Wisdom 1:12-14 "Seek not death in the error of your life,
neither procure ye destruction by the works of your hands. For God made
not death, neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living.
For he created all things that they might be.."
"Of all human evils death is the most grievous, by which human life is
destroyed...". -- St. Thomas Aquinas, Compendium theologiae, lib. 1
John 11:17-35 "Then when Jesus came, he found that he [Lazarus] had
lain in the grave four days already...Then when Mary was come where
Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him,
Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus
therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with
her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. And said, Where have
ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept."
definition: death is the separation of the soul from the body, a
phenomenon we can't know has happened with moral certainty
until corruption has begun. "Death" does not mean the cessation of
breathing or heartbeat, nor does "brain death" mean that death has
occured. The soul isn't "in" the heart, or "in" the lungs, or "in the
brain, or "in" any particular part of the body. The treatment of the
dying, the apparently dead, and their organs is goverened by this
Now, a person confronting death should receive the Sacrament of Unction for the possible
restoration of body (His will be done) and, most importantly,
soul. This is of prime importance and should never be neglected.
Other ways to help prepare the sick person for death are to pray the Holy Rosary (focusing on the Sorrowful
Mysteries), the Divine Mercy Chaplet,
to St. Joseph (the Patron of the dying) for a holy death, etc. -- with
the sick person, if possible, or in such a manner that he can hear you.
This includes audible prayer for the unconscious; never think that
those who are unconscious or in a coma can't hear you!
The sick person should have a Crucifix
(a St. Benedict Medal Crucifix, if
possible) in view, perhaps to hold if he can, and should be encouraged
to offer up his sufferings and to trust in the love and mercy of our
Lord Jesus Christ. A lit blessed candle, as a
symbol of the sick person's Baptism -- a
symbol of sanctifying grace and the promise of eternal life -- should
be placed nearby so he can see the flame (unless oxygen tanks are in
use, of course!).
You'll note that the Catholic way of death is different from that of
other "Christian" groups. We don't try to sanitize it and avoid the
topic. We don't speak in euphemisms about it. We don't take salvation
for granted, except the salvation of the souls of baptized children
who've died before the age of reason (but we, of course, trust in the
mercy of God for all others). And we don't consider it a sin or, at the
least, a faux-pas to mourn. While we don't exactly "sit shiva," we
don't see jumping up and down and singing happy songs as the natural
reaction to having to miss someone until one's own death. In other
words, it's OK to rend garments and weep; these things are not
expressions of a "lack of faith," but are normal, natural reactions to
the evil of death, and to missing someone and realizing that it will be
some time before you see him again, Deo volente.
It must be remembered that human sickness and death are great, great
they were not "supposed" to be a part of this world, and came about as
a consequence of the sin of Adam. Christ, of course, conquered the tomb
and gives us the hope of eternal life. Catholics, then, look at death
for what it is -- an evil -- but cling to the hope He offers, trusting
in His Divine Mercy while also realizing that He is Just. Christ
Himself wept before the dead Lazarus.
Now, the sick person shouldn't be denied the Truth of his situation any
more than those around him should lie to themselves. It is not a
loving act to ignore reality out of fear of not wanting to alarm the
sick one, and to do so is to imperil his everlasting soul. The dying
person needs to face his mortality, to repent, to pray, to receive
Unction, to be encouraged to trust totally in Jesus and His forgiveness
and love, etc. He must spiritually prepare himself for judgement, and
to help him do this is the single greatest act of love you can offer.
Ways of Comforting the
Encouraging Him to Focus on Christ and His Passion
Throughout the dying person's time in his sick bed, it is good to offer
to him short acclamations that encourage a focus on Christ and asking
prayers of the Saints, especially Our Lady, and St. Joseph, who is the
patron of the dying and of a happy death. Below are short prayers to
aid those who are close to their end. Periodically whisper these
prayers into the dying
person's ears, even if you think he
Into Thy hands,
Lord, I commend my spirit.
O Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit.
Holy Mary, pray for me.
Holy Mary, Mother of grace, Mother of mercy,
do thou defend me from the
and receive me at the hour of death.
