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 | Bishop Thomas Daly

Death and the communion of Saints

In November, the Church commemorates the faithful departed, our beloved brothers and sisters who have died in the hope of the Resurrection. We offer prayers for them, and we are called to contemplate our own death. Medieval Christians knew intimately the words memento mori, tempus fugit — "remember death, time flies." The Catholic outlook, to this day, does not fear death as the end; we see it as the hinge between earth and life eternal, where we face judgment. In contemplating death, we contemplate our relationship with our Creator.

Prayers for the commendation of the dying speak to the hope that is in the heart of every Christian for life eternal with God. If you have been at the bedside of a dying person when the priest prays these words, you know the simple beauty and Gospel message of the prayers. In many prayers provided by the Church for use at the time of someone’s death, the words are stripped of all the beautiful complexities of our faith and bring us the simple proclamation of the Gospel. God made us, we are fallen, and we will die. Christ Jesus came to die and rise for each one of us, and He calls us to return to the Father with Him. In that moment of death, the Church once again proclaims the essence of the Gospel to the believer and, most importantly, asks Christ to welcome the believer home.

In the prayers of commendation, we also pray that all the angels and saints would come to meet the dying believer as they leave this life. In death, we see most clearly the unity of the body of Christ: the believers on earth, the souls of the dead undergoing purgation on their way to heaven and the saints in glory with God in heaven. Together, all of us are the body of Christ as we celebrate the saints on the feast of All Saints, pray for the dead on All Souls and contemplate death. Throughout November, we should remember the universality of Christ’s body.

Do not be afraid to ask for the intercession of the saints.

Do not be afraid to pray for your beloved dead.

As Catholics, we have the great gift of our relationship with all of the body of Christ: the living, the dead and the blessed in heaven. This November, I encourage you to take up the habit of asking the saints for help and praying for your loved ones who have passed away. God bless.

Prayer of Commendation

I commend you, my dear brother/sister, to almighty God, and entrust you to your Creator. May you return to Him who formed you from the dust of the earth. May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints come to meet you as you go forth from this life. May Christ who was crucified for you bring you freedom and peace. May Christ who died for you admit you into His garden of paradise. May Christ, the true Shepherd, acknowledge you as one of His flock. May you see the Redeemer face to face, and enjoy the vision of God for ever. Amen.