Because of our belief not only in the immortality of the soul, but also in the resurrection of the body, the Church professes hope in the face of death, and acts with charity in the funeral rites. The Church provides a number of prayers for the faithful to offer both to accompany the dying of a loved one and to strengthen our faith upon their death. Through private prayer and public funeral rites, we strengthen our faith and hope, comfort those who mourn, and bury the bodily remains of the deceased with care befitting what was the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
Planning for your funeral in advance can be a cathartic process, as the funeral liturgies themselves help unpack the mystery of eternal life. There are three core elements to a Catholic funeral, with other ways to greive and mourn as well.
Vigil / Christian Wake
The vigil is a small prayer service often combined with a viewing (though certainly not necessary) and occasionally the communal praying of the Rosary. It can be held at a family home, a funeral home, or at the church.
Funeral Mass or Funeral Service
The desired funeral liturgy for a Catholic is a Mass of Christian Burial (sometimes erroneously called a Mass of the Resurrection). A funeral Mass allows us to off a Mass as a sacrifice for the soul of the deceased and bring a life to conclusion in a way in which the Faith is celebrated throughout one’s life. If for some reason a priest isn’t available to celebrate a Mass, then a funeral service outside of Mass is available. This may be celebrated by a deacon at a funeral home.
Rite of Committal / Interment
All of our earthly remains must be laid to permanent rest. Even if we are cremated, our remains must be placed in a permanent location outside the home (cemetary, graveyard, or columbarium). This short ceremony involves the blessing of the ground in which remains are placed, prayers for mourners, and last farewells.