"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
"Of all human evils death is the most grievous, by which human life is
destroyed...". -- St. Thomas Aquinas, Compendium theologiae, lib. 1 cap.
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."
First a 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 Truth.
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 sickness and death are great, great evils; 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 Dying and Encouraging Him to Focus on Christ and His
Throughout the dying person's time in his sick bed, it is good to offer to
him short acclamations that encourage the focus on Christ and the prayers
of the Saints. Below are the ones listed in the 1958 St. Andrew Daily Missal.
Periodically whisper these prayers into the dying person's ears:
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 enemy,
and receive me at the hour of death.
It is recommended,
too, to read the 18th and 19th chapters of the Gospel according to St. John
to the dying, helping him to focus on Christ.
Commending the Soul to God
As death 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, and consign 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 themm 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 his
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
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
apostless, 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. Amen.
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 od 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
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 our Lord.
Prayers Just after Death
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
assistance, all you Saints of God: meet him, al you Angels of God: receiving
his soul, offering it in the sight of the Most High. May 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 conspéctu Altìssimi.
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)]...
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.
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.
Dómine, ánimam ejus.
his (her) soul, Lord.
||V. May he (she)
rest in peace.
exáudi oratiónem meam.
||V. O Lord,
hear my prayer.
|R. Et clamor
meus ad te véniat.
||R. And let
my cry come to Thee.
||V. The Lord
be with you.
|R. Et cum spiritu
||R. And with
Tibi 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
remainder of our lives, we pray for our