Remembering the dead in prayer

By Sister Ann Shields

November marks the end 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.

Maria and Phil Duong with their children, Ryan and Michelle
Maria and Phil Duong show their children, Ryan and Michelle, their paternal grandfather's name on the Vietnamese memorial wall at Holyrood Cemetery in Shoreline. Photo: Jean Parietti

The first day of November is always celebrated as the feast of All Saints. 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 of the Catholic Church 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 Christ’s 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 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. It's also available online at

Use this month to think of and pray for 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.

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

Sister Ann Shields is an author and a member of the Servants of God's Love. Contact her at Renewal Ministries, 230 Collingwood, Suite 240, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.


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.

October 18, 2013