About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Dearly Departed

Before he died, I spent some time with my Uncle Pete. He lived to a ripe old age and died peacefully this morning. The last time I saw him he was his usual pistol self, a martini in one hand, a war story on his lips. We pray for his soul.

Boy, do we pray for it.

His war stories were never about the war part of the war. He had been on the supply convoys for the duration. His stories were about the French girls. Lots and lots of them, if he is to be believed.

I like to think Uncle Pete is in heaven today with my father (his brother) and Jesus and Mary. But....

He was not sorry about the French girls, as far I as could tell.

Which brings me to today's question from a reader:
What a timely post! Just yesterday my 7-year-old came home with a rosary from her teacher (she attends a Catholic school.)

So last night we sat down with my 10-year-old and said the first decade of the rosary (I didn't want to overwhelm them.) I've been wanting to introduce them to the rosary for the last year but haven't done it. My plan was to start up this summer but I expected resistance.

To my great surprise they were very excited and interested. We all took turns leading the prayers and they're excited (as I am) to pray some more.

My question is this: How and when do we mention our intention for that recitation. My brother recently died and while I pray about (and to) him often I'd like to pray on his behalf when saying the rosary.

Is that something that must be stated at the end of the rosary or at the beginning? When praying with my kids do I have to state that intention out loud or can I say it silently to myself?

Can each of us have a different intention when praying? How does all of that work?

Also, is there anything strange about chatting with my brother now that he has died? I don't feel like I'm forsaking God and worshiping him rather I feel like I'm having a one-sided telephone call with him.

Most of the time I tell him things that I'm thinking about which usually start out, "Dude, you're *never* going to believe this."

I'm aware that no one knows for sure, but do you think he hears me? He was ill and bedridden with MS for a very long time and we'd talked about his death. I always told him I expected him to say hi after he died in a dream and that he had to prove it was really him and not just my subconscious mind dreaming about him.

He said he'd drop by and while I know it's probably not going to happen I'm still hopeful that he'll let me know in some concrete way.

I suppose the bottom line is that I'm not confident in my own spiritual views and I am always looking for someone in the clergy to tell me I'm getting all of this right.

Rosary first: have your intention in mind when you begin. You can state it out loud or keep ti to yourself. Everyone can have their own intention, but the rosary is a very powerful tool when a group of people say it together for the same intention, which is true of prayer in general, hence the 'prayer circle'. And the Mass, the Stations of the Cross, religious ceremonies and processions, large group blessings, such as the Blessing of the Animals...you get the drift.

And, just to clear things up, I'm not clergy. I'm religious. Only priests are clergy.

Having addressed the beginning and end of your questions, let's go for the middle part about your dear departed brother. Our condolences and prayers are with you and his soul.

The thing is, we don't know where his soul is right now, unless he's been canonized. Everyone who is dead and in heaven is a saint, but the reason we canonize people is that we have had proof of their arrival in heaven. As a result, the Catholic Church discourages asking for the intercessory prayers of dead friends and relatives.

We never pray 'to' anyone but God. But we do ask the Church Triumphant to pray for us, just like we ask one another that favor. I'll ask St. Peter to pray for me, but I won't ask Uncle Pete. I will ask St. Peter to pray for Uncle Pete.

It isn't remotely strange that you would keep up a one sided conversation with your brother. It's a perfectly fine way to keep him in your thoughts and in your heart. But the rest of it, hoping for dream visit or a "sign"....problematic.

Let's not run around with our hair on fire because we wish to reconnect with a loved one. It's not sinful. We just rather hope that our faith will carry us, that our loved one is indeed in the arms of Jesus, or on his way there.

Because, even if he is spending some time with my Uncle Pete and the rest of the Church Suffering in Purgatory, he will be going to the arms of Jesus at some point, guaranteed. That's happy news.

If he is in Purgatory with my Uncle Pete, rest assured that Uncle Pete has some great stories.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

Are we supposed to be praying for those people that are in Hell? Not that I suspect that anyone in particular is there, but would our prayers help them?


Jack W.

Anonymous said...

Sister, Don't we know for sure that children who have died are in heaven? Children under the age of reason have not committed any sins of their own, so why would they need to make a stop in Purgatory?

Suzanne said...

Hi Sister Mary Martha,

I didn't realize that the Church discourages asking for the intercessory prayers of dead friends and relatives. I have asked my parents (deceased) to pray for my three children. I figured they raised me and my brother...I don't understand why this is discouraged.

Thank you. Love your blog!


Anonymous said...

Hi Sister, love your style.

Is it kosher to get multiple blessings on a single item? I would like to have a ring blessed by the bishop, but also by the priests who have encouraged me and helped me to such point where I think a ring is an appropriate symbol. I'm not going for super-indulgences here, just a symbol of collective blessing to carry with me in my ministry. Is that ok? Or ok but also weird?


Anonymous said...

If I have it right, the church doesn't approve of us praying to our relatives because they may still need our prayers, and the church wants - more than anything - for our relatives to get to heaven. That won't happen as fast unless we continue to pray for them. I still pray FOR my mother, although I am pretty sure she must be in heaven (and if not, then I hardly have a shot!) If she is already in heaven, my prayers are applied to someone else. If not, they go towards helping Mom get to the arms of Jesus. It's a win-win for both of us. When I die, I hope people will continue to pray for me, rather than to me. There are plenty of saints whom we know are in heaven. Why not just go with the sure thing, instead of taking a chance on me?

Sister Mary Margaret

Anita Lewis said...

Hi Sister!

You say that only priests are clergy, but aren't deacons also clergy since they are ordained?

I love your blog!


Doc Hannon said...

Your readers may be interested in the latest number of a Catholic heritage journal from Ireland entitled CHRISTVS REGNAT:



It would be extremely kind if you could post to let them know about it and if you could link to/blogroll our blog:


God bless you!

Marion Teague said...

I ask my late husband to pray for me and our children, with the proviso that if he can't, I pray for him. It's quite natural to talk to our departed loved ones, whether they can hear us or not. I wouldn't call that praying as such.
And hang on a sec...I believe the Church canonises people because miracles have happened through their intercession? So presumably people must be "praying" to them before the Church has sanctioned it? Seems a rather chicken-and-egg set up to me!

Anonymous said...


You are correct. People are praying, without the Church sanctioning it, to those who very well may become saints. Currently, all prayers being directed toward our late Holy Father, John Paul II, are unsanctioned. All printed prayers should say, "For private use only." You may have seen this, and other such disclaimers, on cards (similar to holy cards) with a picture on one side and a prayer on the other. There are also prayers for the canonization of a particular person. While we can privately invoke the intercession of anyone we hope is in heaven or purgatory, a person cannot be invoked in public prayer—prayer done under Church auspices—until the Holy See has declared the person blessed. This ruling excludes also the "venerable" from public reverence. Canon law states, "Only those servants of God may be venerated by public cult who have been numbered by ecclesiastical authority among the Saints or the Blessed" (CIC 1187).

So, I suppose if one wants to split hairs over this, you would then go into a discussion on the difference between "not promoting" a practice, and "forbidding" it altogether. The church is not going to forbid us from praying to our relatives, but they are not suggesting it.

Sister Mary Margaret