Funeral Vigil

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  I am reading your book Light in the Darkness … having recently revised the diocesan directives for funerals.

Hopefully this will not require much effort on your part. When discussing the Vigil we discussed when a family wants the Vigil immediately before the Mass … some argued it defeats the purpose of the Vigil, a night before event for scripture, reflection, etc.

Many times the family wants to pray the rosary … I say sure, you lead it.  But when they ask for a Vigil, I am hesitant.

No rush, but it is something I am going to work into my notes when working with the permanent deacon candidates.


A:  To be sure, the word “Vigil” implies that it’s taking place the night before. But I looked (quickly I admit) at the introductory paragraphs to the Vigil for the Deceased, and really it doesn’t say when it should take place. In fact, paragraph 45 opens the window to doing the vigil any time after death and before the funeral liturgy (mass) begins.

At the death of one of my aunts a few years ago, the priest in Minnesota led us through “Gathering in the Presence of the Body” (112ff). The visitation was taking place in a hall next to the church, so we had a short prayer there to close the visitation and bring my aunt’s body to the door of the church. I thought that this worked rather well. So, in lieu of a vigil, that would provide another option.

Please let me know if you see anything else in the ritual that I may be overlooking. I lean toward saying that for the integrity of the word “Vigil” – that should be reserved for the prayer that takes place on the night before the funeral. But someone could argue that the Order of Christian Funerals does not require it to be done that way.