The Catholic funeral mass or liturgy is the second part of what is traditionally a three-part funeral. The first part is the wake, or vigil, which is a one to three-day gathering of family, friends and acquaintances of any belief system to share memories and pay their respects. The funeral mass is a formal funeral proceeding where the deceased receives certain rites. The funeral mass can be attended by anyone of any belief system, provided a few guidelines are observed.

Who Can Attend

The Funeral Mass is usually attended by close family and friends of the deceased. It can also be attended by acquaintances and community members but it's acceptable for acquaintances and community members to attend only the wake and not the mass. Anyone of any religion or belief system can attend a Catholic Funeral Mass, as long as their presence is welcome by the family and they're of good repute.

Attire and Behavior

Guests should wear formal, modest attire that is appropriate for a funeral. Traditionally mourners wear black, but any respectful dress attire that isn't flashy or provocative should be appropriate. Guests at the church should behave in a respectful manner. Their interactions with the family and friends of the deceased should take on a somber tone to demonstrate respect for the deceased and the grieving of his family.

Participating in the Ceremony

If the funeral mass contains Communion, non-Catholics should not receive Communion. Traditionally, Catholics should not receive Communion without first confessing if they believe they have committed sins for which they must perform penance. This practice isn't required in all parishes before receiving Communion, but it's considered a general "best practice." If you're unsure at any point what it's appropriate or not appropriate for you to do at the funeral, it's acceptable to ask the family or church leaders.

When in Doubt

While most parishes allow guests of any or no belief system to attend the funeral mass, some churches prefer just the family and religious community to attend. In some cases, it's the wish of the family that the funeral remain small. In those instances, it may not be appropriate for acquaintances to attend the mass. If you're at all unsure whether it's appropriate to attend, simply call the family or the church office to inquire about the family's wishes.