The Order of Christian Funerals


The rituals and prayers surrounding death are a witness to the faith of the one who has died.  They give comfort to the community of family and friends who have been with the deceased person in life.

The rituals and prayers should be seen as one prayer, like a procession that moves from the deathbed to the cemetery.  Within this procession there are some moments that are special: the wake service, the funeral liturgy and the committal or burial itself.

Keeping Vigil-The Wake Service: The Wake is the principal time of prayer before the funeral liturgy.  It is usually celebrated by an assembly of family members and friends.  It may take place in the home, or at the funeral home, or at the church.  Everyone present is encouraged to take part by prayers, intercessions, and listening to the Word of God.   It is appropriate that during the wake service that some family members and friends speak in memory of the deceased.  This can be an informal sharing of memories.

Eulogies: It is a loving thing when someone, a family member or friend, speaks in remembrance or in thanksgiving for the life of the person who has died. Usually there should be no more than one or two people who do this.

When does this take place?  The church recommends that the eulogy be given either at the end of the Wake Service or after the Communion Rite of the Funeral Mass.  Usually there should be no more than one or two people who do this.

The message should be relatively short.  The eulogist should briefly outline the facts of the deceased’s biography because not everyone in attendance knows all the facts. The eulogy should recapitulate facts about the deceased’s accomplishments, education, marriage, children and so forth.

The person (s) giving the eulogy should avoid giving a sermon. It is the task of the Priest or Deacon to do the preaching and it is the task of a friend or a family member to do the eulogizing.  The two are not the same.

The Funeral Liturgy: The funeral liturgy is the central moment in the procession from death to burial.  The body is usually brought to the parish church.  The liturgy of the funeral includes: the Formal Reception of the Body, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist and Final Commendation.

The Committal: The committal is the final ritual in the movement from death to burial.  It is celebrated at the grave or wherever interment is to take place.