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 | By Sister Ann Shields

Prayers for the Dead

This month is the first full month of the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict. This month gives us at least two wonderful opportunities to grow in faith and to remember in prayer our departed sisters and brothers.

The first day of November is always celebrated as the Feast of All Saints. To read more about the beauty of this feast day, and how you can more fully emulate the sanctity of saints, please visit and click on the Spiritual Fitness column link.

The second day of November is devoted to prayer for all those who have gone before us. Somehow, in our generation, we have lost sight of the need to pray for the dead. We are certainly not passing it on to the next generation. Read what the Catechism tells us:

“The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life … when the church for the last time speaks words of pardon and absolution over the dying Christian, seals him for the last time with a strengthening anointing and gives him Christ in viaticum as nourishment for the journey, she speaks with gentle assurance:

Go forth Christian soul, from this world in the name of God the Almighty Father, 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 Spirit who was poured out upon you. Go forth faithful Christian! May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God in Zion, with Mary the Virgin Mother of God, with Joseph and all the angels and saints.

May you return to your Creator 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 you see your Redeemer face to face.” (CCC 1020)

I share this part of the Catechism to show you the light of faith shining through all our prayers, which is/can be a comfort to those who are dying. We are actually going to see God face to face. There will be unparalleled joy; yet, at the same time, we will see, as we could never see on this earth, how our sins and failures have marred the face of Christ shining through us. If we are sorry for those times and have confessed them, they are gone. If not, we will spend some purifying time in purgatory.

For all these reasons, we need to pray for the dying and for those who have died. Sometimes, today, we too, quickly “canonize” someone we love or someone who has done great things. It’s fine to rejoice in their good deeds, but don’t let it deter you from praying for the dying and those who have died. None of us is perfect. All of us need prayer to accompany us until we each fully see his face.

I want to encourage you to read sections 1020-1050 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If you don’t have a copy, consider buying one. It’s a great resource and source of knowledge and inspiration.

Use this month to think of and pray for those among your family and friends, especially those who are dying or have recently died. It will be an act of charity for which you will be eternally blessed.

The prayers in the sidebar of this column are just two of the traditional Catholic prayers for the dead – and are often said at gravesides.

May November be a blessing of growth in sanctity and in the great work of charity: to pray for others.

Traditional Catholic prayers for the dead

Eternal Father, I offer you the most precious blood of your divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my own family. Amen.

Eternal rest grant unto him/her (them), O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon him/her (them). May he/she (they) rest in peace. Amen.

For more complete teaching:

A free booklet, “Captured by Mercy” is available by calling 1.800.282.4789.

A CD, “Captured by Mercy” is available for $10. Order by writing Renewal Ministries, Att: Laura, 230 Collingwood, Suite 240, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. (Check payable to  Renewal Ministries)

“FAITH: More Precious Than Gold” by Sister Ann Shields is a free booklet. Order by calling 1.800.282.4789

Sister Ann Shields is a renowned author and a member of the Servants of God’s Love. Questions can be addressed to Sister Ann Shields, Renewal Ministries, 230 Collingwood, Suite 240, Ann Arbor, MI 48103