Thursday, April 15, 2010

Catholic Funerals

Calm down, no one's dead. Well, people die every day, but no one I know has passed recently (knock wood, turn around three times and spit on someone who deserves it).

But a Facebook and Ravelry acquaintance just put out a plea for advice on Catholic funeral protocol since she's attending one tomorrow. Since the half of me that isn't Jewish is Catholic , here's the lowdown.

You don't have to wear all black and it's OK to leave tattoos and piercings exposed.

If there's a wake/viewing on a day before the funeral, you can attend that and that's it, depending on how close you are to the family.

If the viewing right before the funeral is family only, you won't be told when it is. If people are passing around viewing times, you can be sure that you're not intruding.

If they have a Rosary service, you can attend, but you don't have to. If they have a funeral mass, go if you want to or feel that you want to support the family. There are missals all over the church that contain much of the mass' text, so you can know when and how to respond to things. Kneel, sit and stand when the people in the front rows do, though the missal also includes those instructions.

If you are not Catholic, do NOT take communion. Protestants may hand out wafers to any Christian, but not Catholics. It may taste like styrofoam, but Catholics take that shizz very seriously.

Since there's just been a whole mass in church, the graveside service is small and is usually attended by family and close friends.

OK, now here's the thing that will impress the Catholics with your knowledge of their mysterious culture: Mass Cards. You make a set donation ($10-15 ish) to a group of nuns or priests and they say a mass for the deceased person. They may even add the person's name to a list of people they pray for regularly. The actual card is a greeting card informing the family. They're not expected from non-Catholics, but they're a nice touch. My mother won't leave the house for a wake without getting her hands on a mass card. It's kind of like a casserole in that sense.

You can get a mass card from a Catholic person, since they probably have a few stashed in a drawer. The funeral home may also have them. Once you send in your donation to the nuns, they'll keep sending you mass cards for future use, so hold onto them. The nuns may also send rosary beads. Give them to a Catholic--they'll pass them along to someone who can use them.

If your co-workers do a condolence card and chip in for a charitable donation, you can take some of the money for a mass card.

Any questions?


  1. As a sorta Catholic can I have a wafer? I might get a bit snacky during.

  2. Only if you want to cause a scandal. Devoted Catholics don't let themselves have a wafer if they haven't been to confession in a while.

    Bringing your own consecrated Cheese Nips is totally acceptable, though.

  3. You didn't mention the party & drinking afterwards... or is that just for the Irish?

  4. You're thinking of Irish wakes. My Catholic side is also is Irish American and I've never been to one.

    Unless the wake is being held in a bar or pub, don't expect drinking.

    And I meant *unconsecrated Cheese Nips* above. It would be poor form to ask a priest to sanctify your Cheese Nips.

  5. You do not have to kneel when the Catholics do. Sit and stand, yes, but kneel? No. That is (in my Catholic view) an acknowledgment of the sacredness of what is happening. If you are not Catholic, you don't acknowledge, right?

    I disagree on the tattoos. Yeah, some people dress like crap for church, but that does not mean you should. If you have tattoos all over your arms and legs, please cover them. And take off your hat. OK, I know you know better than to wear a baseball hat indoors, but some people do not.

    Don't bother going to the rosary. Again, it is specifically Catholic prayer and if you're not Catholic, why would you participate?

  6. As a failed Catholic, I confess that I took communion at my last funeral even though I technically wasn't supposed to. But it was for a priest at my college who would have totally supported that.

  7. Catholic aunt died. I am not catholic and do not want to give money for masses. What else is proper to give?

    1. In that case, treat it like any other death. Flowers are nice, plants are better. Donations to your aunt's favorite charity would be great, or to a charity related to whatever she died of. Or a donation to the hospital or nursing home or hospice that cared for her.

      With donations, they'll send a card to her family letting them know about the donation. You can also send a condolence card to them directly. Showing up empty handed to a wake or funeral is totally acceptable.


All the cool kids are commenting. Give it a try, it's fun!