Planning a traditional Catholic funeral
A Catholic funeral, like all funerals, is a time of sadness and grief. However, in the Catholic faith there's joy in the belief that a funeral represents the passing of the beloved into eternal life. The Catholic Church has many traditions concerning funerals and funeral preparation, though some of these traditions are in dispute or are falling out of favor.
At Time of Death
At the time of death, the church parish may be contacted before a funeral home is called. Some Catholics will opt out of conventional funeral home services in favor of Roman Catholic services. You can be sure that the Roman Catholic Church will handle the funeral with utmost respect for the deceased and the grieving family. A priest and other church figures will minister to the grieving friends and family in whatever ways are needed.
The Catholic vigil is a prayer service, usually held the evening before the funeral. The community of friends and family will gather for a service at the funeral home or the church. The vigil includes prayer for both the deceased and the grieving family. Also, a eulogy may be read at the vigil instead of at the funeral service.
The Catholic Funeral Liturgy
The core of the Catholic funeral celebration will likely consist of several elements. The Eucharist is almost always performed. This is the ceremony at the center of the Catholic faith - the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Prayer also plays a prominent role in the Catholic funeral service, along with songs, hymns and a brief message. However, almost any aspect of the service can be left out, if it is the wish of the family.
In the Catholic faith, there is a great respect for the body. Catholics believe that the body is 'the temple of the Lord' and that at the End of Days, there will be a resurrection of the body.
Cremation is still controversial within Catholic circles (especially among conservative, Orthodox Catholics). However, the Church does allow and accept cremation. If there is any dispute, the 1983 Code of Canon Law (1176. 3) now reads, "The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching." If there is a cremation, it will almost always take place after the funeral service.