Coffin with floral spray on top

Catholic funerals

As Christians, Catholic funerals centre around prayers for the person who has died with a church service or memorial mass. For help planning a Catholic funeral service, read our guide below or speak to one of our funeral directors.

Catholic beliefs about death

Roman Catholics believe in the afterlife, where a person’s soul lives on after their death, after judgement from God. A soul is judged based on their sins during life and whether they feel remorse for what they’ve done. Catholic funerals are therefore used to pray for the person who has died and support the bereaved in their grief.

What happens before a Catholic funeral service?

After a Catholic person dies, plans can be made for their funeral. Catholics can either be buried or cremated, but the Catholic Church prefers burials. A member of the family can contact a local funeral director to start planning their service.

Before the funeral, the family of the person who has died will hold a small vigil. The vigil can be held at the home of the person who has died, or the church or funeral home. This allows family and close friends to gather before the official funeral service, and say some prayers or hymns.

How long after death is a Catholic funeral?

Catholic funerals usually take place about a week after the person dies. This allows for time to make arrangements with a funeral director.

What is a Catholic funeral service like?

A Catholic funeral service is usually held in a church. Catholic funeral mass typically follows a set format, but can sometimes involve a Requiem Mass: combining the Eucharistic Prayer and Holy Communion.

During the service, the coffin or casket will be placed on a catafalque at the altar.

Catholic funeral readings and prayers

The priest will lead the funeral prayers, which will normally include a reading from the Old Testament, a psalm and a reading from one of the gospels. Sometimes members of family and friends are invited to read a prayer. The priest will also give a eulogy for the person who has died.

If the funeral services includes a Requiem Mass, bread and wine will be placed on the altar for Holy Communion. Catholic mourners will then take Holy Communion, whilst non-Catholics can receive a blessing from the priest

What hymns can be sung at Catholic funeral?

The hymns at a Catholic funeral are usually chosen by the family and sung in between the readings.

Popular hymns for Catholic funerals include ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’ or ‘Ave Maria’. For more ideas, speak to the priest about what hymns they feel are appropriate for the service.

How long does a Catholic funeral service last?

A Catholic funeral service can last between 40 minutes and two hours, depending on if Mass is included in the event.

What happens at a Catholic burial or cremation?

Traditionally, the Catholic Church has preferred its members to choose burial, however, cremation is allowed. If cremation is chosen instead of burial, the ashes should be buried rather than scattered.

Following the Catholic funeral mass, the coffin is moved to the burial ground. The burial or cremation begins with the Catholic Rite of Committal. Prayers are led by a priest, which end with the Catholic version of the Lord’s Prayer. Mourners may then be invited to throw a handful of dirt into the grave.

What do you say at a Catholic funeral?

When attending a Catholic funeral, guests will usually offer condolences to the grieving family. It is common to say “I’m sorry for your loss” and offer some kind words about the person who has died.

When prompted by the priest, you may need to join in with the prayers. If you are a non-Catholic attending the service, you do not need to say anything.

Do you send flowers to a Catholic funeral?

It’s common to send flowers to the family or the funeral home before a Catholic funeral. If you are unsure of where to send flowers to, you could call the family ahead of time.

Appropriate Catholic funeral flowers include:

  • White roses
  • Lilies
  • Carnations
  • Chrysanthemums

What should I wear to a Catholic funeral?

Like with other Christian funerals, it is expected that people dress conservatively, typically in black. Catholic funerals tend to be sombre, so men should wear black suits and ties. Women should wear smart dresses, skirts or trouser suits. Women should dress respectfully, avoiding short skirts, low cut tops or very high heels.

What happens after a Catholic funeral service?

After the service and burial, the family may arrange for the guests to meet back at the family home or another venue.

Unlike other religions, Catholics don’t have a set mourning period. The family of the person who has died may choose to have a memorial service following the funeral, either a few weeks later or on the first anniversary of the person’s death.

How much should I pay a Catholic priest for a funeral service?

The Catholic Church do not charge a set fee for a priest to officiate a funeral service, instead they ask for a donation. Your priest may suggest a donation amount, and this will usually be in line with the cost of a Church of England minister (currently £199).

It’s best to ask your local funeral director what the suggested donation amount is in your area.

How much does a Catholic funeral cost?

Catholic funeral costs will vary depending on the area you live in and what arrangements you want to make.

The cost of a burial plot varies depending on the size and location of the space, and can be expensive. Cremations will cost less, but you would still need to buy a plot of land for the ashes if you wish to bury them.

Find out how much a funeral will cost where you live, use our funeral cost calculator

Speak to one of our funeral directors for more information about the possible cost of planning a Catholic funeral. They will be able to suggest the different options available, to suit both your wishes and budget.

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