It is inevitable that at some time in our lives, we will be faced with the sad task of arranging funeral services for a loved one. Following is general information regarding funeral Liturgies, Vigil Service and other aspects of the Catholic funeral service. For a listing of appropriate Scripture Readings for the Mass from which the family may make its selections, see suggested Scripture readings. The parish provides lectors for proclaiming the Scripture readings.
Types of Liturgies
The presumption is that Catholics will be buried with a funeral Mass (Mass of Christian Burial), according to the teachings of the Catholic Church and families are always be encouraged to do so. Masses for the deceased are specifically celebrated for the repose of their soul thus giving the family the added comfort of knowing that their beloved deceased is united with Christ through the Sacrifice of the Mass emphasizing that death is not the end but truly the beginning of new and eternal life.
The Catholic Church does not forbid cremation, nor is explicit permission any longer required. However, the body of the deceased is normally present for the Mass of Christian Burial, and the actual cremation should take place after the Mass. If for some pressing reason the cremation has to take place before the celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial, the cremated remains should be brought to the church. If it is not possible to celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial, then a Chapel Service may be held.
The funeral Mass is always celebrated in the Church; if the funeral service will not be the Mass of Christian Burial, it will be held in the funeral chapel. If the family chooses to have only the graveside service, that is permitted but not encouraged.
Vigil Service the Evening Before
The Vigil for the deceased is the principal rite celebrated by the Christian community in the time following death and before the funeral liturgy or if there is no funeral liturgy, before the rite of committal. The traditional praying of the Rosary has become an accepted and customary part of the Vigil ritual for many Catholic families. It has for the most part, taken the place of an evening “wake service” at which the family may gather for prayer and final viewing. The customary place for the Vigil Service with praying of the Rosary on the preceding evening is the funeral chapel.
Because liturgical norms dictate that the Mass of Christian Burial is exclusive in itself as the funeral service for a Catholic person, supplemental services that are not liturgical may precede the funeral Mass on the same day but must be at a time well before the funeral liturgy. This prevents the funeral liturgy itself from being too lengthy and the liturgy of the Word from being too repetitious. It also makes the distinction between the funeral Mass and rites that are not part of the Liturgy. If the Vigil Service will take place on the same day as the funeral Mass, the casket will be closed and there will be no period of time for viewing as in the service when it is held in the traditional manner on the evening before.
Although the Rosary is a beautiful prayer and most appropriate for the Vigil Service, families are discouraged from making funeral arrangements that include only the Vigil Service or praying of the Rosary without the Mass of Christian Burial.
Catholic Teaching on Cremation
Although cremation is permitted, Catholic teaching continues to stress the preference for burial or entombment of the body of the deceased. This is done in imitation of the burial of Jesus’ body. “This is the Body once washed in Baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life. Our identity and self-consciousness as a human person are expressed in and through the body… Thus, the Church’s reverence and care for the body grows out of a reverence and concern for the person whom the Church commends to the care of God. (Committee on the Liturgy, USCCB, 1997)
When cremation is chosen for a good reason, the full course of the Order of Christian Funerals should still be celebrated, including the Vigil Service or Rosary, the Funeral Liturgy (Mass of Christian Burial or Chapel Service) and the Rite of Committal (burial). The preservation of this order allows for the greater expression of our beliefs and values, especially, the sacredness of human life, the dignity of the individual person and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the firstborn of the dead. Through its funeral rites, the Church commends the dead to the merciful love of God and pleads for forgiveness of their sins. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body be present during the Vigil and Funeral Mass, and that if cremation is to be used, it would take place after the Mass.
It is important to understand that Church teaching insists that cremated remains must be given the same respect as the body, including the manner in which they are carried and the attention given to their appropriate transport and placement. The cremated remains are to be buried or entombed using the rites provided by the Order of Christian Funerals. Church teaching forbids the scattering of cremains, dividing cremains or keeping cremains in the home. The remains of a cremated body should be treated with the same respect given to the corporeal remains of a human body.
