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A "Catholic funeral" refers to the funeral rites specifically in use in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. Within the Church, they may also be referred to as ecclesiastical funerals. In Catholic funerals, the Church seeks to provide spiritual support for the deceased and honor their bodies, as well as try to provide a measure of hope for the family and friends of the deceased.

Canons 1176-1185 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law specify the norms for Catholic funerals.[1]

Pre-Vatican II Usages and the Extraordinary Form

1.In the years before the Second Vatican Council, the ordinary form used in the Latin Rite was that which is called the Extraordinary Form today. Even in parishes which do not normally celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum states that it should be permitted by the pastor or rector for special occasions such as funerals. [2]

2.In the Extraordinary Form, the Catholic funeral Mass is called the Requiem Mass — coming from the first line of the Introit used in such Masses by priests: Réquiem, ætérnam dona eis, Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat eis. (Eternal rest give to them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them). Such Masses had a number of differences from other Masses, mainly taking a solemn character. There is more focus on the conflict between sin and following Christ, and the judgment that will come at the end of each life. The priest is vested in the liturgical color black; the burning of incense at the Introit and Gospel is omitted, as is the psalm Judica me Deus and the kiss of peace. If a deacon is present to chant the Gospel, the acolytes bearing candles are not used in the funeral Mass. Additionally no blessing is given. The sequence Dies Iræ, or Day of Wrath is included in the Mass between the Epistle and the Gospel; it speaks of the day of judgment and the need for repentance. (Of course, the "Dies Irae" may also be sung in the Ordinary Form, but as a motet or hymn.)

3.The bier holding the body is positioned in the middle of the church. If the decedent was a member of the laity their feet face the altar. If the decedent was a member of the clergy the head faces the altar. [3]

Post Vatican II Usages and the Ordinary Form

After the Second Vatican Council, a number of the rites associated with a funeral were provided with new options in keeping with the directives of the Council to reform the liturgy. The Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy removed those texts from the new Ordinary Form which they felt overemphasized judgment, fear, and despair - feeling that the Funeral Mass should urge hope and faith in the resurrection. [4]

The Ordinary Form's funeral Mass, or Mass of Christian Burial, focuses on the fact that life has changed, rather than ended. As opposed to the previously required black vestments, the priest is now traditionally vested in white. However, black or violet vestments are still permitted. Texts such as Dies Iræ are no longer used as Mass texts, but may still be used as hymns or motets accompanying Mass. The Mass consists of the reception of the body at the church, liturgies of the word and Eucharist, and final committal.[5]

See also

  • Funeral sermon and prayer
  • Month's Mind
  • Requiem Mass
  • Viewing (funeral)
  • Wake (ceremony)


  1. "Code of Canon Law". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  2. "Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum"". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  3. Juergens, Sylvester P. (1960). The New Marian Missal For Daily Mass. Regina Press, New York. pp. 1376, 1387-1388. 
  4. Bugnini, Annibale: The Reform of the Liturgy : 1948–1975, (The Liturgical Press, 1990), Chap.46.II.1, p.773.
  5. "Spiritual Guidance Order of Christian Funerals — Part II". Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries. 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 

External links

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