Catholics believe in Heaven and Hell, but also in Purgatory. This is a place for those who have died in a 'state of grace' (that is, they have committed 'venial' or forgivable sins) and may not go straight to Heaven.
A Catholic funeral is slightly different and can be with or without Mass:
- The Vigil for the Deceased: this is a service of prayers, songs and homilies either at the home of the deceased or in church, before the day of the funeral.
- Introductory rites: the priest greets the congregation and says: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." He leads the coffin and congregation down the church aisle. Holy water is sprinkled and there is an opening song and prayer.
- Liturgy of the Word: sermons from the Bible are read out, as well as a homily (a practical rather than theological sermon) and a Psalm.
- Liturgy of the Eucharist: there is a preparation of gifts, a Eucharist prayer is said and Holy Communion is received.
- Final commendation: Mass ends, prayers are said and the coffin is taken out of the church.
- Rite of Committal: prayers are said by the final resting place (at the graveside for burial and before the curtains close for cremation).
A funeral is a farewell ceremony at which the person who has died is present. A commemorative event at which the person who has died is not present is called a memorial service, which may be held after the committal, privately for the family or open to other mourners, has already taken place beforehand.