The Significance of Wake: Understanding the Variances Between Catholic and Protestant Theology

Whether you are a devout Catholic or a practicing Protestant, understanding the differences in theology between the two is crucial to gaining a full comprehension of Christianity. One of the significant theological disparities between these two denominations is the concept of wake. In this blog post, we will delve into the significance of wake in Catholic and Protestant traditions, highlighting the differences and similarities between the two. By the end of this article, readers will have a deeper understanding of how the concept of wake fits into the broader theological frameworks of Catholicism and Protestantism.

The Significance of Wake: Understanding the Variances Between Catholic and Protestant Theology


Death is a somber and inevitable truth that brings up a range of complex emotions and practices across cultures and religions. One such practice is a wake or a viewing, a tradition observed by many Catholics and Protestants six to twelve hours before the funeral service. A wake, while similar in many ways, holds significant differences in theology between Catholicism and Protestantism, which are sometimes overlooked or misunderstood. In this article, we will explore the variances between Catholic and Protestant theology concerning a wake.

A Wake – What is it and What Happens?

A wake is a gathering where family members, friends, and other acquaintances come together to pay respects to the deceased. It’s usually held in the funeral home or at the family home. The reason behind the name ‘wake’ came from the Old English word ‘wacian’, which means to watch or keep vigil, symbolizing the practice of staying awake in prayer for the soul of the deceased.

The Purpose of Prayer in a Wake ##

During a wake, people pray for the bereaved family and the soul of the deceased. Prayer is considered a powerful medium that helps the person and their time if there is a purgation. Purgation, in Catholicism, is a purification process, filled with cleansing and suffering. It is believed that through prayer and good works, people try to make up for the temporal punishment due to sin that the deceased may have to undergo.

In Catholicism, purgatory is seen as a state of existence in which the souls must undergo a process of purgation before attaining the eternal reward. Protestants, however, do not believe in the concept of purgatory. They believe in an immediate judgment, where the departed go either to heaven or hell. Additionally, Protestants believe that the soul is judged based on faith in Christ and not on the works done during their lifetime.

The Significance of Wake in Catholic Faith

The wake is a quote Catholic thing. The Catholic Church encourages the family members and friends, present at the wake to pray the rosary and other prayers to help the departed soul achieve the state of heavenly joy, free from suffering. Catholic theology advises people to constantly pray for the soul of the deceased, make offering and engage in other good deeds for the privilege of indulgence. Indulgence, in Catholicism, means a remission of punishment due to sin, making it possible to avoid purgatory or complete the partial release more quickly.

The Significance of Wake in Protestant Faith

The Protestant faith does not focus on the idea of purgatory or indulgence, as mentioned earlier. They believe that their loved ones who have died are already in heaven or hell, based solely on their relationship with God during their lifetime. Therefore, the Protestant wake is not a means to help the departed soul change their position from hell to heaven. Instead, it is often considered a time for family members and friends to come together and emotionally support each other during a difficult time.

The Wake in Boston and Beyond ##

The wake is an integral part of traditional Catholic funeral services, as it is a practice widely observed. Although it’s not a religious requirement, it has become a cultural norm in many parts of the world with Catholic roots- like Ireland, the Philippines, and Mexico. Similarly, the wake is a tradition followed in Boston, as seen in movies and TV shows. However, the wake is not personalized to the speaker in this article, and it is up to them and their loved one’s religious beliefs to decide on whether or not they want to have a wake.


In conclusion, the wake is a significant part of both Catholic and Protestant traditions. While there are significant differences between the theologies of the two religions, both emphasize the importance of prayer and the remembrance of the deceased. Whether one’s loved one has already passed away, or one is preparing for the inevitable, it is essential to understand the meaning and significance of the wake in one’s religious and cultural beliefs.

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