Catholic Funeral Rites
Catholic funeral rites normally include: a vigil service celebrated in the funeral home or the church, the funeral liturgy itself (in the church), and the Rite of Committal of the body at the cemetery. Although the Church approved the choice for cremation in 1963, it has maintained a preference for funeral rites with the physical body present at all three services.
First Preference: Funeral rites with the body present
The Catholic Church prefers that the body of the deceased be present for the vigil service. In addition, the body of the deceased should be brought to the local parish church for the funeral Mass. There, a white pall placed over the casket connects us to our baptism when we were clothed in a white garment.
The Rite of Committal of the body normally takes place at the cemetery, although the committal can be done at the end of the funeral Mass. The body of the deceased is to be interred, either in the ground or in a crypt following the funeral Mass. Full body interment or entombment affirms our belief in the afterlife when our bodies will rise upon Christ’s return.
Second Preference: Funeral rites with the body present and cremation afterwards
If the choice for cremation has been made, the Church recommends that the cremation take place after the funeral liturgy. In this case, the Vigil for the Deceased and related rites and prayers should be celebrated in the presence of the body. Then, the body should be brought to the parish church for the funeral liturgy with cremation taking place afterwards.
After cremation of the body, the cremated remains should be committed for burial according to the Order of Christian Funerals. The cremated remains should be treated with the same respect given to the human body. Therefore, they should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium (but not a common/communal columbarium). This is the reverent disposition of the cremated remains that the Church requires.
Third Preference: Funeral rites with the cremated remains present.
The Catholic Church does allow the celebration of the funeral liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains of the deceased, but it is considered the least desirable choice. The Church strongly prefers that the body of the deceased be present for its funeral rites since the presence of the body clearly recalls the life and death of the person.
For several reasons, someone may choose cremation first. When this happens, the Vigil for the Deceased may be celebrated in the presence of the cremated remains. Likewise, the cremated remains may be brought to church for the celebration of the funeral Mass and then buried properly.
The Catholic Cemetery Conference has created a multi-platform set of materials to educate all in Catholic burial traditions. These materials assist in providing information on what the Church teaches about its mission to care for those who died and the benefits afforded the living as they lay loved ones to rest. To access these free materials, visit www.catholicburialtraditions.org.
Please contact a family Service advisor for more information:
Calvary Cemetery in South Portland & Holy Cross Cemetery in Yarmouth: 207-773-5796
St. Joseph & St. Mary Cemeteries in Biddeford: 207-282-0747
St. Ignatius & Notre Dame Cemeteries in Sanford/Springvale: 207-324-6040
St. Peter and Mt. Hope Cemeteries in Lewiston and St. Anne, Mt. Calvary, Sts. Cyril & Methodius Cemeteries in Lisbon/Lisbon Falls: 207-782-8721