In many places it is common nowadays to bury a priest vested in his white vestments. I’ve never been to a deacon’s funeral, so I’m not sure what present custom is, but I would imagine that it’s the same. This reflects the current emphasis on white as the color of joy, resurrection, etc. – and it is currently the color most often used in funeral liturgies.
Whether there is law right now about what color to bury priests and deacons in, I’m not sure. I don’t think so. I don’t remember reading anything about it in the Order of Funerals or any other book containing liturgical law (and I don’t have those books here with me). If anyone knows something concrete, feel free to let me know. But I suspect very highly that it’s one of the many things that used to be addressed in law, but has fallen by the wayside in the “reform” following the Second Vatican Council.
Some of you are thinking, possibly even saying: Details! Who cares? You’re dead. Well, I care: I’ve been around the block enough times to see what happens when people (and I am not referring only to clergy) do not leave sufficient instructions concerning their burial!
SO: what is the more historic/traditional practice for the burial of priests and deacons?
In the old Rituale Romanum, many parts of which can still be used today (thanks to Pope Benedict XVI’s legislation), the following was indicated:
13. A priest especially, in addition to the cassock, should be vested in amice, alb, cincture, maniple,* stole, and purple chasuble.
14. A deacon should be vested in amice, alb, cincture, maniple,* stole (worn over the left shoulder and fastened below the right armpit), and purple dalmatic. [online source]
[* The maniple, a strip of cloth tied around the left arm, was never abrogated and may still be used. However, their use is very uncommon nowadays. I have maniples for most of my vestments.]
So, in the absence of any current law that might bind otherwise, I plan to indicate that I am to be buried according to the older practice, in my purple chasuble. I will indicate this in my funeral instructions that go on file in the diocesan chancery office (something that I still need to do!).
And I provide this historical information here for all other interested parties, especially priests and deacons (and deacons’ wives), so that they can also think about and plan ahead for these things.