A Catholic funeral has many customs, which must be adhered to, in order to pay your respects, properly, to the deceased and the bereaving family. The proper Catholic funeral etiquette, must be practiced by the family as well as the guests. Certain mandatory measures must be taken so that the deceased person's soul may be allowed to pass onto the higher world in peace.
Etiquette for a Catholic Funeral
Informing the Priest or Church Secretary
The bereaved family will need to immediately inform the church secretary or the priest about the sad demise. The priest will then personally visit the family home and give his blessings to the deceased, by praying for their peaceful transition from this life. The priest will ask the lord to show mercy towards the good Catholic, who is by now at the gate of heaven being judged for the doings of his or her life.
Publishing of Obituary
The family will need to get an obituary published in any one or two of the local newspapers, about the sad demise of the deceased. This step must be taken, so that people known to the deceased person will be able to pay their respects during the funeral service at the church.
If you have heard about the untimely demise of the deceased, you must immediately send fresh and somber colored flowers to the deceased person's family address. This is a very old Catholic custom, which has slowly lost its popularity. Nonetheless the significance of this gesture is far more important for both the sender as well as the grieving family.
It is the bereaving family's responsibility to ensure that the deceased is send to the undertaker, who will look after the embalming procedure. One family member must be present at all times next to the deceased while the embalmer, cleanses the deceased person's body. This is to make sure the body is treated with respect and all sanctity is maintained. It is also to let the soul know that they are not being left alone. The embalmer must, not overly decorate the face of the deceased person. Simply cleaning the body and making it look presentable for the next day's funeral service is sufficient. There is no need to apply makeup or fix the facial muscles in any way, as that is unacceptable in Catholic customs. The deceased will be brought back to the family home after the embalming has been completed.
The immediate family and only the closest of family friends are allowed to participate in the wake the night before the burial of the deceased. This is a very private and emotional gathering where all the loved ones pray in unison for bringing peace to the soul of the deceased. This gathering also allows the family to prepare and steel themselves for the next day's burial procedure. The family gets to spend time besides the deceased for a bit longer and in private.
Only dark-colored clothes must be worn during a Catholic funeral. Children below 14 years may not necessarily wear such a funeral attire. Nonetheless bright, celebratory colors must never be worn, as these will be considered disrespectful. The color black is the most appropriate color to be worn in a funeral.
Funeral Service Etiquette
The casket will need to be placed in the front of the cross, and the casket must be left open, for people to be able to see the deceased for the last time. The priest will perform the customary sermon, after which near and dear ones can go up to the podium one by one to say a few nice things about the deceased. The speech must be kept short and must be significant. After which each and every member of the congregation can go up to the casket and make a silent prayer for the deceases. Never be too hasty while paying your respects to the dead, as that would be considered very disrespectful.
The casket will be picked up by the loved ones, once the church service is concluded. The casket will then be gently placed into the hearse. The hearse may or may not be decorated with fresh flowers, it depends on the family's discretion and budget. The guests must come in their own private vehicles and must follow the hearse and the bereaved family's vehicle in a convoy. Never over take the procession or reach the venue before every one else.
The priest will make the final departing sermon for the deceased, during which time every one around, must remain silent. Please switch off your phones and avoid all forms of distractions. Once the sermon is over, each family member and friend will need to pour some earth onto the closed casket, along with some flowers. A simple red rose will suffice. Remain at the burial site until the priest is present.
Post Burial Etiquette
After the burial, all close friends and guest will be invited for a post burial meal. This is because the Catholics believe in life after death and wish to celebrate the life of the deceased. During this party, guests must come and pay their condolences to the bereaved family.
It is very essential that you take your time to pay your respects to the deceased and his or her family. If in case you are not able to make it to the funeral, then you must call the family or send a personal note, informing them of your absence. You must also make it a point to visit the family as soon as you are in town.