Sympathy Etiquette Guide: Catholic

September 13, 2013    |    By +
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catholic-funeralChoosing sympathy gifts is never easy. How can any gift fill the void of a missing loved one? It’s a tall order, but remember, no one actually expects a sympathy gift to eliminate the grief. Still, a gift adds a bright touch to an otherwise dark time, so my suggestion is to always give when the opportunity arises. But, there are some guidelines that you need to be aware of so that you don’t offend people you care about and are trying to help. Being sensitive to friends’ and acquaintances’ cultural traditions is always a must, but it’s especially crucial at this fragile time. Some gifts or gestures that are your go-to’s may turn out to be big no-go’s, depending on the culture. With this in mind, I’m doing a series on sympathy etiquette by tradition to help you navigate sympathy gifts. This week I’ll tell you about Catholic traditions.

Catholic sympathy traditions are some of the most often depicted in American culture. Catholic funerals generally consist of a wake, a funeral service and the burial. One fitting expression of condolence for Catholics is floral arrangements sent to the funeral home or to the home of the family. Make sure that the flowers come with a method of displaying them like a vase, basket or a stand. When sending flowers to the family’s house, consider a potted plant that the family can keep for more than a few days. (The amount of flowers people send can really add up, and it’s a shame to see so many of them die so quickly.) Another great idea is to donate a Mass in memory of the deceased. This memorial is called a “Mass intention” and can be obtained from any Catholic parish. Mass cards can often be obtained at the funeral home as well. A commemorative rosary is also an apt gift, particularly for devout Catholics. Donations to the deceased’s church or a charity associated with their cause of death are also appropriate.

See other sympathy etiquette by tradition posts and shop all of our favorite sympathy gifts with these guidelines in mind.




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Kathryn D.W.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is the senior manager of content at She was formerly the executive editor at Honolulu Magazine, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Oahu. Her career has included staff positions at Country Living Gardener and Power & Motoryacht. Her latest book is "Hawaii's Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!"

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Gwen is the Editorial Curator at In addition to writing blogs, she creates gift guides, curates the site, and produces content for our social media channels. As a freelance writer, she created blogs on fashion, art, travel, health and lifestyle. A talented jewelry designer, she's also a yogi and a hospital volunteer with her therapy dog, Lilo, a Pomeranian.