Funeral Etiquette: Catholic Funerals

funeral etiquette catholic funeralWhen it comes to funerals, many choose to have their loved one buried after a religious service. One of the most common religious funerals outside of the broader Christian funeral is a Catholic funeral. Catholicism is steeped in tradition and rites, so if you are planning or plan on attending a Catholic funeral, there are some things you should know in addition to the basic rules of etiquette that apply to any traditional funeral.

The Vigil

This is different from the wake, or viewing, and is a service that is held the evening or the night before the actual Funerary Mass the next day. It can take place after the wake or the same day as the wake, but the two should not be confused as the same thing.

The Funeral Liturgy

The Roman Catholic funeral is filled with meaning and typically has four distinct components: Eucharist, Prayer, Hymns and Rites of Burial. The Eucharist, otherwise known as Holy Communion, since it is one of the pillars of the Catholic faith. The Rites of Burial have been used for centuries in Catholic ceremonies, however, the prayers and hymns may differ for each funeral. If you are not Catholic, be respectful of the rituals, don’t isolate yourself and don’t openly say a prayer from a different religion for the deceased.


If you have attended the Funeral Liturgy, then it is expected that you travel to the cemetery, where the body will be interned. There, the priest will perform another short service graveside and the casket will be lowered into the ground. Catholics place a great deal of importance on the body and consider it a temple, so the burial of the body is just as important and symbolic as the Mass.


While cremation within the Catholic faith is not as taboo as it once was, there are still those that frown upon it and the funeral liturgy absolutely cannot be performed if the cremains are present (while it is acceptable for the body to be present). If cremation is requested, required or otherwise called for in a Catholic ceremony, it is general practice in these rare cases that cremation take place after the Funeral Liturgy has been performed.


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