The Vigil │ by Deacon Marc

The Vigil

Lakewood CO Funeral

My grandfather passed away when I was a young child.  He was a firefighter and passed away while fighting a fire.  I can remember going to the Vigil and leaning over the casket.   Unsure of what to do, a family member whispered in my ear telling me to say goodbye and ask God to bless him “for a safe trip to God.”  While my family member did not realize it, she summarized in her short whisper the importance of the Vigil in the Order of Christian Funerals.

The Vigil is held prior to the funeral liturgy (Funeral Mass) with the recommendation that it be held “well before” the funeral liturgy.  Typically and traditionally this means at least the night before the liturgy.  The Vigil may also be held over a series of days.   The Vigil is the opportunity for the family to come together to pray as a community for the person who passed away (intercessory prayer), and to remember and share stories of the loved one who passed away.  This is the ideal time for eulogies as family and friends are coming together often for the first time.

As the Vigil is a time for intercessory prayer, the Rosary is often part of a Vigil.   The Rosary is such a traditional part of the Vigil that often times the Vigil is referred to as “The Rosary.”   The Rosary is one of the most widely used forms of intercessory prayer to the Blessed Mother.  With each Hail Mary, we are asking Mary to pray for us now and at the hour of our death.   While the Rosary can be done in place of the Vigil, there are fruits to doing the Vigil with the Rosary.

The Vigil is often done within the “Viewing.”   During the Viewing there can be an open or closed casket.  If the individual is cremated, the cremated remains may be present.   While the viewing may be several hours, the Vigil is a formal time of prayer often within the Viewing.

Unfortunately, today many are opting to forgo the Vigil or place the Vigil immediately prior to the Mass.   This often is done to allow more people to attend.   That said, there are many benefits to having the Vigil at least the night before the Funeral Liturgy.  This allows the family to begin the grieving process prior the liturgy providing both spiritual and psychological benefits.  Whenever possible, we should learn from the centuries of experience of our Church and hold the Vigil the night before the liturgy.   This Vigil is a key part of the Order of Christian Funerals and offers the opportunity to fill the void of loss with faith.

Deacon Marc Nestorick
Outreach Manager
Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services of Colorado

For more information, visit our website: https://cfcscolorado.org/services/funeral/

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