Catholic Funeral Services like all religious services are steeped in cultural tradition in line with the teachings of the Catholic faith. Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and that the sharing in the Eucharist is the sign of our oneness and unity in the Catholic Church.
The funeral service known as the “Requiem Mass” usually takes place two to three days following the death and is held in a Church/Chapel. A priest will preside over the Mass which will usually last up to one and a half hours. The priest is very important in the preparation of the Mass but will want the family to be involved as much as possible to select the music and prayers for the Mass. The Requiem Mass is a full mass at which Holy Communion will be distributed.
The priest will ask for biographical information when preparing his funeral homily, it is important to make sure that the information provided is from an immediate family member who has the most knowledge about the deceased. Most people attending the funeral are often surprised to learn how much they didn’t know about the deceases’ life.
The priest will spend approx 10 minutes on the homily after which family members and friends are encouraged to read from the bible and responsorial psalms, prayers are also said for other deceased members of the family.
Two family members will also be asked to bring gifts to the altar. This gifts include bread and wine symbolizing the body and blood of Christ and items that represent the life of the person.
Increasingly families have decided that they want to honor their loved one in a personal way and now have a separate eulogy which is delivered after the main mass is over. The eulogy contains words of tribute or may be a selected prayer or poem. It provides the opportunity for the family to thank everyone involved in the reparation of the Funeral as well as those in attendance at the funeral. The eulogy should last no longer than 5 minutes and priests are strict with time.
The burial usually takes place on consecrated ground at a Catholic cemetery. Some families may choose to take their loved to a different cemetery if they have been instructed to do so by there loved one, this usually happens when the deceased has requested to be buried with another family member e.g. spouse, mother, father or child.
The final prayers are offered and usually with on decade of the rosary, the grave is blessed by the priest and Holy water sprinkled on the coffin. Immediate family members may throw a handful of earth or a rose on the grave to symbolize the finality of the deceases life.
Attendees of the funeral will take the opportunity at the graveside to pay their respects to the immediate family, particularly those who were unable to visit the wake.
Whilst the Catholic Church recommends that the custom of burial be retained, they do allow cremation as long as cremation is not chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching. (1983 Code of Canon Law). Rising costs of funerals has brought with it a new trend of cremation and today in Ireland and across the world cremation has increased significantly, families may bury the ashes in a cemetry or scatter them. There are restrictions and families need to be careful when considering scattering ashes, your funeral director can guide you.