Catholicism is one of the three branches of Christianity and is the original and largest denomination. Catholic funeral rituals and customs are different from Christian funerals. So, if you have to attend a catholic Christian funeral services Singapore, don’t expect it to be just like Christian funerals as Catholics are also Christians.
Here is a guide that will help you understand catholic Christian beliefs, funeral rituals, and customs. So, read on and attend the catholic Christian funeral accordingly.
Catholic Belief about Death
Just like non-Catholic Christians, catholic Christians also believe in life after death. The soul of the deceased will go to heaven or hell depending on their deeds. However, in catholic beliefs, for people who have committed some sins but those sins are forgivable, there is purgatory. So, the souls are in purgatory until their sins are forgiven and eventually they will end up in heaven.
That is why you will notice a lot of prayers said by the priest and the deceased’s family members to seek forgiveness for the dead.
Vigil, Wake, or Viewing
A vigil or wake is usually held the night before or the morning of the funeral mass. The family members and friends gather at the deceased’s home to honour the dead. Prayers and religious scriptures are read for the sake of the dead and to give hope to the grievers. A priest normally says the appropriate prayers but if the priest is not available anyone with good knowledge of catholic funeral prayers can say the prayers.
Family members and friends can also view the dead and say their final goodbyes at the vigil before the funeral mass.
A eulogy is not a part of the funeral mass however if the family and friends wish to deliver a eulogy, they can deliver it at the vigil before the funeral mass.
Catholic Funeral Mass
The catholic funeral mass is an important ceremony before the burial or cremation. It is represented as the soul of the deceased is passed to the God and family members pray to the God for mercy and let the deceased into Heaven. In Singapore, The funeral mass is held at a catholic church, chapel and is led by a priest. Family members or close friends are not allowed to lead the funeral service like non-catholic Christina funerals.
At the start of the funeral mass, the casket is brought to the church representing that the dead are carried back to God. The priest sprinkles holy water onto the casket and the casket is placed over the altar and symbolic items like the bible or crucifix are placed over the casket.
The opening song and prayers are said and after that, the priest reads religious scriptures from the bible. The family members and friends can also take part in readings but the priest will decide on the scriptures to be read and only three members can participate in the readings.
The Holy Communion is placed at the altar and mourners form a procession to collect the communion from the altar. However, if you are not a Catholic Christian you cannot receive Holy Communion. After the Communion, further readings are read or music if the family of the dead wishes.
Committal or Burial Traditions
After the funeral mass ceremony is completed, the procession to the burial place takes place. The priest will recite burial readings and prayers and sprinkle the burial place with the holy water.
Originally, cremation was not accepted in the catholic beliefs. However, in 1963, cremation was accepted as long as the ashes are buried in the ground. It must not be scattered and if placed in an urn, the urn must also be buried and should not be placed at home. Entombment or columbarium or urn is also acceptable in the catholic beliefs.
Catholic Funeral Etiquettes
The dress code for catholic funeral services is the same as the non-catholic Christian funerals. The attendees are expected to wear black or dark-colored clothes to the funeral. The men should wear a black colour suit and tie at the funeral and women can wear a modest black colour dress, skirt, or suit the funeral. But the dress should be modest and the knees and shoulders should be covered.
Covering your head is not required however, women can wear hats. Men must not wear a hat at the church.
During the prayers and religious readings, you are expected to kneel down or bow your head, stay seated and listen to the prayers. During hymns singing the congregation might stand but if you are not able to, you can stay seated.
During the Holy Communion, if you are not a catholic, you must not participate in the communion but you can take blessing from the priest.
Sending Condolence Flowers
Condolence flowers and messages are totally acceptable at a catholic funeral. You can send the flowers and messages to the deceased’s home, church, or funeral parlour . However, if you want to send a big funeral flower arrangement, it is best to send it to the funeral parlour as churches only allow a certain number of flowers in the church.
Also, catholic funeral flowers tend to be traditional and formal. So avoid sending colourful flowers or balloons and teddies along with the condolence flowers.
We hope our guide will help you understand the beliefs and rituals of a catholic funeral. If you are looking for catholic funeral packages, feel free to contact Singapore Bereavement Planners. We are here to help you in difficult times.