Catholic funerals are carried out according to the Order of Christian Funerals. A Catholic funeral holds two distinct purposes: to honour the dead and care for those who are grieving. This care is focused on remembering and celebrating the death and subsequent Resurrection of Christ, and how this mystery offers Catholics hope. Every Catholic, unless they have been specifically excluded due to Church/canonical law, is entitled to a Catholic funeral.
The Vigil for the Deceased is celebrated during wakes. The Vigil is generally led by a priest or deacon, though if none are available a lay person with experience in leading public prayers may be chosen instead. The Vigil may take place in a private home, a funeral home or a church. If available, music may be included. Often the Vigil is a time when those who cannot attend the Funeral Mass or Rite of Committal come together to take part in the funeral rites.
The Funeral Mass may be celebrated any hour of any day except for solemnities of obligation: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday or any Sunday in Advent, Lent and the Easter Season. Generally the Funeral Mass is celebrated in the church the deceased was a member of, though it may also be celebrated in a chapel (such as in a nursing home) or in any Catholic church with the agreement of the priest. If it is requested and approved, the Funeral Mass may be celebrated for more than one person at a time.
The Rite of Committal is a “gathering of the faithful for prayer” that generally takes place at the graveside or interment/cemetery chapel. At this time it is usually appropriate for military or cultural customs to be included.
According to the Order of Christian Funerals, the Vigil for the Deceased, Funeral Mass and Rite of Committal are the three main parts of a Catholic funeral. Planning a Catholic funeral should be done with the parish priest so as to navigate Church practice, procedure and law most effectively.