A typical Catholic funeral “rites” is divided into three parts or acts, each known as an “order of Christian burial.”
The introductory act, the opening of the funeral rites, takes place in the Church where the body rests for viewing. The priest Godparents pray that their godchild who has come to death may have eternal life with Christ in heaven. This prayer includes a petition to Saint Michael for his help in delivering souls from evil.
Then all are invited to share in this hope. All who enter the church are asked by one of the ushers to make a brief personal Act of Contrition or Confession if they have not already done so earlier. The celebrant says certain prayers over the casket at this point and again at the church doors to set the soul free.
This is done so that none may be left behind in death or by lack of faith.
A procession then takes place, where pallbearers are called upon to carry the casket into the church. Once in place, all are invited to bow their heads in prayer to recognize that life comes from God and that it returns to Him when our time on earth is done.
The priest begins Mass at this time but does not perform a Communion Service until after his eulogy at the gravesite. The Sacrament of Holy Communion forms part of the funeral rite itself, which occurs immediately before burial or cremation. This sacrament involves bread broken into small pieces for distribution among participants.
The second act of the funeral rite, known as the eulogy, takes place at the cemetery. This section begins when the priest gives a brief sermon about Christian death and resurrection from Scripture. The priest then invites all to share in a special prayer for the departed soul at this time.
A prayer is offered to ask God to accept our loved one into heaven with Christ so that he may have eternal life along with those who have gone before him through Baptism and faith in Jesus Christ.
All must remember that although we suffer a loss it is nothing compared to what our departed loved one has gained by being united once more with Christ forever in heaven. In his farewell remarks, the priest reminds us that every goodbye is a “see you later.”
He assures us that our loved ones are only a prayer away. They are not dead but alive with Christ in heaven, which is where they want to be until we join them there one day. The mourners are then reminded that God’s goodness remains unchanged no matter the degree of sorrow they may feel at this time.
He offers his assurance that he will pray for all who come to Him in faith and love during these difficult days.
The third act or service concludes with prayers offered by the priest at the cemetery before burial or cremation. A special blessing is given upon those who participate in these final moments surrounding the body of their loved one, while also praying for God’s eternal peace to embrace them always so that they may cast all of their burdens on him.
He offers a special prayer for all who have been left behind to mourn the loss of a loved one.
The final blessing of the community is given after everyone has come forward to pray over the grave, so that all may share in God’s eternal peace and love which passeth all understanding, then leave this place consoled with the knowledge that death is not an end but a beginning of everlasting life with God in heaven where souls are always welcomed, loved and comforted by Jesus Christ.
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