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/

The Order of Christian Funerals │ by Deacon Marc

The Order of Christian Funerals

Denver CO Funeral Home And Cremations

When I was 14, one of my closest friends passed away.  I was confused.  I was angry.  I didn’t know what to expect.  Thankfully, I had my parents to walk me through and support me through the journey.  I can remember vividly walking into the funeral home as a 14 year old boy.  I showed no emotion.  My mind was swirling.  I was thankful to see my friend one last time.   I did begin to find some joy when we were led in prayer by a priest which was followed by sharing stories.  I spoke about the times we went camping and the mentoring he provided me as a young scout.  The following day, we then went to the Catholic Church were we celebrated the Mass.  I can remember my friend being wheeled in his casket down the long aisle.  Within the Mass, my feelings all came to a head and this 14 year old strong boy started to cry, really cry.  I finally allowed myself to surrender in the presence of God to all the emotions I was feeling.  As he was carried out of the Church, I can clearly remember singing the hymn “On Eagles Wings” and asking God to help strengthen me.  We left the church and began the procession to the cemetery.  At the cemetery, the crying continued but I received comfort when the priest explained we were going to trust my friend to God.   The parents wanted to witness his final placement privately.  Therefore, after we finished the prayers, everyone started to leave.  I was one of the last.  I walked up and tapped on his casket twice asking God to care for my friend and to strengthen me.   It was not long after that final goodbye that the tears dried up.  I went to the reception where we continued to share memories of my friend.

Unbeknownst to me, at that time, I experienced the beauty of the Order of Christian Funerals and its three parts.  The church has the tradition of walking individuals through three distinct parts:  the Vigil, the Funeral Liturgy (typically a Funeral Mass), and the Committal.   These parts represent a journey from the home, to the church, and then to the cemetery.  These parts all include time for prayer and to varying degrees time to remember the individual who passed away.  Each of these traditions is designed to help individuals spiritually and psychologically move through the experience of losing someone and transitioning to a new way of life without that person.  The practices of the Order of Christian Funerals are built on many years of tradition, scripture, and Church teachings.   Hence, there is great wisdom and beauty in this practice.

While there is great beauty and wisdom in the Order of Christian Funerals, our world today does not always embrace this tradition.  As a society today, we often want things done quickly.  All too often I see families combining the three parts so that they take place back, to back, to back.  In other cases, individuals will skip one or more parts.  In doing so, individuals are often not only robbing themselves of opportunities to grow through this process both spiritually and psychologically, but in many cases they are foregoing graces for themselves and the deceased.  I am so thankful I was able to experience the Order of Christian Funerals when my friend passed away.  I was able to say goodbye to my friend, grow in love for God, and embrace a faith-filled community.   It was truly an experience of filling 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/

Stations of a Catholic Funeral – Part 2: The Vigil – Funeral Facts with Deacon Marc

Below is a transcript the the video:

Last week when we got together we talked a little bit about what were the reasons we have Catholic funerals and talked about that we give thanks to God for his love and mercy of us that we worship God that we asked God to help us fill with his graces that void of that loss that we have, and then finally we pray for that person that passed away.

And then we introduced at that time that there are three stations to right of Christian funerals as the vigil or sometimes called the wake the funeral liturgy and then the right of committal and so today what we’re going to do is spend a little bit of time just going through that first one the vigil service or the wake and what is that look like and what is its purpose.

The vigil has evolved many times over the years, I can remember early in my childhood my parents going to vigils for many, many nights in a row. My wife can tell stories about her grandfather having wake or vigil on the living room table at their house in New York.

Typically vigils are the night before the funeral but they are usually before the funeral it’s the first time the community gathers together to come together to remember the person passed away but then also at the same point in time beginning praying to god and filling that void of loss with god’s love with god’s grace and the graces of the holy spirit and so it’s that time when they come together. The vigil has a couple different components to it.

A traditional vigil starts out with the introductory right welcoming opening prayer and then we ground ourselves as we should always in scripture with the opening reading either from the Old Testament or the New Testament the gospel a brief, brief homily to ground ourselves and have a reflection in that scripture and then after we ground ourselves in scripture we then have time for intercessory prayer and that intercessory prayer can take on a different component with it.

Often times it can be traditional like we do at mass where we say we pray for the world. Let’s pray to the Lord. Lord hear our prayer.

And we do those different litanies of intercessory prayers. The intercessory prayer can also be the rosary. The rosary is one big intercessory prayer where we’re asking for Mary to intercede on our behalf for us. And so we have that intercessory prayer.

Then finally ending with the our father and a blessing of all those who are coming here and again as we’re thinking about those components what we’re doing again is grounding ourselves and remembering that god loves us that we’re worshiping him we’re praying for that person who passed away and then at the same point in time we’re asking god to fill us with his love so that we can make it through that very difficult time.

The vigil again is that first time we get together and we start remembering that person so it’s a very appropriate time to have eulogies and how people speak about that person and the impact of that person in their lives and it really is that preparation stage where spiritually, psychologically, we’re getting ready to make that transition from the home then to the church where our second station is the liturgy and we’ll talk about that in a future video and then finally, the Committal where we go to the cemetery and so you have this progression and at the same point in time supporting each other through that

So that’s our funeral facts for this week. We’ve talked about the vigil at first stage. An important stage for us as we could go through the three stations of the Right of Christian Funerals.

Make it a great week and God bless you.

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