Catholic Funerals Part II

The Vigil Service, period of visitation and Eulogies: The first of the three principle celebrations for Catholic funerals is the Vigil (AKA wake). It is a spiritual and corporal work of mercy to console the sorrowing and pray for the dead. The Order of Christian Funerals states, “…when a member of Christ’s Body (AKA the Church) dies, the faithful are called to a ministry of consolation to those who have suffered the loss of one whom they love” (OCF, No. 8). Furthermore, “The Community’s principal involvement in the ministry of consolation is expressed in its active participation in the celebration of the funeral rites…For this reason, these rites should be scheduled at times that permit as many of the community as possible to be present.” (OCF, No. 11). Vigil services are extremely helpful be-cause they are generally held in the evening after most people are done with work and available to attend. Whereas Funeral Masses are often scheduled during the day when many cannot make it. Relatives and acquaintances of different faiths may also be more inclined to participate in the vigil than in the Funeral Mass. The Vigil is generally scheduled in conjunction with a period of visitation where the family and community can gather in the presence of the deceased to process their loss and console one another. This is the most appropriate time to offer eulogies according to the Conference of U.S. Bishops. “It is most appropriate, when family and friends are gathered together for visitation, to offer time for recalling the life of the deceased. For this reason, eulogies are usually encouraged to be done at the funeral home during visitation or at the Vigil Service” ( The rites provide for the possibility of offering words of remembrance at the Funeral Mass, but it must be kept short and appropriate to the space it is being given in. Gathering at the funeral home, a more relaxed setting, allows for the freedom to conduct things in the way the family would want without having to consider the conduct appropriate to a sacred space and allows for a greater length of time for eulogies and words of remembrance.