The Vigil takes place between the time of death and the Funeral Mass. This Rite is presided over by a priest, deacon or prepared layperson. It’s a time when family and friends gather to reflect upon that person’s life, and to express their own feelings. The Vigil is usually held in a Mortuary, or in the same Church where the Funeral Mass will be held. This service consists of prayers and Scripture readings. The Rosary, or a portion of it, may be included in the service. The Vigil is typically held the day or evening before the funeral.
At a time when our society is becoming more secularized, the Funeral Liturgy is as meaningful to the living as it is to the dead. It reflects our wishes as Catholics to preserve our faith. It reveals both our belief and love of God, and our trust in the resurrection to come and shows in no uncertain terms the love that God has for us.
The Funeral Liturgy is the principal celebration of the funeral. Some of the symbolic actions that are incorporated in the liturgy include draping of a white pall over the casket signifying the person’s baptism, placing of the Easter Candle at the foot of the casket or the urn, and sprinkling of holy water on the casket or urn. The blessing of the casket or urn with incense shows respect for the body. The rising, sweet-smelling smoke symbolizes the assembled group’s prayers rising to God.
The Rite of Committal is the last of the Funeral Rites. “In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the resurrection. The rite of committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the church on earth and the church in heaven; the deceased passes with the farewell prayers of the community of believers into the welcoming company of those who need faith no longer but see God face to face.”- Order of Christian Funeral.