The following are some very broad guidelines for family members of a Catholic person who is dying or who has died. It has been prepared by the Catholic Health Association of BC. This information is intended to assist family members and loved ones who may not be familiar with the requirements for a Catholic funeral and burial in knowing what needs to be done.
“He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death and no more mourning or sadness or pain.” Rev. 21:4
It is important to notify caregivers, hospital staff and pastoral care visitors that the dying/deceased person is Catholic.
Oftentimes, these individuals will know what procedures are to be followed and may be of assistance at this difficult time.
It is highly recommended that contact be made with the Parish of the deceased individual as soon as possible to inform the pastor of the death.
Funeral, cemetery or cremation arrangements cannot be finalized until the family of the deceased has had an opportunity to discuss personally with the priest the various procedures and rites pertaining to a Catholic funeral and burial. The priest is there to offer guidance and support.
In accordance with Catholic teaching, the funeral service for a Catholic consists of bringing the body of the deceased to the Church, the celebration there of Mass, followed by interment, preferably in the consecrated ground of a Catholic cemetery.
While the Catholic Church accepts cremation, the body of the deceased must be present in the Church at a Mass of Christian Burial.
Therefore, cremation must be delayed until after the Funeral Mass has taken place. It is important to inform the pastor of the Church where the funeral is to be held if there is to be a cremation.
Once the Funeral Home/Director has been chosen, inform them that the deceased is Catholic.
They have a copy of the official guidelines and regulations for a Catholic funeral and burial and will be able to assist you in making appropriate choices.
Family and loved ones should also be aware of the following key aspects of the funeral and burial for an individual who is Catholic:
- A wake or prayer service may be offered for the deceased and for the bereaved preferably in the Church, usually the afternoon or evening preceding the funeral. The whole Christian community, through the Church and its Liturgy, offers its prayers for God’s mercy for the deceased and His strength for the bereaved.
- A eulogy (or words of remembrance) is not part of the funeral Mass. If there is to be a eulogy, it may take place at the conclusion of the wake or prayer service or at a gathering following the funeral and burial.
It is imperative that you seek the direction of the officiating priest if a eulogy is desired. An alternative to a eulogy is a printed souvenir leaflet with biographical and other details of the deceased’s life and achievements, which serves as a more permanent keepsake.