Vigil for the Deceased [with Reception at the Church]

Vigil for the Deceased [with Reception at the Church][1]

A. Introduction (54-56)

The vigil for the deceased is the principal rite celebrated by the Christian community in the time following death and before the funeral liturgy, or if there is no funeral liturgy, before the rite of committal. The vigil may be celebrated, in the home of the deceased, in the funeral home, parlor or chapel of rest, or in some other suitable place. At the vigil the Christian community keeps watch with the family in prayer to the God of mercy and finds strength in Christ’s presence.

B. Structure and Content of the Vigil (57-63)

The Introductory Rites gather the faithful together to form a community and to prepare all to listen to God’s word. [In the vigil for the deceased with the reception at the church, the family and others who have accompanied the body are greeted at the entrance of the church. The body is then sprinkled with holy water and, if it is the custom, the pall is placed on the coffin by family members, friends, or the minister. The entrance procession follows and at the end of the procession a symbol of Christian life may be placed on the coffin. Then the opening prayer is said.]

The Liturgy of the Word is the high point and central focus of the vigil. The purpose of the readings is to proclaim the paschal mystery, teach remembrance of the dead, convey the hope of being gathered together in God’s kingdom, and encourage the witness of Christian life. In the Prayer of Intercession the community calls upon God to comfort the mourners and to show mercy to the deceased. After this prayer and before the blessing or at some other suitable time during the vigil, a member of the family or a friend of the deceased may speak in remembrance of the deceased. The vigil concludes with a blessing.

C. Ministry and Participation (64-68)

Members of the local parish community should be encouraged to participate in the vigil as a sign of concern and support for the mourners. The vigil may serve as an opportunity in the funeral for those who cannot be present for the funeral liturgy. Besides the presiding minister, other available ministers (a reader, a cantor, an acolyte) should exercise their ministries. Family members may assume some of these liturgical roles, unless their grief prevents them from doing so. Music is integral to any vigil, especially the vigil for the deceased. In the difficult circumstances following death, well-chosen music can touch the mourners and others present at levels of human need that words alone often fail to reach.

  • Outline of the Rite
    • Introductory Rites
      • Greeting
      • [Sprinkling with Holy Water]
      • [Placing of Pall]
      • Opening Song
      • [Placing of Christian Symbol]
      • Invitation to Prayer
      • Opening Prayer
    • Liturgy of the Word
      • First Reading
      • Responsorial Psalm
      • Gospel
      • Homily
    • Prayer of Intercession
      • Litany
      • The Lord’s Prayer
      • Concluding Prayer
    • Concluding Rite
      • Blessings

[1] “Vigil for the Deceased” as found in The Rites of the Catholic Church, vol. 1. (Collegeville MN: Pueblo, 1990), 941-954; Note: numbers in parenthesis identify paragraph number.

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6 Responses to Vigil for the Deceased [with Reception at the Church]

  1. Deacon Syring says:

    This past summer I was asked to a number of the Vigil services for the deceased at one of the local Mortuaries. The pastor or associate pastor usually visited with the family members in order to gather information about the deceased so that they could begin to form a homily for the Funeral Mass. I found it difficult to take the “notes” from the pastor and try to form a homily for the Vigil service. There was one instance where I was able to meet with one family member and kind of get an idea of what the deceased was like. I found this very helpful and more personal.

    Secondly, at the Vigil service it was common to recite the Rosary with those gathered. Is there an option for this in the Rite or is this the local practice? It did not seem out of the ordinary for the faithful gathered and I presume that they found it very prayerful, but if the reading of the Word is to be the “high point,” then the recitation of the Rosary seems to take away from that.

    • Brian Alford says:

      I don’t think that the Rosary has to be seen as taking away from the reading of the Word in the Vigil service for the dead, especially given the following exhortation by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary:

      I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives. (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 43).

      While this is not necessarily part of the rite, I would think that we could make use of the prayer of the Rosary in situations like this and offer some scriptural reflections on the mysteries that are being prayed to show this continuity between the Scriptures and the Rosary as the Holy Father suggests.

      • jlopez2010 says:

        The Rosary is an appropriate prayer especially at the time of the visitation. It is an act of piety which helps to create the moment of prayer and mourning. It is a powerful prayer of intercession of the soul. I do no see it as part of any of the rites but it is very appropriate for the movement of visitation. To be honest, I have not been present in any of those rites which are celebrated outside of Church here in US. I have seen in some parts of Colombia, specially the villages, that the wake takes place at the house of the relatives; either because there is not home funeral or because the family cannot afford it. I went to several of those and besides drinking coffee people pray the rosary several times during that night with especial prayers of intercession for the soul. The rosary is a very popular prayer which they know and can easily pray. Any member of the family could lead it.

      • weederj says:

        The rosary is an appropriate prayer and at most vigils that I have attended the rosary is said after the Liturgy of the Word; however, it is not specifically referred to in the rite.

  2. Gallardo says:

    It seems that throughout the Sacred Scriptures the burial of the dead was immediately after death, and the wake, weeping, sorrow, and everything was after the burial. For example, Jesus Christ is taken from the Cross to the tomb. Lazarous was already buried when Jesus arrived to Bethany, and people comforted Martha and Mary. In the Old Testament, people weeped for forty days Mosses’ death. I guest this is just something according to each culture. In Mexico, for Instance, the burial is at the next day of the death; at the vigil people only pray the Holy Rosary; but after burial they prays a novena of Rosaries.

  3. Deacon Lies says:

    In both response to Brian and Andy I want to make a couple of comments. When I was a volunteer in Belize as a “postulant” for the SOLT community, we regularly had funerals which entailed having vigil services in the home. I remember on one occasion going to the home of the deceased very shortly after the death that evening. The entire family and friends were gathered. It was a tragic death and very difficult. We visited for a while, said some prayers and the rosary and then did a short vigil of mourning. Belize has some very special and beautiful customs because of their understanding the Paschal Mystery. But it was a time for the family to be reconciled and the Priest could be quite involved at this point.
    In regard to the rosary, I believe we need to show this devotion to rediscover those connections to the liturgy as the Pope suggested. It is very beautiful and prayerful even when non-catholics are present. They have that sense of “family”–an eternal family welcoming home a beloved brother or daughter.

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