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Catholic funeral mass takes place in the church. This is the tradition, and that tradition isn't broken lightly. When there are extreme cases, such as a body that can't be delivered to a church, a funeral on a church holiday or holy day or a set of circumstances that make it impossible or inappropriate to have the funeral mass at the church, special dispensations can be made and special ceremonies can be performed at other locations -- including funeral homes.
Catholic funeral mass, in most cases, is held in the deceased's own church and is performed by his priest. In special cases where it isn't possible or appropriate to have funeral mass in the church, his priest or a different preist can perform a special ceremony called a Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass. In case of a Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass, most but not all of the funeral rites can take place at a funeral home.
Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass
During the Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass, a priest receives the body in the Rite of Reception, which is followed by The Liturgy of The Word, or the reading of holy scriptures and singing of holy songs. This pattern follows the same order of a traditional church funeral mass. The Liturgy of the Eucharist, where family members present gifts of wine, water and bread, does not take place at a Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass.
Before and After the Funeral Mass
The funeral mass happens in the middle of a funeral ceremony in three parts. The first part, called the wake, can also be held in a funeral home and lasts anywhere from a few hours to three days. Wakes can also be held in churches and private family homes. After the funeral mass, the deceased receives The Rite of Committal, either before, during or after transfer to the cemetery. The funeral mass should take place one day after the wake, but the burial can take place the same day of the mass.
The Catholic church no longer prohibits cremation, but it's still frowned upon in many perishes. When a person chooses to be cremated, the cremation cannot take place until after the funeral. The body must be present for the wake, the funeral mass and only after receiving the rites can it be cremated. Once cremated, the ashes must be buries in consecrated ground after receiving The Rite of Committal, just as if it were a body. This is true regardless of the kind of funeral mass held.
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