The Vigil for the deceased is the principal rite celebrated by the Christian community in the time following death and before the funeral liturgy. The Vigil may be celebrated in the funeral home or in the church depending on the number of friends and family in attendance.
At the Vigil the Christian community keeps watch with the family in prayer to the God of mercy and finds strength in His presence. In this time of loss the family and the community turn to God's Word as the source of faith and hope, as light and life in the face of darkness and death.
Consisting primarily of a reading from the Old Testament, a responsorial psalm, a reading from the Gospel, and a short homily by the priest, the Vigil is a wonderful time for friends and family to gather together to pray for their loved one. In times past, the only prayer used at the Vigil was the Rosary and, though this is still an option, it is now done within the context of the rite for the Vigil laid out in the Order of Christian Funerals.
The Vigil is the appropriate time for family and friends to offer words of remembrance, poems or eulogies in memory of the deceased since it allows for more time and, in general, it is a more relaxed atmosphere than the funeral Mass.