4 Traditions for a Catholic Burial

catholic headstone

This post is part of a series that documents the various traditions held by religions throughout the nation.

Even across similar cultures and religions, funeral traditions can vary drastically. Many people view these funeral traditions as integral in overcoming the grieving process. As a Long Island monuments company, we have grown accustomed to all of these traditions. In this post, we’ll discuss the traditions of a Catholic burial.

1. Before Death: Last Rites

For those who consider themselves devout Catholics, the funeral process begins before death. When family members observe that an individual is growing seriously ill, they may contact a priest. This priest would then administer the Holy Communion and read the Last Rites.

The Last Rites are intended to prepare the soul of the sick individual for death. This process starts with the priest administering the Sign of the Cross. Then, he will administer either the Sacrament of Confession or the Act of Contrition. Next, the priest will either lead the individual in the renewal of the baptismal promises, or in the Apostles’ Creed. Finally, the priest will anoint the individual, and offer Communion.

priest eucharistic rites

2. After Death: Wake Service

Unlike Jewish funeral traditions, where the burial takes place immediately after death, Catholic traditions dictate a mourning period.

After an individual has passed away, it’s typical for the family of the deceased to contact a funeral home and begin making funeral arrangements. One of the most important steps in this process is ordering a Long Island monument. Because headstones take time to properly inscribe with names and memorial symbols, it’s important to do this early on.

sad couple

Normally, the family organizes a vigil or wake service a few days after the death. During this period, family members, friends, and other connections of the deceased or family come to pay their respects. This normally takes place at a funeral home, where the body is embalmed.

While not essential, it’s common for a family member or a friend to give a eulogy in honor of the deceased.

During this service, a priest will lead those in attendance in a prayer service.


3. Funeral Services

Mourning periods generally last about 1-2 days; once they are over, the funeral takes place. Catholic funeral services are usually held in a Catholic church.

During the funeral service, the priest leads those in attendance in the funeral mass and service. He also delivers the homily, or the sermon that praises the life of the deceased with examples from their life.

Casket in cemetery with flowers on top

4. Catholic Burial Traditions

Directly after the burial, the family accompanies the body of the deceased individual to the cemetery. Here, the priest leads the family in one final prayer over the body of the deceased individual.

To properly prepare the burial site, the priest will bless it. According to Catholic traditions, people may be buried in a gravesite, mausoleum, crypt, tomb, or columbarium.

Traditionally, the Catholic Church has denied cremation as a proper way to bury the deceased. However, in 2016 the Pope updated these guidelines to state that cremation is acceptable. The only provision is that the ashes are placed in a sacred place, such as a church cemetery, rather than an urn at home.

Once the remains have been blessed by a priest, they are permanently placed in the earth.


How St. Charles Monuments Can Help

As a Long Island monuments company, we have experience in helping to guide families through these difficult times. Regardless of religious affiliation, our staff will craft a beautiful and meaningful monument for your loved one. Contact us for more information.