Many Cultures; One Faith

Planning a Catholic Funeral

Planning a Catholic Funeral


Vigil Service (The Wake)


"At the vigil the Christian community keeps watch witht he family in prayer to God of Mercy and finds strength in Christ's presence." (Order of Christian Funerals #56)

The Vigil Service usually takes place during the period of visitation and viewing at the funeral home.It is a time to remember the life of the deceased and to commend him/her to God. In prayer, we ask God to console us in our grief and give us strength to support one another.

The Vigil Service can take form of a Service of the Word with readings from Sacred Scripture accompanied by reflection and prayers. It can also take form of one of the prayers of the Office for the Dead from the Liturgy of Hours. The clergy and your funeral director can assist you in planning such service.

Its is most appropriate, when family and friends are gathered together for visitation, to offer time for recalling the life of the deceased. For this reason, we encourage eulogies to be done at the funeral home during visitation or at the Vigil Service.



The grieving process necessarily includes time to remember the life of the deceased loved one. In the Catholic funeral rite, this is most appropriately done during the time of visitation or even at the Vigil (Wake) Service.

Since the Funeral Mass is primarily the time for praise and thanks for God's gift of eternal life in Jesus, we discourage the inclusion of a eulogy at the Mass.

Therefore, please be sure to plan for eulogies at the Vigil (Wake) Service.

In accordance with Archdiocesan policy, if a eulogy is to be included at the Funeral Mass, there can be only one speaker, and the reflections may be no more than three minutes long. It must be presented to the priest-celebrant in writing in advance of the Funeral Mass.


The Funeral Mass

The Funeral Mass is the central liturgical celebration, given by the Christian community for the deceased, to express and experience the faith we have in the eternal life of our loved one.

When one of its members dies, the Church encourages the celebration of the funeral liturgy with a Mass. When Mass cannot be celebrated, a funeral liturgy outside of Mass can be celebrated at the church or funeral home.

At the Funeral mass, the Church gathers with the family and friends of the deceased to give praise and thanks to God for Christ's victory over sin and death, to commend the deceased loved ones to God's tender mercy and compassion, and to seek strength and comfort as we participate in the Paschal Mystery.

Since the Eucharistic Liturgy is a uniting of ourselves to the communion of saints (the Church on earth and the Church in heaven), it provides an experience of the continuity that exists with your deceased loved one that reaches beyond the boundaries of death.

The Funeral Mass, therefore, is an act of worship and celebration, and not merely an expression of grief.


Planning the Funeral Liturgy

The process of grieving and mourning may be aided by participating in the preparation and planning of the funeral rites for your loved one.

This gesture of care will allow the funeral to be an expression of your own grief at this time of loss as well as your faith and hope in Jesus and His cross and resurrection. Attention to the details that follow will also aid the priest and the staff at St. Gabriel in our ministry to your family and friends.

The normal structure of the funeral Mass is as follows:

Seating of family members and gathering in the Narthex
Reception of the Body
Greeting and Introduction
Sprinkling of the Body with Holy Water
Placing of the Pall
Placing of Christian Symbols (optional)
Gathering hymn and Procession
Opening Prayer
Liturgy of the Word
Old Testament reading
Responsorial Psalm (sung)
New Testament Reading
Gospel Acclamation (sung)
Gospel Reading
Prayer of the Faithful
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Presentation of the Gifts Eucharistic Prayer (with sung acclamations)
The Lord's Prayer and Sign of Peace
Prayer after Communion
Final Commendation
Song of Farewell and Incensation of the Body
Prayer of Commendation
Procession to the Place of Committal and Closing Hymn


Music for the Funeral

Music plays in integral part in the liturgy of the Church, and at funerals it allows the community to express convictions and feelings that words alone may fail to convey. It has the power to console and uplift the mourners and to strengthen the unity of the assembly in faith and love.

St. Gabriel's Director of Music, Ms. Marie Pango, takes great care in selecting and presenting music that creates a spirit of hope in Christ's victory over death and in the Christian's share in that victory.

An organist and a cantor (vocal soloist) are normally provided for the Funeral Mass. Family members may wish to discuss musical selections for the Funeral Mass with Fr. Phillips or Ms. Marie Pango.

Due to the sacred nature of the liturgy, not all music is appropriate for use at the Funeral Mass. Please see Ms. Marie Pango or contact the Parish Office to discuss any needs you have in regards to music.

If you do plan to include other musicians in the Funeral Mass, please discuss this with Ms. Marie Pango.


The Funeral Pall

A pall is a decorated white cloth symbolizing the resurrection of your loved one into eternal life with Christ. It is our custom to place the pall on the coffin at the beginning of the Funeral Mass as a reminder of the garment given at Baptism, thereby signifying life in Christ.

Since the deceased was dressed in his or her baptismal garment at Baptism y his or her parents and godparents, the family may wish to participate in the ritual gesture of placing the pall on the coffin during the funeral.


Choosing the Scripture Readings

Please refer to this link about choosing Scripture Readings


Offertory Procession

It is appropriate for members of the family to carry the gifts of bread and wine to the priest for the Liturgy of Eucharist during the Funeral Mass. This action is a sign of the offering of ourselves in faith and the offering of the deceased loved one back to God.

Decide before the funeral which family members will carry the offering. Usually, it is those who were closed to the deceased.


Rite of Committal

(Burial or Internment)

The Rite of Committal, which is the conclusion of the Funeral Rite, is the final act of the community of faith in caring for the body of its deceased member. It should normally be celebrated at the place of committal, that is, beside the open grave or place of internment.

In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the confidence that, with all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, the deceased loved one now enters the glory of the resurrection and eternal life with Christ.

The Rite of Committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven; The deceased passes with the farewell prayers of the community of believers into the welcoming company of those who need faith no longer but see God face to face.

Questions about the format of the committal service can be answered by the clergy-celebrant.


What does the Church Teach about Cremation?

The Christian faithful are confronted with the mystery of life and death when they are faced with the presence of the body of one who has died. Moreover, the body which lies in death naturally recalls the personal story of faith, the loving family bonds, the friendships, and the words and acts of the deceased person.

The body of a deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once washed in Baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of Life. Thus, the Church's reverence for the sacredness of the human body grows out of reverence and concern both natural and supernatural for the human person.

While cremation is now permitted by the Church, it is our recommendation that cremation, when chosen, take place after the funeral rites, so that our acts or prayer and worship in grief may take place in the presence of the body as one final act of love and respect for the deceased.

When it is not possible to delay cremation until after the funeral rites are celebrated, the cremated remains of the deceased may be brought to the Church for the Funeral Mass, provided there is an appropriate plan for their internment.

The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they came. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes and a respectful manner of internment. Please discuss these options with the Funeral director.