Rites of Catholic Burial
The Funeral Vigil (Wake Service), the Funeral Liturgy (Mass), and the Committal (Burial/Entombment) each have distinct purposes in the journey to healing and wholeness. The Vigil, Funeral Liturgy, and Committal sets us on a path to a true healing, wholeness and peace. We don’t have to face it alone, nor should we. Our Church will be there for us, and for that we are truly thankful. Catholics and non-Catholic members of Catholic families may be interred in a Catholic cemetery.
Vigil (Wake) – The Vigil for the deceased is celebrated by the Christian community in the time following death and before the funeral liturgy. It is the first way that the Church captures the sentiments for those who are grieving and sets them in the context of our faith. A prayer service with readings selected from Scripture to fit the circumstances of the deceased, a homily that comforts and gives hope, intercessions that speak to the faith of those gathered around the deceased, and prayers selected from the Order of Christian Funerals can do a great deal to prepare people to enter into the Christian spirit of the Funeral Liturgy. The Rosary or other prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary can be a part of the Vigil.
Liturgy (Mass) – The Funeral Liturgy or Mass is our great “Thank You” to God who created us, died for us, and who is calling each of us back to Himself. In this step, the focus shifts slightly from emphasis on the deceased to God’s saving works through Jesus Christ. The Mass, particularly at the time of death, is truly a special moment, a holy moment, a God-moment.
Committal (Burial) – The last step – the last concrete act we can do for our loved ones in this world – is the Committal, the burial or entombment of the remains of the deceased. The relationships, bonds, and communion we build with one another in faith are not broken by death. Resting in a holy place with brothers and sisters is a profound statement of that belief.
A Catholic cemetery is a sacred place of honor and respect for those who have died. It is a memorial to all who are interred there. It is a sacred place where Catholics come to express their grief and hope in the resurrection for their loved ones who have preceded them in death. It is blessed ground, fitting for someone whose body was a temple of the Holy Spirit on earth and now awaits the resurrection from the dead.
To have a minister of the Church present at this final moment is a great source of consolation to those who will now need to continue their journey in life without their beloved.
Cremation – Since 1963, cremation has been an option for Catholics. The need to actually bury the remains is still important, both in faith and practicality, and so our cemetery offers: Columbarium – an above ground burial crypt; or graves.
Donation of bodies and/or organs for medical research or to various types of “organ banks” is an appropriate action, but should be arranged in advance. Upon eventual disposition of the body or its parts (ashes are returned to the families) an appropriate burial should take place in keeping with the traditions of the Catholic Church.