St. Joseph, obtain for me grace and mercy!
recommended, too, to read the 18th and 19th chapters of
the Gospel according to St. John to the dying, helping him to focus on
Commending the Soul to
approaches more closely, the sick person's soul should be commended to
God. The following traditional form is most beautiful:
Go forth, O
Christian soul, ouf of this world, in the Name of God the
Father almighty, Who created you; in the Name of Jesus Christ, the Son
of the living God, Who suffered for you; in the Name of the Holy Ghost,
Who sanctified you, in the name of the holy and glorious Mary, Virgin
and Mother of God; in the name of the angels, archangels, thrones and
dominions, cherubim and seraphim; in the name of the patriarchs and
prophets, of the holy apostles and evangelists, of the holy martyrs,
confessors, monks and hermits, of the holy virgins, and of all the
saints of God; may your place be this day in peace, and your abode in
Holy Sion. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
O merciful and gracious God, O God, according to the
multitude of Thy
mercies Thou blotteth out the sins of such as repent, and graciously
remit the guilt of their past offenses, mercifully regard this Thy
servant (handmaid) N.____ and grant him (her) a full discharge from all
his (her) sins, who with a contrite heart most earnestly begs it of
Thee. Renew, O merciful Father, whatever has been vitiated in him (her)
by human frailty, or by the frauds and deceits of the enemy: and
associate him (her) as a member of redemption to the unity of the body
of the Church. Have compassion, Lord, on his (her) sighs, have
compassion on his (her) tears; and admit him (her), who has no hope but
in Thy mercy, to the sacrament of Thy reconciliation. Through Christ
our Lord. Amen.
I commend you, dear Brother (Sister), to the almighty God,
you to the care of Him, whose creature you are, that, when you shall
have paid the debt of all mankind by death, you may return to thy
Maker, Who formed you from the dust of the earth. When, therefore, your
soul shall depart from your body, may the resplendent multitude of the
angels meet you: may the court of the apostles receive you: may the
triumphant army of glorious martyrs come out to welcome you: may the
splendid company of confessors clad in their white robes encompass you:
may the choir of joyful virgins reeceive you: and may you meet with a
blessed repose in the bosom of the patriarchs. May St. Joseph, the most
sweet Patron of the dying, comfort you with a great hope. May Mary, the
holy Mother of God, lovingly cast upon you her eyes of mercy. May Jesus
Christ appear to you with a mild and joyful countenance, and appoint
you a place among those who are to stand before Him for ever. May you
be a stranger to all that is punished with darkness, chastised with
flames, and condemned to torments. May the most wicked enemy, with all
his evil spirits, be forced to give way: may he tremble at your
approach in the company of angels, and with confusion fly away into the
vast chaos of eternal night. Let God arise and His enemies be
dispersed, and let them that hate Him fly before His Face, let them
vanish like smoke; and as wax that melts before the fire, so let
sinners perish in the sight of God; but may the just rejoice and be
happy in His presence. May then all the legions of Hell be connfounded
and put to shame; and may none of the ministers of Satan dare to stop
you in your way. May Christ deliver you from torments, Who was
crucified for you.. May He deliver you from eternal death, Who
vouchsafed to die for you. May Jesus Christ the Son of the living God
place you in the ever-verdant lawns of His Paradise; and may He, the
true Shepherd, acknowledge you for one of His flock. May He absolve you
from all your sins, and place you at His right hand in the midst of His
elect. May you see your Redeemer face to face, and standing always in
His presence, behold with happy eyes the most clear Truth. And may you
be placed among the company of the blessed and enjoy the sweetness of
the contemplation of your God for ever. Amen.
Thy servant (handmaid) into the place of salvation, which he (she)
hopes to obtain through Thy mercy.
the soul of Thy servant (handmaid) from all danger of Hell; and from
all pain and tribulation.
the soul of Thy servant (handmaid) as Thou didst deliver Enoch and
Elias from the common death of the world.
the soul of Thy servant (handmaid), as Thou didst deliver Abraham from
the midst of the Chaldeans.
the soul of Thy servant (handmaid), as Thou didst deliver Job from all
the soul of Thy servant (handmaid), as Thou didst deliver Isaac from
being sacrificed by his father.
the soul of Thy servant (handmaid), as Thou didst deliver Lot from
being destroyed in the flames of Sodom.
the soul of Thy servant (handmaid), as Thou didst deliver Moses from
the hands of the Pharaoh, King of Egypt.
the soul of Thy servant, as Thou didst deliver the three children from
the fiery furnace, and from the hands of an unmerciful king.
the soul of Thy servant (handmaid), as Thou didst deliver Susanna from
her false accusers.
the soul of Thy servant (handmaid), as Thou didst deliver David from
the hands of Saul and Goliath.
the soul of Thy servant (handmaid), as Thou didst deliver Peter and
Paul out of prison.
|And as Thou
didst deliver that blessed virgin and martyr, Saint Thecla, from three
most cruel torments, so be pleased to deliver the soul of this Thy
servant, and bring it to the participation of Thy Heavenly joys.
We commend to
Thee, Lord, the soul of Thy servant (handmaid) N.____, and we pray
Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, that as in mercy to
him (her) Thou becamest man, so now Thou would be pleased to admit him
(her) to the bosom of Thy patriarchs. Remember, Lord, he (she) is Thy
creature, not made by strange gods, but by Thee, the only living and
true God; for there is no other but Thee, and none can equal Thy work.
