Vigil for the Deceased [with Reception at the Church]
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
- [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
- Prayer of Intercession
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Concluding Prayer
- Concluding Rite
- Introductory Rites
 “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.