their departed loved ones.
Only an ordained priest is allowed to administer holy Communion; therefore, if there is not a priest present during the funeral liturgy, the Mass will not be performed. Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funeral Directors are here to help make the funeral process as smooth and stress-free as possible for you and your loved ones.
How Long Is a Catholic Funeral After Death?
Funerals in the Catholic faith typically take place within three days of the death of the person being commemorated, but the process can take as long as a week.
Holy Communion and other rituals are typically performed on a Catholic who is ill or nearing the end of their life by a priest or a deacon.
After the person has passed away, the family members of the deceased may choose to hold a vigil service, which is also sometimes referred to as a reception for the body, the evening before the funeral.
In this area, mourners have the opportunity to pray for the deceased, play music, sing Catholic funeral hymns, or deliver tributes.
This service may take place in the congregation's local church, a funeral home, or even the home of the family.
Catholic Beliefs About Death
Catholics have a strong faith in the existence of an afterlife and the idea that a person's behaviour during their life will determine where their soul will spend eternity: in heaven, hell, or purgatory.
Purgatory is a place that is reserved for people who have lived their lives committing sins that are capable of being forgiven; even souls who have experienced salvation are not permitted to go directly to heaven. Instead, they are required to spend some time in a place or state associated with suffering known as purgatory before they can enter Heaven.
The Protestant faith, which is another branch of Christianity, does not believe in purgatory, which is one of the primary points of contention between the two branches of Christianity.
According to the teachings of the Catholic church concerning purgatory, even a person who has lived their entire life in contrition for their sins is not able to enter heaven as quickly as a person who has never committed sin.
It was a common belief among people of the Middle Ages that ghosts were the lingering souls of the deceased who, in order to gain entrance to heaven, required the assistance of living people in order to complete their tasks.
In many mediaeval ghost stories, living people are shown to be coerced into carrying out deeds or errands for the spirits of deceased individuals who were unable to pass on.
The Protestant Reformation, which took place in the 16th century, was responsible for the condemnation of this doctrine. One of the most significant points of contention between Catholics and Protestants is over the existence of purgatory.
Even though not all modern Catholics subscribe to the doctrine of purgatory, the Catholic Church continues to teach that it is real and necessary.
It was the belief in purgatory that encouraged the development of traditions such as prayers and vigils for the dead, both of which can be seen reflected in contemporary Catholic funeral rites.
It should come as no surprise that a Catholic funeral is traditionally held in a Catholic church; however, it is possible for the service to take place in a funeral home as well.
The funeral service is typically presided over by a Catholic priest, who will deliver a sermon that may or may not include remembrances of the deceased individual's life on earth.
It is common practise to carry out a greater number of rites during a Catholic service as well as other Christian funerals. This entails having a funeral mass, which is a symbolic representation of Christ's resurrection. In addition to that, there will be music all throughout the service.
What Type of Music Is Included in a Catholic Funeral?
Only Catholic funeral hymns or other forms of sacred music are permitted to be performed at a Catholic funeral.
Requiem Mass is a piece of music that has been written by a variety of composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Mozart, Guiseppi Verdi, Gabriel Fauré, Benjamin Britten, and Sarah Brightman, amongst others.
A funeral service at a Catholic church that does not include the Mass typically lasts for forty minutes.
A funeral service that includes Mass typically lasts longer than an hour. The Catholic faith is responsible for some of the most well-known funerals of the 20th and 21st centuries, including the burial of Pope John Paul II.
Antonin Scalia, who served as a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and passed away in 2016, was given a funeral mass according to the Catholic faith.
Catholics and Cremation
The Catholic religion teaches that Jesus Christ will return to earth before the end of time, at which point the dead will be resurrected and allowed to enter the heavenly kingdom.
Because of this, the Catholic Church does not frown upon the practise of cremation; however, they would prefer that the ashes not be dispersed.
Instead, cremated remains should be placed in an urn and then either interred in the ground or stored in a mauseoleum. In addition, autopsies and organ donation are considered acts of charity, which is another reason why these practises are sanctioned.
