Five years ago I wrote this front page piece for November and the Holy Souls. It contains one of my favourite prayers, so I make no apology for reprinting it this year…
After the Second Vatican Council, the various liturgical books were renewed and translated. The Missal for Mass, the words for the seven Sacraments – it was a long process. One of the very last texts to be renewed (appropriately) was the Rite of Christian Funerals. I’m not sure if lessons had been learned in the previous years, but many agree that it is one of the best post-Council rites.
Not only are there different prayers for every situation imaginable, but the quality of the translation was somewhat better than some previous efforts. The language is modern yet dignified, suitable for public speaking and not contorted.
One of my favourite liturgical prayers is the Prayer of Commendation at the end of a funeral. It is a key moment as we prepare to leave the church, the emotions of the bereaved are often strained by this point in the Mass, and something profound yet accessible is called for. And it certainly works – you can usually hear a pin drop as the much-loved person is handed back to the God who gave them to us…
It is a prayer for November:
Into your hands, Father of mercies,
we commend our brother/sister N,
in the sure and certain hope
that, together with all who have died in Christ,
he/she will rise with him on the last day.
We give you thanks for the blessings which you bestowed upon N. in this life:
they are signs to us of your goodness and of our fellowship with the saints in Christ.
Merciful Lord, turn toward us and listen to our prayers:
open the gates of paradise to your servant
and help us who remain
to comfort one another with assurances of faith,
until we all meet in Christ
and are with you and with our brother/sister for ever.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.