Catholic Funeral Traditions

Catholic Funerals

A Catholic funeral is held for those of the Catholic faith who have passed on. It is a very religious occasion with strict traditions and rites that need to be performed for the person who has passed. The funeral service is important for living loved ones as a time to mourn while having the opportunity to recite certain prayers to help the soul find forgiveness and make its way into Heaven.

Catholics believe the soul lives on after death in either Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory with a soul having the possibility to be released from Purgatory after atoning for forgivable sins and being able to enter Heaven. A Catholic funeral provides the opportunity to pray to God for mercy on the soul who has passed. As a result, there are many prayers recited at Catholic funerals including Reciting the Rosary.

Catholic Traditions and Funeral Arrangements

Catholic funeral services differ from other Christian denominations as there are more rite performed and more associated traditions. A Catholic funeral often has three set elements included: the Vigil, the Funeral Mass, and the Rite of Committal. 

The Vigil is held the night before when The Reception of the Body takes place in the church where the funeral will be held. This includes a short service that receives the body of the deceased into the church, where it is displayed overnight. Loved ones and mourners can view the body and pray for the entire night if desired. 

The Funeral Mass is the traditional funeral service and is symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The mass will often include music and hymns, prayers and rosary recitation from mourners. The funeral and associated mass is traditionally held at a Catholic church, although occasionally it will also be held at a funeral home and is led by a Catholic priest. There will be a sermon-like eulogy that includes parts of the life of the deceased and words of comfort for those left behind.

Prayers are recited as the body is lowered into the grave which is lined with wood or stone to prevent the body from coming in contact with dirt. Traditionally, only men attend burials, however, some communities allow women to attend. There are usually funeral prayers and reading from the Quran. Finally, each mourner places three handfuls of soil into the grave, committing the body to the earth. Large grave monuments or ornate headstones are not customarily permitted, and sometimes the grave is unmarked. Other times a small stone marker is left to identify a loved one’s final resting place.

After a funeral, the family gathers to receive mourners at home with guests often bringing food for the days after the funeral. The mourning period usually lasts for forty days, but this depends on the traditions of the family. This will be a time to gather and reflect on the loved ones life and the loss to the family and community. There are other traditions for widows including a longer mourning period of four months and ten days where the widow wears black and remains in the husband’s home for the period.

Finally, the Rite of Committal is when the body is placed in the ground in a final resting place. Catholics almost exclusively believe in burial as it’s believed the body must be intact for resurrection. This rite is often held in the cemetery but can be included in the church funeral service. During this final rite, the priest commits the body to the earth with specific prayers and everyone says last goodbyes. 

The atmosphere at Catholic funerals is sombre and respectful. Family and mourners dress accordingly in black and formal or semi-formal clothes, with men wearing a suit and tie and women wearing a black skirt, dress or trousers. Funerals are not traditionally held on Sundays either.

Select a Catholic Funeral with County Funerals

When choosing County Funerals for your Catholic funeral, you can have peace of mind that we handle all arrangements with dignity and respect for the departed, with every effort made to support the remaining family and loved ones. For more information on how we can help, reach out to our team of experienced funeral directors. 

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