The rites involved in Catholic funeral customs follow prescribed guidelines. The only English liturgical rite canonically approved is the Order of Christian Funerals, published in 1989. According to the funeral order all Catholics are entitled to ministry by the Church at the time of death. A baptized non-Catholic who desires a church funeral is also permitted to receive the rite. The rites consist of three components, the Vigil, the Funeral Mass and the Rite of Committal. The family of the deceased and their chosen funeral home communicate to the parish where and when these three rites will take place.
The first of the three rites, the Vigil for the Deceased, may take place in a funeral home, at the home of the deceased or at the parish church. The Vigil offers mourners and those who may not be able to attend the funeral, an opportunity for prayer and to remember the deceased. A Catholic priest, deacon or lay minister may preside over the Vigil and lead the mourners in prayer. A liturgy of the hours, the office for the dead and the singing of psalms are components of the Vigil rite. Often, a family member or friend will speak about the deceased.
The Funeral Mass may take place at the deceased's parish church, another Catholic church or at a Catholic chapel of a long-term care facility. It can be scheduled at a separate time or during one of the regularly scheduled daily Masses. The Funeral Mass is a prayer for God's mercy for the soul of the deceased. Catholic funeral sermons include a scripture reading and homily, or sermon on the reading. The homily may include references to the life of the deceased. A person chosen by the family will give a five-minute eulogy or remembrance of the deceased. During the mass, the Eucharist is celebrated. Catholic funeral hymns, including the song of farewell, the lamb of God litany, the responsorial psalm and the gospel acclamation are sung by the entire assembly.
After the Funeral Mass, the Rite of Committal takes place at a cemetery chapel, a mausoleum or at the graveside. This rite is a gathering to prayer and a final committal of the remains of the deceased. It offers a form of closure and solace to the family and other mourners. Catholics are encouraged to arrange burial in the consecrated ground of a Catholic cemetery. Family members who follow other religions may be buried alongside a loved one in a Catholic cemetery.