Funeral Rite

1. Who may have a Roman Catholic funeral?

All baptized Catholics are entitled to a Roman Catholic funeral as are catechumens (adults
preparing for baptism in the Church) and children who die prior to baptism.

2. What is a Roman Catholic funeral like?

There are three parts to a Roman Catholic funeral:
1. Vigil for the Deceased (Wake or calling hours)

2. Funeral liturgy (Mass or service of the Word)

3. The Rite of Committal

3.What happens during the Vigil (Wake)?

Family and friends come together, most often in the presence of the body and typically at a funeral home, or sometimes, at the church.
During this time a priest, deacon or lay person will lead a brief prayer service with scripture
readings, intercessions and the oppurtunity for reflecting on the life of the deceased. The rosary
may be recited.

4. Is a funeral Mass different than a “regular” Mass?

The funeral Mass is a celebration of the Eucharist that includes some additional elements:
1. Covering the casket with a pall (white cloth) which signifies baptism in Christ.
2. Sprinkling the casket with holy water, which also is a remembrance of baptism .
3. Liturgy of the Mass in
accordance with the Order of Christian Funerals.
4. Some families like to include a brief reflection on the life of
the deceased (eulogy).

A Service of the Word, (rather than Mass), may be celebrated under special circumstances, such as when no priest is available to celebrate Mass, when there is no body or
remains present (for instance, because of burial elsewhere) or when the majority of those
participating are not Roman Catholic.

5.  What is the Rite of Committal? 

This is a very brief service consisting of prayer and perhaps a short reading from Scripture that takes place graveside or at the columbarium.  An honor guard may be included for military veterans.

6. Who should I contact to take funeral arrangements at St. Bernadette?

Please see Nancy Hagan in the main office. Nancy can be reached at 919.552.2922 or 919.552.8758,


1. Does the Catholic Church allow cremation?

Yes. In May 1963, the Vatican lifted the prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation.

It then became standard practice to celebrate the funeral liturgies with the body and take the body to the crematorium. Most recently, the bishops of the United States and the Holy See have authorized the celebration of a Catholic funeral liturgy with the cremated remains when the body is cremated before the funeral.

2.  When should cremation take place?

The church strongly prefers that cremation take place after the full funeral liturgy with the body. The presence of the body most clearly brings to mind the life and death of the person and better expresses the dignity of the human person that the Church affirms in its rites.However, in some circumstances it may not be possible to have the body present. In those situations, a full funeral liturgy may be conducted with the cremated remains present.

3.  What funeral rites are celebrated when a person is cremated?

A journey, which began at baptism, comes to conclusion as we enter into eternal life. Significant attention should be given to the primary symbols of the Catholic funeral liturgy, as stated in the Order of Christian Funerals and its commentaries. The Paschal candle and sprinkling with holy water are primary symbols of baptism and should be used during the Funeral Mass. However, the pall is not used.

During the Mass, the cremated remains should be treated with the same dignity and respect as the body. They are to be sealed in a worthy vessel. They may be carried in procession and/OT placed on a table in front of the altar where the coffin normally would be with the Easter Candle nearby.

4. Can I scatter the ashes? May I keep the ashes on my mantle?

The dignity of the human person does not leave the body at death. The body has served the living person as a temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore must be reverenced after death.

The cremated remains should be buried (interred) in a cemetery or columbarium as soon as possible after cremation. The remains should never be kept in the home, scattered or handled in an undignified manner. They may not be mixed with other remains or divided among various containers or jewelry.

5. To whom should I speak about columbarium arrangements at St. Bernadette?

Please see Nancy Hagan in the main office for columbarium information and pricing. Nancy can be reached at 919.552.2992 or