When tragedy strikes and a large number of people die, here are a few Catholic ways to mourn their passing.
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When news of a tragedy reaches our ears, it can break our heart. This is especially the case when a large number of victims die, whether it is a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.
We may wonder how we can mourn the victims of such tragedies. The Catholic Church encourages us above all to pray for the deceased, recognizing that these souls may be in Purgatory, a place of waiting in the afterlife before entering into Heaven.
The Church teaches that it is a Spiritual Work of Mercy to pray for the souls of the faithful departed, imploring God to purify the souls of the dead “by the fire of His charity” and to bring them at last to their Heavenly Home.
The Church offers numerous ways to pray for the dead. For the purposes of this article, here are four of the most common that the Church recommends.
1Offer Masses for the Dead
It is a custom in the Church to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for a particular soul, whether they are a deceased relative, friend or victim of a tragedy. Contact your local parish to inquire about offering a Mass for someone, or groups of individuals.
Pope Benedict XVI recommended this practice in Sacramentum Caritatis: “I wish, together with the Synod Fathers, to remind all the faithful of the importance of prayers for the dead, especially the offering of Mass for them, so that, once purified, they can come to the beatific vision of God. A rediscovery of the eschatological dimension inherent in the Eucharist, celebrated and adored, will help sustain us on our journey and comfort us in the hope of glory” (SC, 32).
2Pray the Novena for the Holy Souls
Composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori, the nine days of prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory are a more prolonged way to pray for the deceased. Traditionally this novena is prayed in preparation for All Souls Day or in the days following the celebration.
3Pray the “Eternal Rest” Prayer
The prayer is as follows:
Eternal rest grant to 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.
This prayer is used most often during the liturgical functions surrounding a funeral, but is often prayed by families in connection with prayers before and after meals.
4Pray St. Gertrude the Great’s Prayer for the Holy Souls
One of the most popular prayers for the Souls in Purgatory is that of St. Gertrude the Great. She received many visions of Our Lord during her lifetime and expressed to Jesus her great desire to pray for the deceased. In return, Jesus taught St. Gertrude the following prayer. It is piously believed that 1,000 souls are released from purgatory by praying this payer with the heart.
Eternal Father, I offer You the most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for all sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.