The funeral of Catholics should normally be celebrated with a Funeral Mass in the Church, followed by Christian burial or cremation. The body may be brought to the Church the day before although this is optional.
It is permitted for someone to give a brief speech concerning the deceased person, although this is by no means necessary and is often found difficult and embarrassing because of the grief that is experienced. It is often better to make such speeches at the reception afterwards when people are more relaxed.
The character of a Catholic Funeral
It is important not to be unduly influenced by the portrayal of funerals in popular television drama. The Catholic Funeral Mass is a deeply good event in which a balanced combination of elements are present.
We are naturally sad that somebody we love has died: attempting to make the funeral a superficially light-hearted occasion is inappropriate. On the other hand, our Catholic faith means that the Funeral is not “the end” but a liturgical celebration filled with the hope of eternal life.
We who are left behind are sad, but the deceased person is assisted by our prayers and rejoices in our charity towards them. After the funeral has finished, it is good to arrange a gathering of relatives and friends to relax and share their memories of the deceased.
In the Catholic Funeral we do “celebrate the life” of the person who has died but this is not the principal focus. Their most pressing need is for our prayers for the forgiveness of “any sins they committed through human frailty.” In fact, the two things are not exclusive. We both remember and give thanks for the good that our deceased friend or relative has done, and at the same time pray for them as they prayed for others.
Remembering the Holy Souls
One of the most important characteristics of a Catholic funeral is that it is not “the end”. The Church prays for all the faithful departed every day at Mass, and parishes make it possible for Masses to be requested for the repose of the soul of individuals, especially on the anniversary of their death. This ancient practice which was known in the earliest centuries of the Church, helps us to remember our loved ones in a constructive way, to place our grief in its proper perspective, and to help them by our charity.
November is observed as a month of special prayer for the Holy Souls. We give special honour to the memory of our loved ones by listing their names and placing them by the altar.