What do we pray when a loved one is dying?
This is the big question many people ask me from time. I want to reply to this query from my pastoral experience as a hospital chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre.
To begin with, the first prayer that comes to my mind and heart to pray when a person is dying is certainly the Divine Mercy Chaplet. In the Diary of St Faustina Jesus explicitly tells us its power.
Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your entreaties [in other words, insistent prayers] obtain for them trust in My mercy, because they have most need of trust, and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer. You know the whole abyss of My mercy, so draw upon it for yourself and especially for poor sinners. Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul (Diary, 1777).
My daughter, encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given to you. It pleases Me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet. … Write that when they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the merciful Savior (Diary, 1541).
‘My daughter, help Me to save a certain dying sinner. Say the chaplet that I have taught you for him.’ When I began to say the chaplet, I saw the man dying in the midst of terrible torment and struggle. His Guardian Angel was defending him, but he was, as it were, powerless against the enormity of the soul’s misery. A multitude of devils was waiting for the soul. But while I was saying the chaplet, I saw Jesus just as He is depicted in the image. The rays which issued from Jesus’ Heart enveloped the sick man, and the powers of darkness fled in panic. The sick man peacefully breathed his last. When I came to myself, I understood how very important the chaplet was for the dying. It appeases the anger of God” (Diary, 1565).
“Whoever places his trust in My mercy will be filled with divine peace at the hour of death (Diary, 1520).
The second prayer I find powerful near a person who is dying is the Rosary. Let us never forget that Mary is the Mother of Mercy. In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, St Pope John Paul II gives us an excellent reflection as to why Mary is the Mother of Mercy. He says:
Mary is Mother of Mercy because her Son, Jesus Christ, was sent by the Father as the revelation of God’s mercy (cf. Jn 3:16-18). Christ came not to condemn but to forgive, to show mercy (cf. Mt 9:13). And the greatest mercy of all is found in his being in our midst and calling us to meet him and to confess, with Peter, that he is “the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). No human sin can erase the mercy of God, or prevent him from unleashing all his triumphant power, if we only call upon him. Indeed, sin itself makes even more radiant the love of the Father who, in order to ransom a slave, sacrificed his Son: his mercy towards us is Redemption. This mercy reaches its fullness in the gift of the Spirit who bestows new life and demands that it be lived. No matter how many and great the obstacles put in his way by human frailty and sin, the Spirit, who renews the face of the earth (cf.Ps 104:30), makes possible the miracle of the perfect accomplishment of the good. This renewal, which gives the ability to do what is good, noble, beautiful, pleasing to God and in conformity with his will, is in some way the flowering of the gift of mercy, which offers liberation from the slavery of evil and gives the strength to sin no more. Through the gift of new life, Jesus makes us sharers in his love and leads us to the Father in the Spirit (no.118).
Thanks to Christ’s unique mediation Mary’s powerful intercession is undisputed. Thus the Rosary, Mary’s prayers, is of utmost importance when a person is dying. Perhaps the following quotes by great saints can help us realize this very important truth.
You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary (Mary to Blessed Alan de la Roche).
Our Lady has never refused me a grace through the recitation of the rosary (St Padre Pio).
I take refuge, then, in prayer, and turn to Mary, and our Lord always triumphs (St Therese of Lisieux).
Abandon yourself in the hands of Mary. She will take care of you (St. Padre Pio).
The Rosary is the best therapy for these distraught, unhappy, fearful, and frustrated souls, precisely because it involves the simultaneous use of three powers: the physical, the vocal, and the spiritual…(Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen).
Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother (St. Padre Pio).
Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day become a formal heretic or be led astray by the devil (Saint Louis de Montfort).
The Holy Rosary is the storehouse of countless blessings (Blessed Alan de la Roche).
There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot solve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary (Sister Lucia, of the seers of Fatima).
The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish (Mary to St. Dominic).
The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary (St Pope Pius X).
Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence (St Francis de Sales).
Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if—and mark well what I say—if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins (St Louis de Montfort).
