Catholic Traditions: Common Questions

Below are some of the questions that we receive most often from families interested in Catholic services.

Our knowledgeable staff is available to you at any time to go over specific details or concerns you may have. Simply contact us or submit our form to receive additional information. It is our priority to provide you with answers and peace-of-mind.

1Does the Catholic Church allow cremation?
Yes, the Catholic Church allows cremation to take place. It is preferred that the Funeral Mass or the Funeral Liturgy outside Mass be celebrated in the presence of the body of the deceased prior to its cremation.

Cremated remains should be treated with the same respect given to the remains of a human body, and should be entombed or buried, whether in the ground or at sea. Cremated remains should remain together and not scattered or spread apart from each other. A burial at sea is an option for Catholic families with the selection of a specific urn type.
2What are the main parts of the Catholic funeral?
A Catholic funeral traditionally involves a vigil, funeral liturgy (when the Mass takes place), and the rite of committal.
3What is the vigil?
The vigil is a time set aside before the funeral Mass for family and friends to gather and share memories and reflections about their loved one. The opportunity to view your loved one is during the vigil, a ceremony that family and friends find deeply meaningful and peace-giving. If family or friends would like to prepare eulogies, the vigil is where these words and memories are shared.

The vigil can be held wherever is most convenient for those gathering together and can be the day prior or the same day as the funeral Mass.

A priest, deacon, or lay minister can officiate the vigil service. If your family wants to recite the Rosary or other prayers during or after the wake, a member of our staff can guide your family through these traditions.
4What is the funeral liturgy?
The funeral liturgy is the central gathering of the community to honor the deceased with a Mass at their home parish. This final Mass for the deceased has a priest read the liturgy of the Word, and the liturgy of the Eucharist.
5Who presides at the funeral rites?
A Catholic priest presides at a Catholic funeral, particularly if the liturgy includes a Mass.
6Is a eulogy by a family member or friend permitted during the Catholic funeral Mass?
Yes, during the vigil is perhaps the best time for family and friends to share tributes or eulogies honoring their loved one. These can range from sharing the life story to personal anecdotes or memories, to ways the deceased impacted individual lives.

Additionally, one to two eulogies may be given during the liturgy but this type of eulogy is expected to specifically recount how the individual’s life was lived in relation to their faith. Referred to as “words of remembrance” within the Catholic faith, sharing a story or quality of how the individual lived according to Christianity is what is expected.

Other tributes or eulogies can be shared prior at the vigil service or after the rite of committal during the wake or family reception.
7Is it proper to drape a casket with the American flag or other insignia?
Yes, but during the Mass the American Flag is normally taken off at the beginning when the body is received in the vestibule. In its place, a white baptismal pall is placed on top of the casket symbolizing the first sacrament of baptism and the return back to God. The flag may be replaced after the Mass.
8What is the Rite of Committal?
The Rite of Committal is the final funeral rite that is performed either at the end of the liturgy or at the site of committal where the remains of the deceased will be laid to rest. This last funeral rite symbolizes the passing of the deceased person’s spirit from the Church on earth into the Church of Heaven.
9If cremation occurs beforehand, may the cremated remains be present for the funeral liturgy?
Yes, the cremated remains should be present for the funeral liturgy. The remains, however, should be placed “in a worthy vessel.” Many parishes provide special ossuaries (chests or boxes) to house, honor and elevate the remains during the ceremony.

We have a beautiful Urn Ark that we offer to families desiring a beautiful presentation of the Urn. The Ark can be carried by pallbearers if desired or can be placed by our staff for the ceremony. The Urn Ark truly adds a sacredness to the ceremony and provides an honoring space for the precious contents it holds.
10What is the Catholic Church's position on scattering cremated remains or keeping them in an urn?
Cremated remains should be treated with the same respect given to the remains of a human body and should be entombed or buried. The Church allows for burial in the ground or at sea. When burying cremated remains at sea, a specific urn must be selected that can be placed in the ocean and carry the remains to their final resting place on the ocean floor. The Church is absolute about keeping cremated remains together, forbidding them from being separated into multiple urns or scattered in any way.
11Can a Catholic funeral be conducted for a person who has died by suicide?
Yes, the Catholic Funeral Rites can be given in full to someone who has died by suicide.
12Does the Catholic Church advocate organ donation or use of the body for medical research?
Yes, the Catholic Church views both organ donation and donation of the body for medical research as a noble and humanitarian act.
13What is the role of the Parish when a member dies?
The role of the Parish is to participate in whatever funeral rites the family has selected as well as support and accompany the family throughout their grief.

Asking family members how they are doing, saying the name of their loved one out loud, and remembering them with notes or messages on significant anniversaries are ways of caring and demonstrating that you are unafraid of acknowledging their loss.