'...to pray for the dead'

 

Begin with the sign of the Cross and recite together the Hail Mary.

Then together pray the following version of St Patrick’s Breastplate, which you may like to find as a hymn to begin with.

I arise today through the strength of heaven,
Light of Sun, Radiance of Moon
Splendour of Fire, Speed of Lightning,
Swiftness of wind, Depth of the Sea,
Stability of earth, Firmness of Rock.

I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me
From all who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear, Alone and in a multitude,
Against every cruel, merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul.

Christ with me. Christ before me.
Christ behind me. Christ in me.
Christ beneath me. Christ above me.
Christ on my right. Christ on my left.
Christ when I lie down; Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise; Christ to shield me,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the heart of everyone who speaks of me. Amen.

Read the reflection.

Much of this material is gleaned from the published weekly articles of Canadian Priest, Ronald Rolheiser OMI.

November is the month that as Catholics, traditionally, we remember our friends and family who have died. Some already in glory, some maybe still refining their souls. This year we may especially think of Pope John Paul II, and also others who were close to us. We pray for the dead for the same reason we pray for anything, we feel the need and that is reason enough. God already knows every one of our desires, every one of our sins, and all of our good will. So why remind God of these? Because prayer builds us up, changes us, not God.

This is the first, though not foremost, reason why we pray for the dead. Prayer is meant to change and console us. We pray for the dead to comfort ourselves, to stir and celebrate our own faith. We pray for our dead loved ones to help heal our relationship to them. When someone close to us dies, it is natural, always, to feel a certain amount of guilt, not just because that person died and we go on living, but because, being human, we have had a less-than-perfect relationship with him or her. There is unfinished business between us. In praying for that person, among other things, we help wash clean those things that remain painful between us. We highlight our faith in the power of God and we hold up the life of the person who has died so as to let God take care of things, let God wash things clean.

We pray for the dead because we believe (and this is a doctrine, the Communion of Saints) that we are still in vital communion with them. There is, death notwithstanding, still a vital flow of life between them and us. Love, presence, and communication reach even through death. We and they can still feel each other, know each other, love each other, console each other, and influence each other. Our lives are still joined. Hence we pray for the dead in order to remain in contact with them. Just as we can hold someone's hand as they are dying, and this can be an immense consolation to them and to us, so too, figuratively but really, we can hold that person's hand through and beyond death.

Purgatory is not a geography, a place distinct from heaven, but the pain that comes from being in heaven, without having fully let go of earth. Love, even as we know it in this life, already teaches us that.

Many say that, after a time, we sense that our deceased loved ones no longer need us to pray for them. Now they just want us to connect with them. Prayer for the dead does that and even though our prayers might still to be formulated as if we are praying for them we are now simply connecting with them and what was formerly a cold, cutting absence now becomes a warm, comforting presence.

Henri Nouwen is a priest whose books I have enjoyed for a long time. Henri speaks of how the final task in life is to give one's death to others. We are meant, he says, to give our lives for others, but we are also meant to give our deaths for them. Just as elders are meant to teach the young how to live, they are also meant to teach them how to die. That's the final lesson we are meant to give the young, to die in such a way that our deaths are our final blessing to them. Nouwen writes:

"Yes, there is such a thing as a good death. We ourselves are responsible for the way we die. We have to choose between clinging to life in such a way that death becomes nothing but a failure, or letting go of life in freedom so that we can be given to others as a source of hope. This is a crucial choice and we have to `work' on that choice every day of our lives. Death does not have to be our final failure, our final defeat in the struggle of life, our unavoidable fate. If our deepest human desire is, indeed, to give ourselves to others, than we can make our death our final gift."

What does this mean? At every funeral we have some sense of it. When someone we know dies, we are left with a feeling, a tone, a colour, something in the air, of either guilt or blessing. The feeling isn't based so much upon whether the person died accidentally or naturally, was young or old, or whether or not we were present to him or her at the time of death. It takes root rather in how that person lived and how he or she related to life in general, more so than how he or she related specifically to us. That's part of the mystery of death. It releases a spirit.

Before he died, Jesus told his disciples that it was only after he was gone that they would be able to grasp what he really meant for them. That is true for everyone. Only after we have died will our spirits fully reveal themselves. And this works in two ways: If our spirits have been loving, death will reveal our real beauty (which, in this life, is always limited by wounds and shortcomings). Conversely, if our spirits, at the core, have been petty and bitter, our deaths will also reveal that. The death of a generous, gracious soul releases blessing and makes others feel free, just as the death of a bitter, clinging soul can pour out accusation and can make others feel a little guilty.

Recall the death of Pope John Paul II. What a way to die! What a lesson in faith and hope and love and service to the end. Some have said his dying was his greatest teaching and gift to the world. And how the world responded. It was another one of those moments when one felt proud and honoured to be a Catholic Christian. So this November, let us recall our loved ones, and even those not so loved, and pray that they will know God’s love. Let me conclude with the time honoured words: Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

Cheers and prayers … John Craddock sm

Remembering Our Loved Ones - November 2005 MM/MTO Much of this material is gleaned from the published weekly articles of Canadian Priest, http://www.ronrolheiser.comRonald Rolheiser OMI.

