Roman Catholic funeral service
At Co-op Funeral Directors, we are experienced in arranging Catholic funeral masses and can help you organise a service with traditional values and personal touches to honour the life of your loved one.
Please contact a member of our team who can provide support and advice.
Below is some further information on Catholic funeral rituals to help with your funeral planning.
Catholic beliefs on death
Catholics believe that upon death a person’s soul will depart the physical world to enter the afterlife. According to a person’s actions in their physical life, their soul will move on to either Heaven, Hell or Purgatory.
They also trust that when Jesus Christ rises again for a second time, their body will be resurrected and reunited with its soul.
Traditionally, and if possible, when a person is approaching death a priest will visit their bedside to conduct the Last Rites, which involves saying prayers and anointing with holy oil to prepare the soul to pass onto its next life.
Roman Catholics are more commonly buried, cremation is allowed however, but only in accordance with guidelines issued by the Vatican. These state that ashes must be kept in a sacred place e.g. a church cemetery and not in an urn at home or scattered.
Embalming is acceptable in the Catholic faith and may be necessary if having an open casket at the vigil.
Catholic funeral rituals & venue
Usually there are three types of ritual that are involved in a Catholic funeral, these include a vigil (wake), mass and burial or cremation:
The vigil or wake
This is a remembrance ceremony which is held either in church or at home with the body or cremated remains present. If the body is at the vigil, this may be in an open or closed casket, adorned with flowers, candles and a crucifix.
If your loved one is being buried and you would prefer the wake to take place in your own home, one of our Funeral Directors can pay a visit to assess if the coffin can transported in and out safely.
A priest will lead private rituals and prayers with the family. The body or remains then sometimes stay in the home or church overnight ready for mass which is usually held the day after the vigil.
We can arrange a full Catholic funeral service to honour the passing of your loved one. This is a Requiem Mass including Holy Communion. If the body or remains are not present for the service, this will be conducted as a Memorial Mass.
At the church the body or remains are served the introductory rites which include sprinkling the casket or remains with holy water and covered with a pall. Symbols of faith such as a crucifix, rosary and Bible may also be placed with the deceased for the ceremony and can also be buried with them.
The priest will then lead the Liturgy of the Word and Eucharist, and after communion give the Final Commendation with prayers and songs of farewell.
It is worth noting that Mass cannot be held on certain Holy days:
- Holy Thursday
- Good Friday
- Holy Saturday
- Easter Sunday
- Sundays during Advent
- Easter Season
A Funeral Mass may be held on Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), however the ashes would not be placed in the church.
If a burial is taking place, the funeral procession will congregate at the cemetery with the priest for the Rite of Committal to be read.
Catholic funeral etiquette
Mourners should wear dark, conservative clothing. Non-Catholics will not participate in Holy Communion, instead receiving a blessing, and are welcome to join in with singing hymns.
Mourners are asked to be respectful and follow along with the service – standing, kneeling, sitting and bowing your head when instructed.