Preparation for death is an essential part of life for a Christian. Recognizing that the goal of our lives is eternal life with God, we prepare for that by prayer, reception of the sacraments, and care for those around us.
Your death marks the end of your stewardship on earth and is the beginning of your eternal life. Talking about death is never easy, but discussion and pre‑planning can eliminate stress and confusion and assist your grieving family and friends.
Consider this: There are at least 50 decisions that need to be made at the time of a death. Some of these decisions cannot be made in advance. But cemetery arrangements can be made in advance. By doing so, you alleviate the burden on your survivors at a very stressful time.
How to Plan a Catholic Funeral Service: A Guide for Families
When planning a Catholic funeral service, there are a few things that families need to keep in mind. The most important thing is to remember that the service is for the deceased, and not for the mourners. This means that the focus should be on honoring the life of the person who has passed away, and not on making the mourners feel better. Let us discuss some of the key components of a Catholic funeral service, as well as some tips for planning it.
What does a Catholic funeral consist of?
- The Vigil
The Christian community’s main rite after death and before the funeral liturgy is the vigil for the deceased. Christians assemble at the Vigil to pay their respects and honor to those who have died. They remember and talk about the individual who has passed away. The family is consoled by the community’s love and friendship, as well as the guarantee of prayer and the offer of aid.
Other devotional prayers, such as the rosary, may provide comfort to you and your family, but they should not take the place of the vigil. The rosary and other devotional prayers may be offered at different times, such as right after death or when the family meets in front of the body for the first time.
- Funeral Liturgy
The Funeral Liturgy, which is usually a Mass, is the Christian community’s principal commemoration for the deceased and takes place in the parish church. Catholics bring the deceased’s body to the church. Even if cremation is decided, this is the situation. Their Christian journey began at this church. They were united to Christ, who has triumphed over death, in the waters of Baptism. They were molded by God’s Word and fed at the Lord’s Table in this place.
Although the funeral Catholic Mass is customary, there may be times when it is neither possible nor acceptable. The pastor can assist you with this and answer any other questions you may have concerning the Funeral Liturgy.
- Committal Service
The funeral comes to an end with this rite. It is the community’s final act of caring for a departed member’s body. The actual act of committal should be included in the Rite of Commitment, which should be performed at the location of committal – that is, at the grave, mausoleum crypt, or cremation columbarium. The Lord has turned the grave into a symbol of hope, promising resurrection.
Military services and other fraternity rites are also allowed in the cemetery. These additional services should be scheduled with the local priest in advance so that they do not disrupt or distract from the liturgical service’s purity.
Checklist for Planning a Catholic Funeral
- Find a suitable end-of-life plan.
If you are planning a Catholic funeral, it is important to find an end-of-life plan that reflects your wishes and those of your loved ones. You may want to consider pre-planning your funeral or discussing your wishes with your family in advance. This will ensure that your final arrangements are carried out according to your preferences.
- Get in touch with the funeral director.
After looking around for the best funeral home, it is time to get in touch with the funeral director and begin making arrangements. The funeral director will be able to advise you on the best way to proceed, as well as answer any questions you may have.
Your funeral director will be your guide in planning a Catholic funeral. He or she will assist you from start to finish. The funeral director will also be able to provide you with information on the different options available to you.
- Contact the church.
You’ll collaborate with the pastoral team at your loved one’s church in addition to working with a funeral director. You should contact the church as soon as possible to find out who you should speak with. The church will need to know about the funeral arrangements so that they can be prepared for the service. They will also need to know about any special requirements you may have.
The church will be able to provide you with information on the different options available for the funeral service. They will also be able to help you with planning the service and can provide guidance on what to expect.
- Plan for a budget.
You can avoid any unforeseen costs when planning a Catholic funeral. It is a good idea to have an accurate estimate of the costs involved. This will help you stay within your budget and not be caught off guard by unexpected expenses.
If you’re having trouble paying for a funeral director and a burial plot, the church may be able to assist you. Although some parishioners prefer to give a donation, the Catholic Church does not charge for funeral services.
- Choose your disposition.
Cremation is becoming more popular, but it is not required. You can also opt for a traditional burial. The Catholic Church makes this decision a little easier by emphasizing the importance of burial over cremation.
If you choose cremation service, you will need to select an urn or container for the ashes. The funeral director can assist you with this decision. If you choose burial, you will need to purchase a casket or coffin.
You will also need to decide whether you want a public or private viewing, as well as how long the service should be. Keep in mind that a Catholic funeral Mass can last up to two hours. You should also consider who will lead the service. This is typically a priest, but it can also be a deacon or layperson.
- Choose a Catholic funeral service.
There are 2 types of Catholic funeral ceremonies to choose from.
Funeral Mass – For Catholic funerals, the Funeral Mass is the most common and typically favored choice. It is considered the highest form of Catholic prayer and includes a unique Liturgy. The mass takes place inside the church and usually last an hour.
The Funeral Liturgy outside Mass – In some instances, the Funeral Liturgy might be held outside of the Holy Mass. The Liturgy can be held in any church or chapel and lasts around half as long as a Funeral Mass. The Liturgy is structured similarly to a Funeral Mass, however, it does not include some prayers that are unique to Masses.
Once you have decided on which type of funeral service you want, the Funeral Mass features a number of readings and hymns. These readings and hymns should be chosen in advance by the family. The priest will also offer a homily, which is a short sermon based on the readings.
- Committal and reception.
The priest will accompany you to the burial grounds after the funeral service. The committal is a brief rite that takes place at the graveside or mausoleum. Following the commitment, you may want to invite guests back to your home or a venue for a reception.
This planning guide should help you through planning a Catholic funeral service step-by-step. If you have any questions, you can reach out to the Archdiocese of Seattle by calling 888-884-6772.