Pope Francis has asked for prayers for his nephew’s wife and children, who died today in a car crash in Argentina. Below, prayers for the the dead, even for the death of a child:
Prayer When A Child Dies
With a mother’s strong love
you shelter us in your shadow, Lord
and you mourn as we do the death of this child.
Hold this child gently in your hand
and help us to await in joyful hope
the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Prayer for the Death of a Child
Deliver us from all evil, O God,
for we would not lose hope,
would not forget your love.
Love this child forever
as we have loved him/her.
Guide our steps in the way of peace
till with our eyes we behold you
and shall praise you with all the saints
for ever and ever.
– Gabe Huck
Order of Christian Funerals
Lord Jesus Christ,
by your own three days in the tomb,
you hallowed the graves of all who believe in you
and so made the grave a sign of hope
that promises resurrection
even as it claims our mortal bodies.
Grant that our brothers and sisters may sleep
here in peace
until you awaken them to glory,
for you are the resurrection and the life.
Then they will see you face to face
and in your light will see light
and know the splendor of God,
for you live and reign for ever and ever.
O gaping earth!
Receive the body formed of you by the hand of God
and again returning to you as its mother;
for what has been to his image, the Creator has already
Receive then this as your own.
Surely God knows how we are made,
And recalls that we are dust!
Our human life is a reed,
A flower that blooms in the meadow.
It is gone when the wind blows over it;
Its place recalls it no more,
But the grace of the Lord is eternal,
Resting forever on those fear God.
God’s justice belongs to their offspring,
To all who keep the covenant;
Who remember to do what God commands.
We do not want to be unaware about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
“It is the will of him who sent me that I should lose nothing of what he has given me: rather, that I should raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:39) That is our faith conviction about life in Christ. But we need to know what we do. We counter the mystery of death with a greater mystery still, the mystery of risen life. In the meantime there is grief, and nothing in Christian faith asks us to deny grief. We have known, all of us, someone who made an immense difference. We thank God for just that much. And we ask God for just enough strength to handle our grief.” – Gerard S. Sloyan
Mother of God Light in all Darkness
Mother of God, Light in all darkness,
our flame of hope,
with your tender hands.
And in our times of dread and nightmares,
let Him be our dream of comfort.
And in our times of physical pain and suffering,
let Him be our healer,
And in our times of separation
from one another,
Let Him be our communion.
– William Hart McNichols
November is the Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. If you aren’t in the habit of hanging out in cemeteries and praying for the dead with your kids . . . well, you’re really missing out. And so are your kids. AND so are the dead.
As Christians, we believe that the dead are not gone. Their bodies have died, but their souls live on forever.
We believe that Jesus will come at the end of time to judge all human beings who have ever lived. This is called the general judgement. But those who die before Jesus comes again, face what is called the particular judgement.
“There are three possible outcomes to the particular judgment. Those whose love for God
has been perfected in this life are taken straight to heaven, where they enjoy endless
happiness in the face to face vision of God. Those who die in God’s love but still love
Him imperfectly must be purified in the intermediate state of purgatory. Those, however,
who reject God’s love by mortal sin and die without repenting are condemned to the
everlasting torments of hell. The general judgment at the end of time simply solemnly
confirms the particular judgments of each one, with the difference that then the body as
well as the soul will receive what is due it. And all God’s judgments will be revealed as
most just.” -Rev. William G. Most
Catholics we believe that our deceased loved ones who died in God’s love are a very real part
of the Church. We the believers are divided into three parts . . .
The Church Militant: That’s us. “Militant” because we are fighting . . .
against our inclination towards sin, against our fallen natures, against
temptation, against the devil.
2. The Church Triumphant: That’s the
saints. Everyone who has died and gone to heaven is a saint. Some saints
lived lives of such heroic virtue that the Catholic Church recognizes
them by name, and holds them up as models for us to emulate.
3. The Church Suffering: That’s who we are praying for this month, the holy souls in purgatory.
“Those in purgatory cannot pray for themselves, this is why they are
called “poor” souls. They can no longer merit anything for themselves
and rely entirely on others to pray and make sacrifices on their behalf.
As they are nevertheless part of the communion of saints, they depend
upon us to help ease their suffering and quickly advance them through
their purification so that they can join the saints in heaven.
Prayers for the faithful departed please God, who makes use of our
prayers to help purify these souls that He loves. It is an act of
charity that we can give for those we have known and loved, for our
ancestors who gave us life, for those souls whose memory is lost, and
for those who have no one else to pray for them.” –Gretchen Filz
Death, and dying, and the dead are all
things we mostly try to keep far, far away from our children. I did,
anyway. But I don’t anymore. And praying for the dead, especially in
November, ESPECIALLY especially this week, has become a really beautiful
family tradition for us.
In case you aren’t in the habit of hanging out in cemeteries with your kids, I figured I’d share the whens and whys and hows.
Now. Like RIGHT now.
The whole month of November is dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. This week, from All Saints Day on November 1st through November 8th, there is a special indulgence available.
A partial indulgence can be obtained by devoutly
visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed, even if the prayer
is only mental. One can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery
each day between November 1 and November 8. These indulgences are
applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.
One of the Spiritual Acts of Mercy is to Pray for the Living and the Dead. It truly is a beautiful act of charity to pray for these souls who cannot pray for themselves, and to make sacrifices for them since they cannot make sacrifices for themselves.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure how my kids would take it. But we’ve been doing special prayers for the dead every November for the past few years, and my kids love it.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a
“purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy
of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and
friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It notes that
“this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from
the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).
The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing
unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while
we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many
impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment
due to sins already forgiven.
