The Order of Christian Funerals, published in 1990 by the Canadian Bishops, guides the Catholic community with specific rites and prayers to express consolation to those who grieve, to give thanks to God for the blessings received by and through the deceased and to ask God for mercy on all sinners. It is designed to help confront death in light of the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Funerals for Catholics have three distinct parts:
The Vigil is the principal celebration of the Christian community during the time before the funeral liturgy. (OCF#45) The Vigil includes a solemn reading of the Word of God and prayers for the deceased and those who mourn. This is the suitable occasion for a eulogy and for sharing remembrances of the deceased. Members of the local parish community are also encouraged to participate as a sign of concern and support for the mourners. A priest, a deacon or, in their absence, a lay person leads the community in prayer.
The Funeral Mass
Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of life which has now been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just. The Mass, the memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection, is the principal celebration of the Christian funeral. (OCF # 5)
There is an emphasis on the baptism of the deceased since it is through baptism in Jesus that each person receives the promise of eternal life. The white pall draped over the casket, the holy water and the Easter candle are symbols of Christ’s life which is bestowed through the waters of baptism.
The Rite of Committal
Prayers are offered to commit the body of the deceased to its final resting place. When the body has been or will be cremated, appropriate adaptions are made to the prayers of committal and signs of farewell.
Frequently Asked Questions
 For more information, visit the section on the Order of Christian Funeral at Catholic Cemeteries & Funeral Services website. http://www.catholic-cemeteries.com/Order_of_Christian_Funerals_1189721.html
 For a fuller list, please visit the Q & A section at Catholic Cemeteries & Funeral Services website. http://www.catholic-cemeteries.com/Frequently_Asked_Questions_680237.html
To learn more about Christian Funerals, these resources may help:
- Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:354-356.
- The Code of Canon Law: 1176-1185.
- National Liturgy Office
© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto – used with permission