As a Christian, Catholics believe in life after death. Their funerals are based upon prayers for the departed soul. Generally, they include a mass throughout the Catholic cremation service. Here’s a guide to catholic funerals if you are expected to attend one.

Introduction to Catholic Funerals

Catholic funerals are religious services, which are held for people of this faith who have passed away. This funeral service is a significant function for the living, who believe that the soul continues to live on even after death.

All Christians shared this belief that is based upon the faith that the soul lives on in either Hell or Heaven. The decision is based on how righteously you lived your life. However, Catholics believe otherwise. They believe that the soul goes to a third destination called purgatory. This is for people who committed forgivable sins throughout their life and may end in Heaven eventually.

Thus, for encouraging such forgiveness, Catholic funerals are times for appealing to God to show mercy on the departed soul. Keeping that in mind, one should expect lots of prayers at their funeral service. There are going to be talks about the departed like being now in Heaven with God. This is a way for comforting the bereaved people.

Their belief in purgatory is not the only difference between Catholic funerals and other Christian funerals. However, they have various unique traditions, which include:


Traditionally, Catholic funerals take place in a Catholic church. Sometimes, they may beheld at funeral houses too. A Catholic priest is the one who leads this service. This priest delivers a sermon that includes commemorating snippets from the time of the deceased on Earth.

With Catholic services, there are more rituals performed as compared to other Christian funerals. A Catholic funeral service includes a mass that symbolizes the Christ’s resurrection. Also, there will be music during the funeral service.


  • Greetings or introductory rite by the Catholic priest
  • Procession of the priest, coffin, and audience up the aisle
  • Throughout the process, holy water is sprinkled
  • Prayers and opening song
  • Bible readings
  • Mass or Holy Communion
  • Prayers
  • Coffin is taken down and out of the church
  • Prayers at the graveside for the Rite of Committal

Unlike a non-Catholic funeral, no eulogy is there. Usually, this is the case with a Catholic funeral. Family and friends who want to say something about the departed one can do so at a wake or reception after the cremation service if they like to say a few words.

Autopsies and Cremation

In recent years, cremation has been considered by the Catholic church an acceptable practice. However, traditionally, cemeteries and churches prefer that ashes need to be placed in cremation. Or, the ashes can be preserved in a mausoleum or buried but not scattered. Catholics believe all bodies at the end of time will rise from the grave for entering the kingdom of Heaven.

In Catholic funerals, autopsies are permitted. This activity is seen by Catholics as an act of charity. This concept is central to the family. Also, Catholics allow embalming at a funeral.


Before a funeral, it is a well-known tradition to hold a wake ceremony in Catholics. This ceremony may take place some days before the funeral. Usually, it takes place at night. Some wakes last for only a few hours, while some last for days. There could be a Vigil service, a Catholic religious term for this wake ceremony.

The Vigil Ceremony happens during the viewing/visitation period or the wake. This often takes place at a funeral house.

Catholic Funeral Etiquette

At a Catholic funeral, the atmosphere is usually respectful and somber. So, one should accordingly dress. This is interpreted as semi-formal, black clothing for the Catholic church. Males should wear a suit and tie or a sports coat and tie. Females should wear a black pantsuit, dress, or dress. If one could not find anything black, attendees should look to wear dark semi-formal clothing they own. Although some women do, it is not necessary to wear hats for women. Men are not supposed to wear a hat in the Catholic church.

It is appreciated always to send flowers to the bereaved family. One can select a flower arrangement that is best for a somber church environment. It is better not to send balloons or stuffed animals to a Catholic funeral.

FAQs Related to a Catholic Funeral

  1. What does one wear to a Catholic funeral mass?

A Catholic funeral mass is usually held in a Catholic church. Men can wear a dark suit and women can wear a black pantsuit. It is also appropriate for women to wear dark dresses at a funeral service. One’s clothing should cover the knees and shoulders. Women should wear simple jewelry if they want to wear it.

  1. At what time does a Catholic funeral take place after death?

Catholic funerals take place from 2 days to 1 week after death. However, usually, it occurs within the span of three days.

  1. What does the rite of committal mean?

In a Catholic funeral, the Rite of Committal is the final stage. It takes place often at the cemetery. However, it may be part of the Catholic funeral service at the church too. In both ways, this stage is the final one, where the Catholic priest commits the deceased body officially to the earth. At this stage, everybody bids final goodbyes to the deceased.

  1. What is a rosary ceremony?

Catholic funerals actually comprise three parts. Each part may take place at different times. The Vigil service is the first funeral service. This one occurs at the wake. After that, the Funeral Mass takes place. Now, this stage is the conventional funeral ceremony. Lastly, the Rite of Committal takes place. At the wake, it is customary to perform a set of prayers or recite the Rosary.

  1. Can Catholic funerals be held on Sundays?

Conventionally, a Catholic funeral is not held on a Sunday, although there can be some exceptions. Usually, Sundays are reserved for a regular church service.

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