The Canon law of the Church states that the Catholic cemetery is a sacred
place. The Catholic Church provides Catholic cemeteries to carry out
the sacred religious functions of burial and to care for the resting
places of the faithful departed.
The burial of the dead has always been recognized by the Church as a religious
rite and a corporal work of mercy. Many people are involved in this ministry:
priests, deacons, religious, musicians, cemetery staff, funeral directors,
funeral home staff, and parish members who assist the family, lead bereavement
support groups, and support the faithful in praying for the dead.
The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering
the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned and burying
the dead. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2447)
The Church through its funeral rites commends the dead to God’s merciful
love and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins. At the funeral rites, especially
at the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice (funeral mass) the Christian
community affirms and expresses the union of the Church on the earth with the
Church in heaven in the one great communion of saints. Though separated from
the living, the dead are still at one with the community of believers on earth
and benefit from their prayers and intercession. At the rite of final commendation
and farewell, the community acknowledges the reality of separation and commends
the deceased to God. (OFC, #6)
“I am the Resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will have
There are three principle ritual moments in the Catholic funeral rites: “Vigil
and Related Rites and Prayers”, “Funeral Liturgy”, and “Rite
“Vigil and Related Rites and Prayers” includes rites that may be
celebrated between the time of death and the funeral liturgy. The Vigil for
the Deceased is usually celebrated during the wake at the funeral home or church.
The Order of Christian Funerals also includes rites for occasions of prayer
with the family: “Prayers after Death”, “Gathering in the
Presence of the Body”, and “Transfer of the Body to the Church or
to the Place of Committal.” (OCF, #45)
The Funeral Liturgy is usually a Funeral Mass, but may be celebrated as “Funeral
Liturgy outside of Mass.”
There are two forms of the rite of committal: “Rite of Committal” and “Rite
of Committal with Final Commendation”. The former is used at the cemetery;
the latter is used when the final commendation does not take place during
the funeral liturgy or when no funeral liturgy precedes the committal. (OCF
Historic and full service catholic cemeteries offer single graves, family
lots, community mausoleum crypts, private or family mausoleum plots, and
lawn crypts. Community mausoleums offer crypt spaces to many unrelated families.
Portions of some mausoleums are enclosed, creating a chapel. Garden mausoleums
take advantage of the outdoors in landscaped, scenic settings.
Cremation has become part of contemporary Catholic practice and is used in
about 20% of all funerals. Although cremation is permitted, Catholic teaching
continues to stress the preference for burial or entombment of the body of
the deceased, done in imitation of the burial of Jesus.
Catholic teaching insists that cremated remains must be given the same respect
as the body, including the manner in which they are carried and the attention
given to their appropriate transport and placement.
The cremated remains of a body are to be buried or entombed, preferably in
a Catholic cemetery.
The growth of community mausoleums has led to increased interest in all forms
of aboveground interment including private family mausoleums. Private family
mausoleums are no longer reserved only for wealthy families. Families choose
private mausoleum entombment for a variety of personal reasons. For some
people, it's a statement of their personality. Others want exclusive,
highly personalized memorialization -- and they feel that private mausoleum
entombment is the highest form of memorialization.
There are many styles of private mausoleums. Some are simple sarcophagus;
others have interior vestibules with bronze doors and stained glass windows.
If your family is considering this option, the place to begin is at the cemetery.
You will want a fitting setting for your mausoleum. Private estate mausoleums
from Rock of Ages are available through the cemetery office.
Every person buried in a Catholic cemetery is entitled to memorialization.
By its very nature, a Catholic cemetery abounds in memorials. The two
most common types of gravesite memorials are upright monuments and lawn-level
markers. Upright monuments, often called headstones, usually consist of two
pieces of granite. The top part, called the die, contains the design, names
and dates. The die rests on the base, which supports and protects the die.
Lawn-level markers are constructed from either granite or bronze. Markers are
installed flush with the surface of the ground and used to mark individual graves.
Likewise, there are two types of cemetery sections. A monument section allows
one monument per lot, usually two or more spaces. The monument size is dependant
on the size of the lot. A shrine section has a large statue or feature that
acts as the monument for the entire section, with lawn-level markers memorializing
Many cemeteries have both types of sections. Some cemeteries, called memorial
parks, allow only lawn-level markers. It is important to ascertain in advance
that the type of memorial you want is permitted on the lot you purchase.
Memorialization has great significance for survivors of the deceased.
Veterans buried in a Catholic cemetery are entitled to an American flag to
drape the casket or accompany the urn, a government headstone or maker
as allowed by the rules of the cemetery, and a Presidential Memorial
Certificate, all at no cost to the family. Some veterans may also be eligible
for burial and funeral expense allowance and a plot interment allowance.
More information about VA benefits is available at www.va.gov.
Cemeteries donates grave space and interment services for Catholics who have
donated their bodies to science for the Anatomical Gift Program. When
studies by medical students are completed, the body is cremated and placed
in an urn.
Non-Catholic Family Members
Catholic Cemeteries are operated for the religious and charitable purposes
of the Catholic Church through the burial and memorialization of the
faithful departed. The Catholic cemetery is a sacred place, a visible
sign of our belief in the resurrection, which demonstrates the unity of the
living and the dead. Non-Catholics are welcome to share final resting-places
with their families, with a minister of their faith officiating at their
services. Non-Catholics thus welcomed for burial with their families are allowed
appropriate symbols of their faith on their memorial.
Planning for one's own death is not a sign of hopelessness, but an expression
of trust and acceptance of our Lord. Pre-arrangement is an act of love, because
it frees your family from the burdens that they may otherwise face at the
time of your death.
Funeral planning should involve the Parish, the Catholic Cemetery, and a
funeral home. Pre-Need planning enables families to discuss cemetery, funeral,
and memorialization options in an atmosphere free from the anguish and grief
that accompanies a death.
Grief and Bereavement
Grieving is a natural response to the death of a loved one. People experience
anticipatory grief during a prolonged illness. Shock grief comes at the time
of death and lingering grief during times of bereavement. The Church extends
the healing ministry of Christ through parish grief ministry or bereavement