What Happens at a Catholic Burial or Cremation?
Committal services, also known as the Catholic Rite of Committal, can take place at a graveside, mauseoleum, or columbarium. These services are performed before a Catholic's burial or cremation.
It is typically presided over by an ordained priest or deacon, who will bless the location before leading the mourners in prayer, with the Catholic version of the Lord's Prayer serving as the climax of the service.
It is customary to bury the deceased after a Catholic funeral, and the practise of embalming is permitted. In 1963, Pope Paul VI issued a decree allowing Catholics to have the option of being cremated.
Ashes of a Catholic should be placed in an urn and stored in a columbarium that has been sanctioned by the Church, or they should be buried in a cremation plot in a cemetery.
In 2016, Pope Francis issued a decree stating that ashes should not be dispersed or stored in urns at private residences.
There is no set period of time during which Catholics are expected to be in mourning; however, families may choose to hold a memorial service for their deceased loved one up to six months after their passing or on the anniversary of their passing. Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals will always find creative ways to pull costs in line with your budget.
The Catholic Funeral
It is possible to say that a Catholic funeral is comprised of three distinct parts: the Prayer Vigil, the Funeral Mass, and the Committal of the Remains.
A funeral service for a Catholic is traditionally held in a Catholic church, a chapel located at a Catholic cemetery or assisted living facility, or a Catholic retirement home.
Once more, a Catholic priest will preside over the services, but there is a possibility that a deacon will take on this responsibility instead.
There will be a sermon given, and during it, stories will be shared about the life of the person who passed away. This will help memorialise the person who passed away.
Reception of the Body
On the evening before the funeral, the Reception of the Body, also known as the Prayer Vigil, takes place. During this time, the casket is brought into the church, and people gather there to pray together. Although it is a custom in many different cultures, there are compelling reasons why any Catholic family might want to participate in the service.
The family is able to get some peace and quiet before the funeral by attending a Reception of the Body, which is one of the advantages of having such an event. Additionally, they are able to get their first look at the casket. This assists them in getting ready for the following day.
Around the casket, mourners will frequently pray the Rosary as they stand in silence. There is a possibility that there will be music, readings, and the exchange of memories of the deceased person.
It is not necessary to hold a prayer vigil in a church. It is also possible for it to take place in the chapel of the funeral home or in the family home.
Friends and family of the deceased get together the night before the funeral for something called a "vigil," which many people consider to be very similar to a viewing or wake. At a vigil, everyone gathers together to pray for the person who has passed away.
This might take place in a funeral home, a church, or the home of a friend, or it might even take place outside in a park.
In most cases, a priest is the one who leads the prayers and presides over the Vigil. Given that eulogies are not typically spoken at funerals, the Vigil would be an appropriate setting for paying tribute to the deceased.
Due to the fact that Holy Communion is part of a funeral Mass, also known as a Requiem Mass, the Catholic Church strongly recommends that Catholics attend one.
The remembrance of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection is, consequently, at the centre of this event.
It is likely that the deceased individual, if they were a devout Catholic and wanted a funeral Mass to be held in their parish church, they would have wanted it to take place there.
Funerals are an integral part of the life of the parish and are sometimes celebrated during the regular weekday Mass in certain parishes.
Holy Communion is typically part of the Catholic funeral Mass that is attended by devout Catholics who are actively practising their faith.
They are remembering the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ by acting in this manner. The music, prayers, and hymns that are performed during a Catholic Mass all contribute to the atmosphere, which can be described as profoundly moving.
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 at a Catholic funeral during each stage.
Reception at the Church
In the usual course of events, the priest will meet and greet all of the mourners as they enter the church.
It is common practise for the priest to sprinkle holy water over the casket as the casket is being brought into the church just prior to the beginning of the Mass.
At the altar, members of the family will receive the casket while simultaneously placing a bible or a cross on top of it.
Flowers, funeral service cards, and photographs of the deceased are typically placed on a nearby table by the casket.
