I got the sweetest letter from a gentleman asking me to pray for his recently deceased wife. He went on to explain that his wife’s family was from a Protestant background and didn’t hold to the Catholic practice of praying for the dead. He simply wanted some extra prayers for her since he knew her family wouldn’t be praying for her soul.
His letter reminded me of when my own grandmother passed away many years ago. Her sister-in-law, a very kind and devout Southern Baptist, told me she had been praying for my grandmother every day while she was in hospice. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and she responded that she was now an angel in heaven and that we could finally stop praying for her.
I know she meant well. She wouldn’t have understood if I’d told her that on the contrary, now was when she needed our prayers the most. So I understand the widower’s desire to have as many people as possible praying for his wife since he knows no one else in her family would.
Since today is All Saint’s Day and tomorrow is All Soul’s Day I thought it timely to talk about praying for the dead, specifically, what we can do in spiritual preparation for our own deaths and at the death of loved ones.
Some things you can do in preparation:
- Pray for a happy death – Remember St. Joseph and that he is a powerful intercessor for the dying. He died in the arms of Our Lord and Mary and is the patron saint of the dying.
- Arrange a funeral Mass – Make arrangements for your loved ones, and in your own will for yourself, with a priest to ensure you have a funeral Mass. This is especially important if you are the only practicing Catholic in your family. Do not assume non-Catholic family members will know what to do in preparation.
And after your loved one has passed away:
- Continue to pray for them – I say this prayer every time I pass a cemetery, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.” Click here for a list of more prayers. I also make a habit of remembering during the Universal Prayer at Mass those people close to me who have died. It’s a moment when we can silently add our own prayers of petitions.
- Spiritual enrollment – You can have a deceased loved one spiritually enrolled to receive prayer and be remembered in Mass intentions.
- Have a Mass offered for them – Call any parish and inquire about having a Mass offered for your loved one.
It’s part of Catholic tradition and a regular part of our faith to pray for the dead, so even if your family doesn’t pray for their own loved ones know that there are plenty of other folks, priests, and religious who will. The dead will never be forgotten or ignored in the Church. There is tremendous comfort to be had in that knowledge.