Singapore Funeral Committee

Mar 28, 2023

Exploring the Meaning and Traditions of Roman Catholic Funeral Services

To a Catholic, having a proper funeral held by Canon Law is very important. Therefore, the Church has support groups to guide the bereaved family through this process, but enlisting the help of an experienced Funeral Services Director can further ensure that the funeral goes smoothly as planned.

Specifically, A Roman Catholic funeral service seeks to offer the Mass for the benefit of the soul of the deceased, and to offer condolences and comfort to the deceased’s family. It also encourages the family to pray, along with the Church, for the departed soul.

What are Catholic beliefs about death?

  • Catholics believe in life after death. They believe that their actions during life determine whether a person’s soul goes directly to heaven or hell, or spends time in purgatory.
  • Catholics believe in life after death and they believe that the soul’s journey continues in the afterlife. They envision reaching heaven as the ultimate goal, where they can be in the presence of God. However, Catholics also believe that certain actions during life can lead to separation from God and ultimately, to hell.
  • In contrast, Catholics see purgatory as a temporary state where the soul can undergo purification before entering heaven. According to Catholic doctrine, those in purgatory are not damned for eternity but are instead on their way to heaven. The belief in purgatory provides comfort and hope for Catholics, who pray for the souls of the deceased and offer masses for their repose.
  • Purgatory, in Catholic theology, requires repentance for sins during one’s lifetime, yet it doesn’t guarantee direct access to heaven like those who haven’t sinned. During the Middle Ages, ghosts were thought to be the spirits of the deceased, who sought assistance from the living to fulfil their duties before entering heaven.
  • Moreover, numerous ghost stories from that era depict individuals compelled to complete tasks for the ghosts of those trapped in purgatory. However, during the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation denounced this doctrine. Notably, belief in purgatory remains one of the primary differences between Catholics and Protestants.
    Not all modern Catholics believe in purgatory themselves, but it is still an official doctrine of the Catholic Church. The belief in purgatory encouraged the development of traditions, such as prayers and vigils for the dead, which are reflected in current Roman Catholic funeral services.

The Role of the Priest in Roman Catholic Funeral Services

For Roman Catholic funeral services, priests will lead the funeral Mass and may also lead the funeral liturgy (service). If a priest is not available, deacons may lead the funeral liturgy. If a deacon is not available, a layperson with knowledge of the liturgy and traditions may lead the service. However, only a priest or a deacon may deliver the homily (sermon), which will also serve to remember the deceased by incorporating examples from the deceased’s life.

Funeral Rites for Roman Catholic Funeral in Singapore

The Order of Christian Funerals, a set of funeral rites within the Roman Catholic Church, celebrates faith and enables loved ones to focus on the promise of everlasting life and the hope of Eternal Resurrection in Christ.

The Funeral Rites for Roman Catholic funeral services in the Order of Christian Funerals are a celebration of faith. They enable loved ones to focus on the promise of everlasting life and the hope of Eternal Resurrection in Christ.
There are three distinct Rites.

  • Vigil and Visitation

    • The Vigil is a time for family and community members to gather in prayer and support, remembering the cherished life of the deceased. The service may include the recitation of the rosary and delivery of eulogies.
  • Funeral Liturgy 

    • The Funeral Mass is the principal celebration of the Christian Funeral. Family and friends join to reaffirm that life has not ended. It is the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice and it is a reminder that we are one with Christ in Life, Death, and Resurrection.
  • Committal

    1. The Committal is the final goodbye and interment of the body. Here family and friends gather to say their last goodbyes with the promise of Everlasting Life in Resurrection.
    2. The purpose of each Rite is to guide family and friends through the process of loss, grief, and healing.

Common Practices at Roman Catholic Funeral Services

  • The Vigil (or Wake)

    • A vigil is a prayer ceremony where friends and family gather together to pay their respects to the deceased and his or her family.
    • It may take place at a funeral home, a church, a family home, or some other location.
    • Typical elements include prayers led by a priest or an appropriate layperson.
    • Eulogies, memorials, singing of hymns or secular music, readings, and poems may be incorporated as well.
  • Funeral Mass

    • The church hosts the funeral Mass (or Memorial Mass sans the body). As the remains arrive at the entrance, they receive holy water and are draped with a pall to signify baptism.
    • The casket may be adorned with Christian symbols like a crucifix or an open Bible at the front of the church.
    • If the remains are cremated, the urn is either carried in the procession or placed on a table before the service begins.
    • Typically, eulogies are not given during the Funeral Mass, but loved ones can participate in readings.

However, some Catholic churches allow for a less formal Mass that includes personal reflections, musical performances, and unconventional elements to pay tribute to the deceased.

Preparing for a Roman Catholic Funeral Service

Your priest will be able to help you with planning a Roman Catholic Funeral in Singapore. Additionally, a funeral director can assist you in organizing the wake. It is important to consider whether you prefer burial or cremation, as well as the location for the rite of committal.

Death can be a painful topic to think about. However, making end-of-life plans in advance can give you a sense of relief that everything will be looked after when you’re gone. It also takes part of the emotional and organizational burden away from your loved ones.