Reading During a Catholic Funeral
Along with a psalm, there is at least one reading taken from either the Old or New Testament. In most homes, members of the family or close friends take turns reading aloud from either the Old or New Testament.
A passage from the Gospel is read aloud by the priest. After that, he gives a sermon in which he discusses the significance of the readings that were just done.
It's also possible that he'll talk about the person who passed away. Prayers can be written and read aloud by members of the family or other close friends.
After he has finished reading, the priest will frequently consider the significance of the passages he just heard, and he may also talk about the person who has passed away. Sometimes members of the family or close friends will also read the prayers. Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals offers a full range of funeral services to help make this difficult time a little bit easier for you and your family.
The Eucharist at Catholic Funerals
During the Eucharistic Prayer that takes place during a funeral Mass, members of the family and other close friends bring bread or wine to the altar.
After the presentation of their offerings, Holy Communion was held. Following the distribution of communion, a member of the deceased person's family or a very close friend will speak in their honour.
Following the distribution of Holy Communion, a series of special prayers are recited for the deceased. Traditionally, the priest will sprinkle holy water on the coffin and then incense it.
While the holy water is being sprinkled, the priest will frequently recite a hymn of farewell.
Following the conclusion of the funeral Mass, the mourners follow the casket to the cemetery. Prayers of a special nature are offered by the priest at the gravesite.
The ceremony comes to a close with the participants reciting the Lord's Prayer and the priest offering a blessing. The brief committal service is typically held in the chapel, even when the deceased person's body is going to be cremated.
However, the funeral is not considered over until the family has been given the ashes to bury and they have accepted them.
The Cost of a Catholic Funeral
It's possible that the costs associated with a Catholic funeral will be slightly higher than those of a non-religious funeral.
If you choose to hold a Reception of the Body the evening before the funeral, the funeral director will charge you an additional fee to transport the casket to the church on the following day.
You shouldn't be surprised if the parish asks you to pay a fee. As a point of reference, some people look to the price that was determined by the Church.
Some people will ask for a donation. It is common practise to charge a separate fee for the services of an organist or other musician.
In most cases, these costs will already be factored into the estimate that the funeral director has compiled.
A relatively new practise that is slowly gaining popularity in modern funerals is for close relatives and friends to personally transport the casket and lay out the deceased.
If you wanted to do this for a Catholic funeral, you wouldn't be breaking any rules by doing so.
Catholic Funeral Etiquette
The atmosphere at a Catholic funeral is typically solemn and respectful, and attendees are expected to dress appropriately for the occasion.
That is interpreted to mean wearing black clothing that is somewhere between completely formal and semi-formal. Men ought to dress appropriately by donning a sport coat and tie or, at the very least, a suit and tie. It is recommended that women wear a black dress, skirt, or pantsuit.
In the event that attendees do not have access to black clothing, they should make every effort to wear the darkest semi-formal attire they own.
Although it is no longer obligatory for women to wear hats, some women continue to do so. In the church, hats are not appropriate for men to wear.
Sending flowers is always appreciated, but make sure to select a bouquet that is appropriate for the solemn environment of the church (no stuffed animals or balloons).
At Catholic funerals, mourners are expected to wear garb that is either very bright or very dark. Men are expected to wear a suit and tie in black or another dark colour, while women are expected to wear a dress or suit in a shiny black colour.
Mourners are encouraged to dress in a respectful manner, but they are not required to wear head coverings.
When in doubt, it's best to avoid wearing casual clothing like jeans, sportswear, hoodies, trainers, and slogan t-shirts. However, an increasing number of churches are becoming more accepting of colourful dress codes and other alternative options.
During prayers, it is appropriate to keep your head bowed and to remain seated; however, some individuals choose to kneel instead.
It's not uncommon for the congregation to stand up during certain portions of the service, such as when they are singing hymns. If you are not able to perform this action due to a physical limitation, you are not required to do so. Let Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals help you select the type of funeral service that best fits your needs and your budget.
If you are not a Catholic, you do not have to participate in the procession for Holy Communion but are welcome to do so. You should not take Communion but be blessed by a priest.