Planning a Catholic funeral service

This article explains the three parts of a Catholic funeral (the vigil, liturgy and committal service), and provides templates for planning and organising  each one.

Each template lists all parts of a service, in the correct order and with space to name the selected readings and hymns, who will do them, what key the music in, the introduction, and other details.

They are for people who work with families to plan services - and others (musicians, ushers, audio-visual operators) who need to know what is happening when at each point during a funeral ceremony.

Understanding Catholic funeral services

In general, a Catholic funeral may have up to three parts:

  • The Vigil for the Deceased usually happens the night before the rest of the funeral - or could happen over several nights if there is a delay.
    Local tradition may see it called different names, or include different parts.
    For example, in New Zealand it traditionally included praying the Rosary, while in Ireland it often incorporates a "removal" when family members receive visitors prior to accompanying the deceased to the church.
  • The Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass is a church service on the day of the funeral.
  • The Committal Service generally happens at the graveside or crematorium, immediately before the body is buried or cremated.

Any or all of these rites may be used in each funeral:  There is a lot of flexibility for individual circumstances, local customs and practical requirements. 

There are differences at the start and end of each service, depending on what other services have happened, and how the change between them happens. And there may be differences, also, if the body of the deceased person is not present at the ceremony.

Because of this flexibility, and the possibility of local guidelines and rules, it is essential to consult the relevant priest / minister to confirm what parts of the ceremonies are being used for each funeral, and what specifically is happening at each stage.

The Templates

See also

Acknowledgement and copyright information

The Order of Christian Funerals is the Catholic-church document that specifies what may happen in a funeral - it provides many different options.

The templates listed about are based on this document, as presented and discussed in the Catholic Sensibility Funeral Rites page, which has more information about aspects of Catholic funerals.

These templates are not official documents, and must always be adapted to suit to local customs, and the specific needs of a family and funeral, as well as local church requirements.

You are welcome to change them for non-commercial use, so long as the Creative-Commons copyright notice is not removed.

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