The Three Rites—When a member of the faithful has died, the Church identifies three stations for the celebration of the rite of a Christian burial.
The Vigil Service—The vigil for the deceased, commonly know as the Wake, is the initial rite celebrated by the Christian community at the time following death. The Vigil usually occurs at a funeral home. It may also occur in the parish church. The celebration of the Vigil is the time for the Christian community to offer both prayer and consolation for the members of the bereaved family; to read and reflect on the word of God; to call upon our God of mercy through intercessory prayer; and to provide an opportunity for family and friends to recall the memory of the loved one.
The Mass of Christian Burial—For Catholics, the celebration of the mass is both the source and the summit of our faith. Hence, when we celebrate the Mass at the time of death, it is seen as the fullest expression of God's abundant mercy, our hope in the resurrection of the dead, and the love that God has for us, a love not even extinguished by death. We actively participate in the funeral Mass as an expression of our faith in Jesus Christ. In lieu of a Vigil Service some families prefer a time for visitation at the church an hour before the funeral Mass.
The Rite of Committal—The Rite of Committal is celebrated at the place of burial. Through the committal of the body at rest, we express our hope that the deceased will experience the glory of the resurrection. This sacred nature is directly related to the Church's belief in the resurrection of the body and consummation of the world.
Is cremation allowed in the Catholic Church? While the Church encourages burial of the body after the manner of Christ's own burial, out of respect for the human body and belief in the resurrection, cremation may be chosen for sufficient reasons. Those reasons include a) hygienic or other reasons of a public nature, b) transfer of the remains to/from a distant place, c) avoidance of considerable expense, or d) it was the specific choice of the individual before death.
When cremation is chosen, the funeral rites may be conducted with the body present and the cremation taking place after the celebration of the Funeral Mass at the church or with the cremated remains present at the Funeral Mass. The cremated remains are always buried or inurned. They are buried on private land but in consecrated ground. The urn may be buried at sea. It is not considered proper to scatter the cremated remains over the sea, waters, or land.