Let his (her) soul rejoice in Thy presence, and remember not his (her)
former iniquities and excesses, which he (she) has fallen into, through
the violence of passion and the corruption of his (her) nature. For
although he (she) has sinned, yet he (she) has always firmly believed
in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; he (she) has had a zeal for Thy
honour, and faithfully adored Thee as his (her) God, and Creator of all
things. Remember not, Lord, we pray Thee, the sins of his (her) youth,
and his (her) ignorances; but according to Thy great mercy, be mindful
of him (her) in Thy Heavenly glory. Let the heavens be opened to him
(her), and the angels rejoice with him (her). Let the archangel St.
Michael, whom Thou didst appoint the chief of the heavenly host,
conduct him (her). Let the holy angels come out to meet him (her), and
carry him (her) to the city of heavenly Jerusalem. Let blessed Peter
the apostle, to whom God gave the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,
receive him (her). Let St. Paul the apostle, who was a vessel of
election, assist him (her). Let St. John the beloved disciple, to whom
the secrets of Heaven were revealed, intercede for him (her). Let all
the holy apostles, who received from Jesus Christ the power of binding
and loosing, pray for him (her). Let all the saints and elect of God,
who in this world have suffered torments in the name of Christ,
intercede for him (her); that being freed from the prison of his (her)
body, he (she) may be admitted into the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who with Thee and the Holy Ghost, lives and reigns, world without end.
Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary
May Mary the
most merciful Virgin Mother of God, kindest comforter of them that
mourn, commend to her Son the soul of this His servant (handmaid),
that through her maternal intercession, he (she) may overcome the dread
of death and, with her as guide, joyfully reach his (her) longed-for
home in the heavenly fatherland.
Prayer to St.
To thee I have
recourse, St. Joseph, Patron of the dying; and to thee, at whose
blessed death watchfully assisted Jesus and Mary, by both these dearest
pledges I earnestly recommend the soul of this servant (handmaid) in
the sufferings of his (her) last agony, that he (she) may by your
protection be delivered from the snares of the devil and from eternal
death, and may merit to attain everlasting joy. Through the same Christ
Prayers Just after
After the soul
has left the body, the following responsory is said:
Sancti Dei, occúrrite, Angeli Dómini, Suscipiéntes ániman ejus,
Offeréntes eam in conspéctu Altíssimi. Suscípiat te Christus, qui
vocávit te, et in sinum Abrahae Angeli dedúcant te. Suscipiéntes ánimam
ejus, Offeréntes eam in conspéctu Altíssimi.
R. Come to his
(her) assistance, all you Saints of God: meet him (her), all you Angels
receiving his (her) soul, offering it in the sight of the Most High.
Christ receive you, who hath called you, and may the Angels conduct you
to Abraham's bosom. Receiving his (her) soul and offering it in the
sight of the Most High.
aetérnam dona ei, Dómine, et lux perpétua lúceat ei. Offeréntes eam in
V. Eternal rest
give to him (her), Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon him (her).
Offering it in the sight of the Most High.
[Pater noster (silently)]...
|Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
[Our Father (silently)].....
|V. Et ne nos
indúcas in tentatiónem.
||V. ...and lead
us not into temptation.
|R. Sed libera
nos a malo.
||R. But deliver
us from evil.
aetérnam dona ei, Dómine.
||V. Eternal rest
give to him (her), Lord.
|R. Et lux
perpétua lúceat ei.
||R. And let
perpetual light shine upon him (her).
|V. A porta
||V. From the
gates of Hell.
|R. Erue, Dómine,
||R. Deliver his
(her) soul, Lord.
|V. Réquiescat in
||V. May he (she)
rest in peace.
exáudi oratiónem meam.
||V. O Lord, hear
|R. Et clamor
meus ad te véniat.
||R. And let my
cry come to Thee.
||V. The Lord be
|R. Et cum
||R. And with thy
Dómine, commendámus ánimam fámuli tui (fámulae tuae) N.____, ut
defúnctus (defúncta) saéculo tibi vivat: et quae per fragilitátem
humánae conversatiónis peccáta commìsit, tu vénia misericordìssime
pietátis abstérge. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
Let us pray. To
Thee, Lord, we commend the soul of your servant (handmaid) N.____, that
being dead to this world he (she) may live to Thee: and whatever sins
he (she) has committed in this life through human frailty, do Thou in
Thy most merciful goodness forgive. Through Christ our Lord.
Grant, O God,
that while we lament the departure of this Thy servant (handmaid), we
may always remember that we are most certainly to follow him (her). And
give us grace to prepare for that last hour by a good life, that we may
not be surprised by a sudden and unprovided death, but be ever
watching, that, when Thou callest, we may, with the Bridegroom, enter
into eternal glory: through Christ our Lord. Amen.
remainder of our lives, we pray for