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Catholic Death and Funeral Rituals and Traditions

Catholic Death and Funeral Rituals and Traditions

As with many other religions, there are various sects within the Catholic world, including Roman, Orthodox and others. Still, they share several root traditions and beliefs, noted here, including a firm belief in heaven. Because of this, all Catholic funerals include a mass, prayers and the administration of Holy Communion. Depending on the Catholic group, a wake may be held either the day before the funeral or immediately following. A wake preceding the funeral is usually held at the funeral home, and it includes “visitation” with the family and possibly a viewing. Wakes held after funerals are generally held in the home of the bereaved and include food and drink.

Things to know:

  • Flowers are appropriate at the funeral, in a church or at a graveside service
  • Modest clothing shows respect for the bereaved and deceased, with darker clothing customary but not mandatory
  • Non-Catholics can kneel and participate in prayers as they wish, but may not take Holy Communion during mass
  • Depending on individual beliefs, there may be an open or closed casket or cremation may have already occurred in advance of the funeral service
  • Recording devices of any kind — audio, video or photo — can be used with the permission of the family, but are generally discouraged in church services
  • Food for the family — easy meals that require only reheating —is often offered in the days before and after the service. Food may also be taken to the wake if the wake follows the funeral service


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