At our parish, our pastor will mention requests for prayers before the homily and at times, mention those who have passed on. After the announcements, if there was a death, he leads us into praying a "Hail Mary" and then:
Eternal rest grant unto them (him, her), O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon them (him, her).
May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
It's a short prayer. But said together, as a community, reminds me of our faith and what we believe about life everlasting. It makes me feel bonded. It also reminds me that, Lord willing, I will have a group of Catholics pray this exact prayer when it's my time to pass from this world into the next.
This tradition is a bittersweet one, but beloved by me because it says no one is forgotten. Within Catholicism, every major part of our lives - from birth, to marriage, to death, is branded by our faith. It says that even in death, we are connected.
This morning, I was doing my ironing near our front window. I could see cars going down the main street, with small flags on their hoods. It took me a moment to realize it was a funeral procession. Instantly I stopped and said a "Hail Mary." I've been doing this for awhile, now, not certain when I started. But every time I hear of death, I pray and ask for God's comfort for those who have lost someone dear. I know that as a Catholic, I'm not alone in doing this, that there are many who do the same thing.
It's amazing that these types of prayers used to strike me as being nothing more than lifeless rituals. Now they have a new meaning to me and are anything but lifeless. They are small channels of God's grace, flowing through us to those who are most in need. That to me, is a two-fold blessing - both for those who need it, and for myself - as I respect both life and death.