They really get that these are people who need their help. It’s
something important and meaningful and useful that kids can do
just as well as grownups. Maybe better. At least with more enthusiasm.
1. On All Souls Day itself, if you visit a church, and pray the Our Father and the Creed, you can be granted a plenary indulgence applicable to the souls in purgatory.
A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day.
In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the
state of grace (as opposed to being in mortal sin):
—have the interior disposition of complete detachment
from sin, even venial sin (which isn’t the same thing as never sinning);
—have sacramentally confessed their sins within a few weeks;
—receive the Holy Eucharist within a few days (it is certainly better to
receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only
Holy Communion is required);
—pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
2. Any time between November 1st and 8th, you can visit a cemetery and pray for the dead. Any time of the year, you can obtain a partial indulgence for praying for the dead in a cemetery, but this week you can obtain a plenary (or full) indulgence. You can obtain one on each of those days. This year, on All Souls Day, we met two other families at a cemetery and the kids all (devoutly) ran around the cemetery praying for the dead by name and leaving a flower at the gravestone. It was beautiful and sweet and moving and fun.
We can always pray for specific souls like this, or for our own loved ones, by name. If that soul doesn’t need our prayers, God will pass them along to another soul in need.
3. A partial indulgence, applicable only to the souls
in purgatory, can be obtained when the Eternal Rest (Requiem
aeternam) is prayed. This is a good prayer to recite any time, but it’s especially appropriate
during the month of November:
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.
4. Soul Cakes! I like the idea of having special foods we make that are associated with the liturgical year. During Lent, we make soft pretzels, during Christmas, we bake special cookies, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, we make soul cakes.
I use this recipe from Lavender and Lovage, but it’s in British. Here’s a translation of measurements:
- 1.5 sticks butter
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp mixed spice (I used cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves)
- 2/3 cup raisins
- A little milk (I use buttermilk if I have it on hand)
Praying for the dead with kids: it’s not spooky, it’s not scary. It’s sweet and empowering and awesome.
If you’d like to keep track of ALL the feasts of the Catholic liturgical year, I’ve created a wall calendar to help you do it!
It features the all the feasts and fasts of the Universal Calendar and then some, illustrated with images featuring the traditional Catholic monthly devotions. It’s an easy visual way to bring liturgical living into your home. You can keep track of the feasts and fasts and seasons of the Catholic year, and be reminded to focus your prayer on a different aspect of our faith each month.
January:The Holy Name of Jesus
February: The Holy Family
March: St. Joseph
April: The Blessed Sacrament
June: The Sacred Heart of Jesus
July: The Precious Blood
August Immaculate Heart of Mary
September: The Seven Sorrows of Mary
October: The Holy Rosary
November: The Poor Souls in Purgatory
December: The Immaculate Conception
Short, simple words of prayer provide much needed comfort and hope to all Christians, especially mothers who have lost their children. Prayers are known to be beneficial in healing anxiety and depression during times of trouble. These prayers can be said aloud, alone, for a mother or for yourself.
Prayer for Bereaved Parents
The Belief Net website is all about inspiration, spirituality and faith. It contains a specific prayer for bereaved parents that they could recite themselves or with which others could pray for the mothers who have lost their children:
“God, you sacrificed your son so that we and our children would transcend physical death. We know that you grieved when he was crucified and that you grieve over all the atrocities done by men — especially in your name. You know and understand grief as you know and understand all. You know best how to comfort these parents. Lift their hearts up to you and fill them with your peace. Your understanding is beyond our human comprehension, but give them the knowledge and faith to endure even that which they can’t understand. Let them be aware of you always God, and help them to remember that your Love is Life that can never really be taken away.”
A Mother’s Prayer to the Guardian Angels of Her Child
“The Angels” magazine’s website passes along this maternal prayer for the well-being of her children:
“I humbly salute you, O you faithful, heavenly Friends of my children! I give you heartfelt thanks for all the love and goodness you show them. At some future day I shall, with thanks more worthy than I can now give, repay your care for them, and before the whole heavenly court acknowledge their indebtedness to your guidance and protection. Continue to watch over them. Provide for all their needs of body and soul. Pray, likewise, for me, for my husband, and my whole family, that we may all one day rejoice in your blessed company.
Simply look to the Bible for simple verses that can create comfort in this sad situation. The following are two that are often used in time of sorrow:
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
“Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” Isaiah 51:11
Prayer After the Death of a Child
Creighton, a Jesuit Catholic University, shares a prayer for mothers after the death of a child:
“My life is upside down, loving God. The order of the world is out of place and I can’t do anything to right it again. Oh, Lord, you know the pain in my heart at all times and you know why: my child has died. How can it be that my beloved child is gone? The child I cared for with such concern in every illness, the one I held close to my heart and promised to take care of for a lifetime, is not here for me to care for anymore. It hurts deeply that I wasn’t able to protect this child I love with my whole being from a death that seems so unfair.
“Let me feel calm. Let me breathe deeply. Be with me in this kind of deep and transformative pain. I now carry this darkness with me on my back and in my heart, always. It is my burden and my companion.
“Lord, there is not a single minute of my life when this loss is not etched so keenly into my brain and heart, whether it is in the middle of a busy day or in those choking moments of grief in the solitary dark of night. Let me be grateful for every minute we had together. Let me treasure those memories and find joy in them. Help me to deal with people better. They don’t know what to say. They stumble and look away when they see me. They pretend nothing has happened. I know they “don’t want to remind me” but they don’t understand it is with me always, always.
“Teach me, Lord. Tell me what you want me to do with this. What am I supposed to learn from this kind of pain? What are you calling me to do?
“Open my battered heart and lead me to comfort and peace. Only you can give me the peace I need. Let me feel your presence in my life.”