No prayer is more meritorious for the soul and more glorious for Jesus and Mary than a well recited Rosary (Saint Louis de Montfort).
When you say your Rosary, the angels rejoice, the Blessed Trinity delights in it, my Son finds joy in it too, and I myself am happier than you can possibly guess. After the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, there is nothing in the Church that I love as much as the Rosary (Our Lady to Blessed Alan de la Roche).
What an unimaginable benefits the soul of the dying person receives when the Rosary is prayed near his and her bedside or from afar for her salvation! So, let us start immediately praying the Rosary for the dying.
The third prayer is certainly that to St Joseph. Let us never forget that St Joseph is the particular saints of the dying persons due to three reasons: first, he is the adopted Father of our Judge Jesus while the other saints are simply Jesus’ friends. Second, St Joseph’s power of the over the Hellish legions is unquestionably more impressive than that of other saints. He was the one who greatly defeated king Herod satanic designs of killing the Infant God. Hence, St Joseph conquered the devil, the main persecutor of Jesus. This victory surely empowered him to achieve another far more glorious. Now St Joseph is one of the principal VIPS of Heaven. He is the King’s Father and the Queen’s Spouse. Finally St Joseph’s death was the most privileged and happiest in mankind’s history. To accompany him he had Jesus and Mary!
Here is the Prayer to St Joseph for a Happy and Holy Death
O Blessed St. Joseph! It is not without reason that thou hast been preferred to so many other saints, and honored as the special patron of dying persons, of those who are desirous of securing for themselves the greatest of all graces, that of a happy death. Thy death was so consoling, so precious, that it is a subject of envy to all the just on earth. Thou hadst Jesus and Mary at thy side, both anxious to make thee some return for all the services thou didst render to them during thy life; both administered to thee in turn all the little comforts which their extreme poverty would allow them to procure; Jesus comforted thee by the words of eternal life; Mary consoled thee by bestowing on thee a degree of care and attention which the utmost tenderness alone could suggest. How often did the arms of Jesus support thy languishing head! How often did Mary wipe the perspiration of death from thy countenance! Ah! How couldst thou not have died of love when thou beheld Jesus and Mary-a God, and the Mother of a God-supporting and consoling thee in thine agony? The holy old man Simeon died in peace and full of joy, for having beheld Jesus for a few moments; and thou, O Blessed Joseph! who for so many years had Him constantly before thine eyes, who a thousand times bestowed upon Him the caresses of a good Father, and received from Him those of a fond Son; thou whom He considered a duty to obey to the last moment of thy life; thou who were to breathe out thy last sigh whilst receiving a last embrace from Jesus; thou, in a word, who knew that Mary herself was to close thine eyes. Oh! with what far greater justice mayest thou not sing with Simeon, before thou dost expire, that canticle of love and joy: ‘Now, O my Jesus, my Son, and my God! Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, Thy father, Thy guardian, in peace!’
Most holy and blessed Patriarch, since thy death has been so sweet, so honorable, so precious in the sight of the Most High, I now at this moment earnestly implore thy protection for my last hour; obtain for me, I implore thee, at that moment so terrible for the sinner, the grace to detest most sincerely all the sins of my life; to hope with unshaken confidence in the infinite Mercy of my Redeemer and my God, Who for my salvation commenced His Life in the Crib, and consummated it upon a Cross! And finally, may I cherish also the most unbounded confidence in my loving Mother Mary, and in thee, my dearest Father. I now repeat with all the ardor of my soul that which I wish to say when in the act of expiring, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I implore Thee to assist me in my last agony!” Amen.
The Divine Mercy Chaplet is the prayer of Jesus, the Rosary is the prayer of Mary and the Prayer to St Joseph for a Happy and Holy Death is the prayer of St Joseph. How true then is the prayer: JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH, I LOVE YOU, SAVE SOULS!
Let us save the souls of the dying by praying next to them, or from a far, the following prayers of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Rosary and the Prayer to St Joseph for a Happy and Holy Death!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap