Catholic funerals usually begin the night before the burial at a wake service in a funeral home. Wake service consists of readings from Sacred Scripture, prayers, intercessions, litanies, responses, hymns, and often homilies. Normally, a deacon or priest performs the service, but a lay person may also pray the service.
Mass of Christian burial is celebrated in the Church of the deceased. It is a special Mass that calls to mind our special destiny to be with God for all eternity. It is also a formal way to recognize family grief through prayer.
The body is greeted at the door of the church with holy water, which calls to mind our Baptism. It is in baptism that we have been given a calling to be with God for all eternity. During the Liturgy, it is the hope of all present that the faithful departed is sharing in this eternal destiny. It is also a time of prayer for the faithful departed who might be in purgatory.
The casket is then covered with a pall, which is a long flowing piece of material. Again, it is a reminder of Baptism, when the grace of Jesus Christ envelopes the soul. On top of the casket a crucifix and Bible may be placed. Then all enter the church.
Mass does not begin with the sign of the cross, because Mass began with the sign the night before at the wake service. Readings from Sacred Scripture (one passage from each: Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament and the Gospel) are followed by a homily. The homily is not meant to be a eulogy; rather, a recounting of our beliefs in the afterlife. The General Intercessions round off the Liturgy of the Word.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist follows with the offertory, preface, sanctus, and canon of the Mass. At the canon, all pray through the priest for the departed loved one. Our Father, Agnus Dei, and reception of Holy Communion follow. After the post Communion prayer, the final condemnations are prayed. The casket is then processed out of the church and taken to its place of burial. Burial concludes the funeral liturgy, with a special blessing of the grave or tomb, intercessory prayers, and a reading from Sacred Scripture.
Upon the completion of the final blessing, the Catholic funeral finishes. White, purple, or black vestments may be worn by the priest or deacon. White symbolizes the resurrection, purple symbolizes penance, and black denotes sorrow.