A. After the loss of a loved one, the Church celebrates funeral rites to pray for the happy repose of the soul of the deceased, to pray for those who are grieving, and to proclaim confidently that Jesus, through his passion, death and resurrection, has conquered sin and death.
The Mass, the re-presentation of Christ’s paschal mystery, is the principal celebration of the funeral rites for a Christian. The Eucharistic sacrifice is the celebration of Christ’s Passover from death to life. During the funeral Mass, the priest and the congregation in mourning beseech the Lord to bring the deceased from death to life, as well, commending the dead to God’s mercy.
While the offering of the Mass for the deceased is the primary celebration of the funeral rites, there are two other liturgical moments in the funeral rites: the “Vigil and Related Rites and Prayers” and the “Rite of Committal.” The Rite of Committal is the committing of the body to its place of rest.
The Vigil for the Deceased precedes the funeral liturgy, and is the principal rite before the funeral liturgy, or if there is no funeral liturgy, before the rite of committal. In the United States, the vigil is customarily celebrated in a funeral home, but it may also be celebrated in the home of the deceased, or in a church.
The purpose of the vigil is for the Christian community to keep watch with the family in finding strength in Christ’s presence and offering prayers for the deceased. The vigil has a liturgical structure to it, consisting of introductory rites, the Liturgy of the Word, prayer of intercession, and a concluding rite.
Since the vigil involves praying for the deceased, there is a long-standing tradition of praying the rosary at this time. The Blessed Virgin Mary was present to her son during his passion and death, and she mourned for him after his death. Calling upon Mary to intercede on behalf of the deceased is very powerful. While it is less customary, there would be nothing forbidding praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy during the vigil.
Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.