Funerals - Rite of Christian Burial

In the Catholic Tradition, the Funeral Mass demonstrates this faith in Jesus’ victory over death and our personal involvement in that resurrection. During the Mass there are songs and readings, prayers and blessings, ceremonies and symbols that are specifically used to express this faith. Listed below are some of the elements present in a Funeral Mass. 

The priest’s vestments color - The clergy usually wear white vestments. The color white normally represents Easter, weddings, baptisms and other events of happiness, joy and victory. This is not only a time for grieving over the loss of loved one but a celebration of their entrance through death into life eternal. The church also allows for violet or black vestments to be worn. 

Music - The hymns and songs generally selected are light and joyful. Easter music proclaiming the Lord’s resurrection is appropriate. 

Bible passages - There are more than seventy scriptural readings available for a funeral liturgy. There are two options. The first is one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament and one from the gospels. The second option is one from either the Old or New Testament and one from the gospels.
The Easter or paschal candle - This candle, which is placed in the sanctuary for fifty days after Easter symbolizes the risen Christ living among us who has conquered sin and death. This candle is carried in procession or placed before the casket as a reminder that the deceased shares in this victory of Jesus over the powers of darkness. 

Sprinkling of the casket - The priest sprinkles holy water over the casket as a reminder of the deceased first baptism. 

Incensing of the body - In recognition of the Christian belief that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and will one day be resurrected by God the priest walks around the casket and incenses the body. This a sign of our respect, a symbol of the community’s prayers for the deceased rising 

Personalized memorial cards - If there is time and resources personalized memorial cards and leaflets may be used at Mass to help people participate during the liturgy. 

Presentation of the Gifts - During the Funeral Mass family members or friends are encouraged to bring the bread and wine to the altar. Also, on a small table located before or near the altar gifts or objects symbolic of the deceased life and interests may be placed. 

Holy Communion - The church encourages those present to share in Holy Communion, especially under both kinds. 

Placing of the Pall - At the beginning of the liturgy a funeral pall is draped over the coffin. This symbolizes the garment given at baptism and our future life in Christ. This pall also signifies that all are equal in the eyes of God. Family or friends are encouraged to drape this. 

Reconciliation - Contact the priest in advance if special arrangements need to be made for confession. 

Funeral homily and family remarks - Based on the scriptural readings the priest or deacon will give a brief homily, weaving aspects of the deceased life and the reasons these scriptures were chosen into the message. A friend or family member may speak in remembrance of the deceased after the communion prayer and before the final commendation. 

Final commendation and committal - The liturgy of final farewell or commendation and committal is the last ceremony after Mass and at the cemetery. 



RESOURCES:


The Rite of Christian Burial at St. Matthew Church (Structure of the Rite in a handout format).

Choices for Opening Prayer, Readings, and Prayers of the Faithful for Funeral Mass (a PDF file).

Funeral Services (Contact information for Musicians, etc.)

St. Matthew Cemetery Information