When cremation takes place after the funeral service, a priest or deacon can be available to offer prayers at the final disposition of the cremains even if there has been some interval of time between the actual funeral service and the burial of the ashes.
It is the policy of Good Shepherd Catholic Parish that there always be some kind of live music at a service that takes place in the parish church. Taped or recorded music at the church is not acceptable nor is it allowed in Roman Catholic liturgies even as accompaniment to a vocalist. The funeral home will normally secure one of the parish musicians to provide the music for a funeral Mass in the church.
Family and friends may present the Offertory Gifts of bread and wine. Groups of more than 2 (such as grandchildren of the deceased) are permissible.
Floral tributes and plants may be placed inside the church but must be clear of the sanctuary and arranged so as not to block the view of the congregants or clergy.
A family member or a friend of the family may give one (1) personal tribute or appropriate remarks. Words of tribute should not normally exceed five (5) minutes in length. (Other tributes can be made at the conclusion of the interment services at the cemetery, or at the Vigil or Rosary Service the evening before.) If the eulogy is given at the Mass, it will be from the cantor’s microphone towards the conclusion of the Mass.
A listing of appropriate Scripture Readings for the Mass appears at the end of this guide from which the family may make its selections. The parish provides lectors for proclaiming the Scripture readings.
Use of the Pall, Crucifix/Cross
Because of its unique Baptismal symbolism, the casket Pall is used at all funeral Masses at Good Shepherd Catholic Parish. A Crucifix and Gospel Book may also be placed on the Pall.
The ritual of a Funeral Mass pre-supposes the presence of a cross or crucifix as an integral part of the prayers and symbolic actions. In arranging a Catholic service with a Mass, we encourage the family to use an “existing family” crucifix, especially one which the deceased might have had in his / her home as it will be returned to the family at the end of the service. The presence and use of a cross / crucifix shall never be dispensed with at a Catholic Funeral Mass.
Those who have served their country in the military do so with great courage and sacrifice and a fitting tribute should be conducted if the family so wishes. Military honors would usually be rendered at the graveside as part of the final commendation however, in the event that the burial will not take place immediately following the funeral Mass, military honors may be rendered following the Mass after the casket or urn has been recessed outside the church. If military honors are to be rendered, the funeral home should let the church staff know at the time funeral arrangements are made.
Flowers As Memorials
Good Shepherd Catholic Parish has the custom of specifying the sanctuary flowers each weekend as “Memorial Dedications” to honor the memory of our beloved departed. Families may call the church office during regular office hours to inquire about sanctuary flower memorials.
The family and survivors often choose the appropriate manner of memorializing their loved one. Presumably they will want to choose organizations or “causes” which are dear to the deceased. Perhaps your family might wish to designate any of these causes in lieu of (or, in addition to) the gift of flowers. Appropriate notations can be made in the obituary notice, as it will appear in the newspaper(s). We would suggest the following “Catholic Church related causes” which can serve as fitting memorials:
Good Shepherd Catholic Parish
506 North Garden Street Visalia CA 93291
Building / Improvement Fund/ Sanctuary Fund (flowers / plants / environment) Youth Ministry Fund
200 E. Race Street Visalia CA 93291
Building Fund Building A New Home For God’s People
506 North Garden Street
Visalia CA 93291
1550 North Fresno Street
Fresno CA 93703
1550 North Fresno Street
Fresno CA 93703
1636 North Dinuba Blvd.
Visalia CA 93291
The mortuaries that serve our local areas:
Please note that this information is provided as a courtesy and should not be considered an endorsement by the Catholic Church.
Salser & Dillard Funeral Chapel
127 East Caldwell Avenue
Visalia, CA 93277
Miller Memorial Chapel
1120 West Goshen Avenue
Visalia, CA 93291
Hadley Marcom Funeral Chapel
1700 West Caldwell Avenue
Visalia, CA 93277