The Catholic Cemetery Conference is pleased to present “Promoting a Culture of Christian Burial,” a multi-platform set of materials to educate all in the rich Catholic burial traditions. These materials can assist you in helping your parishioners to understand better the Catholic Church’s commitment to the vital corporal work of mercy of burial. The goal of the project is to provide catechesis through a series of videos and resources for use by clergy and laity to instruct on what the Church teaches about its mission to care for those who died and the benefits afforded the living as they lay loved ones to rest. To access the materials, visit www.catholicburialtraditions.org. All materials and resources are available free of charge.
The Catholic Church holds up as normative the rites contained in its ritual book The Order of Christian Funerals.
Normally, funeral rites include: a Vigil Service celebrated in the funeral home or the church, the Funeral Liturgy itself (in the church), and the Rite of Committal of the body at the cemetery.
Despite being valuable expressions of faith, the rosary and other traditions are not to replace the Vigil for the Deceased. These devotions are acceptable in addition to the Vigil Service.
First Preference: Funeral rites with the Body present
The Catholic Church prefers that the body of the deceased be present for the Vigil Service. In addition, the body of the deceased should be brought to the local parish church for the Funeral Mass.
The Rite of Committal of the body normally takes place at the cemetery although the committal can be done at the end of the Funeral Mass. The body of the deceased is to be interred, either in the ground or in a crypt following the Funeral Mass.
Second Preference: Funeral rites with the body present and cremation afterwards
If the choice to cremate a body has been made, the Church recommends that the cremation take place after the Funeral Liturgy. In this case, the Vigil for the Deceased and related rites and prayers should be celebrated in the presence of the body. Then, the body should be brought to the parish church for the Funeral Liturgy with cremation taking place afterwards.
After cremation of the body, the cremated remains should be committed for burial according to the Order of Christian Funerals. The cremated remains should be treated with the same respect given to the human body. Therefore, they should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium (but not a common/communal columbarium). This is the reverent disposition of the cremated remains that the Church requires.
Third Preference: Funeral rites with the cremated remains present.
The Catholic Church does allow the celebration of the Funeral Liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains of the deceased, but it is considered the least desirable choice. The Church strongly prefers that the body of the deceased be present for its funeral rites since the presence of the body clearly recalls the life and death of the person.
For several reasons, someone may choose cremation first. When this happens, the Vigil for the Deceased may be celebrated in the presence of the cremated remains. Likewise, the cremated remains may be brought to church for the celebration of the Funeral Mass and then buried properly.