In the span of one month this past winter, three people I care very much about lost their fathers unexpectedly. The degree to which each was prepared for death varied greatly. Being spiritually prepared for our own or for a loved one’s death is not something we discuss frequently, if at all, and yet it is one of the most important things we can do. In fact, being properly prepared for death can make all the difference when it comes to the Four Last Things—Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.
What can you do to prepare your own soul for death?
- Remain in a state of grace by avoiding mortal sin, making use of frequent confession, and frequent, worthy reception of the Eucharist.
- Pray for a holy death, asking for the intercession of Saint Joseph the patron of a happy death and of the Blessed Mother who we invoke with every Hail Mary—“pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
- Commit to the Nine First Fridays Devotion, availing oneself of confession if needed for worthy reception of communion, attending Mass nine first Fridays in a row and receiving Holy Communion. One of the promises of fulfilling this commitment is the grace of final penitence so that one dies in a state of grace.
- To the extent that you are able, draw close to your priest and discuss what you desire in the way of a “prepared death.”
- Make clear funeral plans and plans for Masses to be said after your death. Make sure your family knows in detail your wishes.
What can you do to prepare loved ones for death?
- Discuss all of the above with your loved ones, especially if they are faithfully practicing Catholics. Get a clear idea of their desires and needs when it comes to preparing for death.
- Pray fervently for the conversion of your loved ones who are outside the faith. You can even offer your Nine First Fridays on their behalf.
- Get a priest to them as soon as possible if death is immanent or even a possibility. This is a real responsibility. Your loved one’s soul is at stake and as much as we hope they have prepared themselves for the inevitability, nothing can replace what a priest can do for a soul near death.
What should you do after the fact?
- First of all you should assume nothing—neither canonize nor condemn your loved one.
- Have Masses said for them.
- Enroll them in the Seraphic Mass Association or a similar society who offers frequent or perpetual masses for the dead. Have a Traditional Requiem Mass said, if possible.
- Continue to pray for the soul of your loved one. Our Lady gave the following prayer to the Fatima children. She promised it would be particularly efficacious for the poor souls in Purgatory.
“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in the most need of Thy mercy.”
This month remember your death. Let us give appropriate time, thought, and prayer focused upon our own mortality and state of our souls. May we meet our death in a state of preparation and grace.
Originally, I had written this post for this past Lent and then the world turned completely upside down. It just didn’t seem to be a truly appropriate time to publish it, especially since many of us were completely deprived of the sacraments and the recommendations I gave in this post are pretty reliant on access to the sacraments. I know there are still many who have limited access to confession and getting a priest into a hospital remains a real obstacle, but much of the information provided is so very important. You may need to forcefully advocate for your loved one with the hospital, your priest, or even the diocese to get what is needed. Just remember, your loved one’s soul may very much depend upon it.