Can a Roman Catholic Funeral Vigil Take Place on a Sunday?

by Maryanne Schiffman
A Catholic funeral rite follows specific rules.

A Catholic funeral rite follows specific rules.

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In Catholicism, the Vigil for the Deceased allows close friends to visit with the family and comfort them in their grief. According to Catholic law, the vigil must take place before the funeral. While there are few restrictions for the vigil, if it is to be done in conjunction with the funeral Mass, Catholic protocol needs to be followed.

The Vigil

At the vigil, the Catholic community keeps watch with the family over the deceased, and in prayer finds strength in God’s presence. The structure of the vigil includes introductory rites, the liturgy of the Word, prayers of intercession and a concluding rite.

Separate From The Funeral

If the vigil will be separate from the funeral, it has fewer restrictions. It may be held in the home of the departed or in a funeral home on any day of the week. If it is to be located in the church, it can be held any day as long as it is a different day from the funeral.

With The Funeral Mass

If the Vigil is to be held with the funeral, it must take place before the Funeral Liturgy, and well enough in advance so that the Funeral Liturgy does not seem too long and the Liturgy of the Word repetitious. In addition, there are restrictions on the days in which a Funeral Mass, or Requiem Mass, may be celebrated. According to Church rules, funeral rites may take place in the church on any days except the following: holy days of obligation, Holy Thursday, the Easter Triduum, and the Sundays of Advent, Lent and Easter. If the vigil is to be held in conjunction the Funeral Mass, it cannot take place on any of these Sundays.

With Funeral Liturgy

If the family of the deceased would like to hold the wake in conjunction with the funeral on a Sunday, but the chosen day falls on one of the prohibited Sundays, there is another option. In this case, the Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass can be used instead: Communion is not celebrated, but the Catholic Funeral Rite will still be complete. The Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass thus makes possible the Sunday celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the hoped-for reunion of the deceased with Christ.

About the Author

Based in MedellĂ­n, Colombia, Maryanne Schiffman has a B.A. in economic development from UC Berkeley and an M.A. in Latin American studies from the University of Texas. Writing for more than 20 years, she has contributed to academic journals and online publications, including the Colombian NTN24 news website.

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