From the Rector: Funerals-Part III

Funerals: Part III of the Series

The Order of Christian Funerals is the book which contains all the prayers, rituals, readings, and instructions approved for use in the Dioceses of the United States for carrying out Catholic Funeral Rites.  As mentioned in the first Part of this series, there are three Major parts of the Funeral Rites.

1.) Vigil for the deceased, 2.) The Funeral Liturgy itself, (Mass) and 3.) the Rite of Committal.

The Vigil.  

The Vigil and Related Rites and Prayers include the rites that may be celebrated between the time of death and the funeral liturgy.  The Vigil is the principal celebration of the Christian community during the time before the funeral liturgy.  It may take the form of a liturgy of the Word or of some part of the Office for the Dead (the Liturgy of the Hours). Two vigil services are provided in the Ritual book, the Vigil for the Deceased, and the Vigil for the deceased with Reception (of the body) at the Church.

The Vigil may be celebrated in the home of the deceased, in the funeral home chapel, or some other suitable place.  It may also be celebrated in the Church, but at a time well before the funeral liturgy, so that the funeral liturgy will not be too lengthy.

The Vigil in the form of the Liturgy of the Word consists of the introductory rites, the readings, the prayer of intercession, the Lord’s prayer and a concluding rite.  At the vigil, a member of the family or a friend of the deceased may speak in remembrance of the deceased.  Also, at the Vigil sacred songs appropriate to the occasion may be sung as an entrance and at the closing. Music for Catholic worship should always originate from the voices of the actual participants, and not the playing of recorded sound, while recordings that are especially meaningful to the family may of course be used outside the liturgy itself at public receptions or private gatherings of the family and friends.

Where it is the local custom to pray the Rosary for the deceased person, this might be prayed after the Vigil. If the Vigil includes the reception of the body at the Church, then this ritual is not repeated at the beginning of the Funeral Liturgy.

If the Vigil takes the form of the Office of the Dead it may be celebrated either as Morning Prayer (Lauds)  or Evening Prayer (Vespers).  This office should be sung whenever possible. The Liturgy of the Hours consists of three Psalms, a reading, intercessions, the Lord’s prayer and concluding prayer. According to local custom, the Rosary might follow this Office.

If a viewing of the body is to take place, the vigil is the most appropriate time. It may, however, take place prior to the funeral Mass or funeral liturgy, but a viewing  never takes place after the funeral itself.

The next installment will look at the Funeral Mass.


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