November is the month that as Catholics, traditionally, we remember our friends and family who have died. Some already in glory, some maybe still refining their souls. This year we may especially think of Pope John Paul II, and also others who were close to us. We pray for the dead for the same reason we pray for anything, we feel the need and that is reason enough. God already knows every one of our desires, every one of our sins, and all of our good will. So why remind God of these? Because prayer builds us up, changes us, not God. This is the first, though not foremost, reason why we pray for the dead. Prayer is meant to change and console us. We pray for the dead to comfort ourselves, to stir and celebrate our own faith. We pray for our dead loved ones to help heal our relationship to them. When someone close to us dies, it is natural, always, to feel a certain amount of guilt, not just because that person died and we go on living, but because, being human, we have had a less-than-perfect relationship with him or her. There is unfinished business between us. In praying for that person, among other things, we help wash clean those things that remain painful between us. We highlight our faith in the power of God and we hold up the life of the person who has died so as to let God take care of things, let God wash things clean. We pray for the dead because we believe (and this is a doctrine, the Communion of Saints) that we are still in vital communion with them. There is, death notwithstanding, still a vital flow of life between them and us. Love, presence, and communication reach even through death. We and they can still feel each other, know each other, love each other, console each other, and influence each other. Our lives are still joined. Hence we pray for the dead in order to remain in contact with them. Just as we can hold someone's hand as they are dying, and this can be an immense consolation to them and to us, so too, figuratively but really, we can hold that person's hand through and beyond death. Purgatory is not a geography, a place distinct from heaven, but the pain that comes from being in heaven, without having fully let go of earth. Love, even as we know it in this life, already teaches us that. Many say that, after a time, we sense that our deceased loved ones no longer need us to pray for them. Now they just want us to connect with them. Prayer for the dead does that and even though our prayers might still to be formulated as if we are praying for them we are now simply connecting with them and what was formerly a cold, cutting absence now becomes a warm, comforting presence. Henri Nouwen is a priest whose books I have enjoyed for a long time. Henri speaks of how the final task in life is to give one's death to others. We are meant, he says, to give our lives for others, but we are also meant to give our deaths for them. Just as elders are meant to teach the young how to live, they are also meant to teach them how to die. That's the final lesson we are meant to give the young, to die in such a way that our deaths are our final blessing to them. Nouwen writes: "Yes, there is such a thing as a good death. We ourselves are responsible for the way we die. We have to choose between clinging to life in such a way that death becomes nothing but a failure, or letting go of life in freedom so that we can be given to others as a source of hope. This is a crucial choice and we have to `work' on that choice every day of our lives. Death does not have to be our final failure, our final defeat in the struggle of life, our unavoidable fate. If our deepest human desire is, indeed, to give ourselves to others, than we can make our death our final gift." What does this mean? At every funeral we have some sense of it. When someone we know dies, we are left with a feeling, a tone, a colour, something in the air, of either guilt or blessing. The feeling isn't based so much upon whether the person died accidentally or naturally, was young or old, or whether or not we were present to him or her at the time of death. It takes root rather in how that person lived and how he or she related to life in general, more so than how he or she related specifically to us. That's part of the mystery of death. It releases a spirit. Before he died, Jesus told his disciples that it was only after he was gone that they would be able to grasp what he really meant for them. That is true for everyone. Only after we have died will our spirits fully reveal themselves. And this works in two ways: If our spirits have been loving, death will reveal our real beauty (which, in this life, is always limited by wounds and shortcomings). Conversely, if our spirits, at the core, have been petty and bitter, our deaths will also reveal that. The death of a generous, gracious soul releases blessing and makes others feel free, just as the death of a bitter, clinging soul can pour out accusation and can make others feel a little guilty. Recall the death of Pope John Paul II. What a way to die! What a lesson in faith and hope and love and service to the end. Some have said his dying was his greatest teaching and gift to the world. And how the world responded. It was another one of those moments when one felt proud and honoured to be a Catholic Christian. So this November, let us recall our loved ones, and even those not so loved, and pray that they will know God’s love. Let me conclude with the time honoured words: Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen. Cheers and prayers … John Craddock sm

Discuss (some of) the following:

* Recently, in the context of the death of a friend’s wife by cancer, I encouraged the man to continue to talk to his wife, especially “pillow talk.” What do you think of this?
* In what ways have you “connected with” your loved ones in heaven?”
* Have you had experiences of helping your children come to terms with death – relatives, pets, etc?
* Have you ever experienced the healing of “unfinished business” after the death of a loved one?
* Have you experienced the death of a still born or a sudden death after birth? Did you name the babe?


Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
I give you my heart and my soul:
Jesus Mary and Joseph,
assist me in my last hours.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
may I breathe forth my soul
in peace with you. Amen



Conclude with you usual prayers.