Thank you for considering Ascension to help plan your loved ones, or, your own funeral needs. The loss of a family member or friend is a very difficult time for those left behind who are presented with many different choices. We have compiled this guide in order to assist you in understanding and planning the Funeral Rites.
This guide can be used at any time. You can refer to it when you are faced with these decisions because your loved one just passed away or you can make your wishes clear to your family ahead of your death by choosing preferences such as a funeral home/mortuary, if you want a Vigil, a Funeral Liturgy and Committal, what readings and music, and where you want your final resting place to be.
In this guide, you will find an overview of the rites, actionable steps, and references. We invite you to read this guide in order to help you make your choices and complete the forms at the end. Please bring them with you to the meeting with our funeral facilitator, who is here to assist you. They are available to answer any questions you may have regarding the Church guidelines for Funeral Rites.
If you are using this information to pre-plan your own funeral, please give a copy of the completed forms to a trusted family member. You may also leave a copy of the completed form with a funeral facilitator or the parish office.
Printable Guide (Includes Forms)
The Three Components of Funeral Rites
The Vigil Service (Wake) begins the Funeral Rites and is the time when family and friends of the deceased gather to reflect upon that person’s life and express their own feelings. The Vigil is usually held at the funeral home/mortuary during visitation, either the evening before or in the morning prior to the funeral liturgy. This rite may include prayers, scripture readings, a homily, prayer of the faithful, concluding rite, and eulogies. The rosary, or a portion of it, or other devotionals may also be included in this service. If you would like this to be hosted by Ascension, please ask for more information.
The Funeral Liturgy is the principal celebration of the Christian Funeral. It is here that family and friends join to reaffirm the belief that life has not ended and that we are one with Christ in life, death, and Resurrection. The family has a choice of Scripture readings, a selection of appropriate hymns. Our facilitators will suggest ways for family and friends to be personally involved.
The Rite of Committal (Burial) consists of a Scripture reading and short prayers led by a priest, deacon, or prepared layperson near the final resting place of the deceased person, such as the gravesite, mausoleum, or cemetery chapel. This concludes the Funeral Rites.
While there is a preference for traditional burial, the Church has permitted cremation for over 40 years. The Church teaches that the cremated remains should be kept together (not scattered or divided) to respect the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and preferably interred in the consecrated grounds of a Catholic Cemetery.
Rituals & Symbols
The Funeral Pall is a reminder of our Baptism into the Christian Community and now of our Baptism into our new life with Christ. We encourage family members to take part in placing the pall on the casket at the beginning of the Funeral Liturgy and assist in its removal as the body is about to be removed from the Church.
Holy Water sprinkled at the Funeral reminds us not only of our Baptismal call but that in death, we also share in Christ’s Resurrection and new life.
Incense is used as a sign of respect for the body, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and of our prayers rising to the throne of God. It is used during our final farewell as we send our loved one home to God.
The Paschal Candle stands near the altar as a reminder of the Risen Christ who has conquered sin and death and lives among us. This candle also reminds us that our loved ones share in the victory of Jesus over the powers of darkness and now shares the new life offered by Jesus Christ.
Your first step in planning a Funeral is to call a local funeral home/mortuary, preferably one familiar with our parish (eg. Ratterman, Highlands, Bosse, etc.) During your meeting with the Mortuary, they will ask for information that you can also fill in on our attached “Funeral Rites Planning Form” at the end of this guide. Most importantly, they will need to contact our Parish Office to confirm the day and time for the “Funeral Liturgy”.
You should provide a “Contact Person” for your family. Our funeral facilitator will reach out to them to assist with further planning and answer any questions.
Once the Funeral Liturgy is scheduled, our funeral facilitator will contact you with information, or to schedule a time to meet. At that meeting, the funeral facilitator will walk you through the Funeral Liturgy as well as other ways Ascension may be able to accommodate your needs. If you would like to pre-plan selections, use this guide, complete the forms to the best of your knowledge, and prepare any questions you might have. If anything seems unclear in the guide, contact the facilitator or wait until the scheduled meeting.
Although optional, we encourage family and friends to be involved in the Funeral Rites.
At the Vigil, family, friends and colleagues gather to console one another and remember the deceased, both formally and informally. In this setting, leading a rosary is an option. More than one remembrance may be made, and a eulogy may be given.
For the Funeral Liturgy, Ascension can provide ministers (lector, altar server, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, cantor, accompanist, and sacristan). If you have family or friends who desire to minister liturgically, we encourage and would appreciate their contribution(s).
At the Rite of Committal, the deceased passes with the community’s farewell prayers into the welcoming company of those who need faith no longer, but see God face-to-face. Similarly, to the Vigil, more than one remembrance may be made, and a eulogy may be given.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. A eulogy is only forbidden at the funeral liturgy, in accord with no. 141 in the Order of Christian Funerals (OCF), which states: A brief homily based on the readings should always be given at the funeral liturgy, but never any kind of eulogy.
However, no. 170 of the OCF does permit ‘words of remembrance’ (pastor preference encourages this to take place before the Liturgy of the Word begins): A member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased.
Both eulogies and words of remembrance may be offered at a vigil service, or at the cemetery/crematorium. These are also the appropriate places/times for playing favorite secular tunes or showing slides or PowerPoint® displays of photos of the deceased.
“Words of Remembrance” are a short (3-5 minute) tribute to the faith life of the deceased loved one. In cases where the family would like to have “words of remembrance”, a member of the family should contact the funeral coordinator to discuss this idea and begin the planning process. It is suggested that the family members list things that they want to mention and compile them into one reading. They should be prepared in advance and given to the priest for review.
Then, select one member of the family or a close friend to deliver them. It is preferred that they are shared at the Vigil Service: after the Concluding Prayer, before the Blessing and Dismissal; but may also be shared at the Committal Service: after the Prayer of Committal, before the Intercessions; and if truly desired, may take place during Mass before the Liturgy of the Word. Please refer to this example.
A eulogy recounts some or all of the significant events in the life of the deceased. Words of remembrance do not attempt to give a biography, but to share some insight into the faith and values of the deceased as seen in one or two examples from his/her life. A eulogy by its very nature tends to be lengthy, while words of remembrance are brief.
Some Catholic funerals are losing their essential nature as an act of worship of God and prayer for the soul of the deceased, and becoming settings for a series of eulogies; while the funeral is a time of support for the bereaved family and friends, there should also be consideration of other factors: people taking time off work to attend, funeral directors having difficulty scheduling with funeral homes or other liturgical events;
If one speaker becomes emotional and has great difficulty delivering his/ her words, the situation becomes uncomfortable for the assembly and often results in more grief for the bereaved at a time in the liturgy when they have hopefully been lifted a little beyond grief through the Eucharistic celebration; this possibility is compounded when there are several speakers;
It has happened on not a few occasions, inappropriate remarks glossing over the deceased’s proclivities (drinking prowess) or about the Church (attacking its moral teachings) have been made at funeral Masses, embarrassing the priest, the family, and the congregation and becoming the focus of the service.