VNO 47: For The Grace Of A Happy Death

Perhaps related to the previous VNO Mass, we look at the celebration of the Eucharist “For the Grace of a Happy Death.” A funeral gathers many friends as well as family. Outside of large cities, I’m not sure there are situations in which clergy are available to celebrate Mass in this situation. Perhaps in a care facility or hospice when a regularly scheduled Mass occurs when a resident finds death is very near. 

In the 1998/2002 edition of the Lectionary, it falls under number 32, and a small set of readings is given:

  • Isaiah 25:6-10a (the wiping of tears at the Messianic banquet)
  • Romans 14:7-9, 10c-12 (no one lives or dies for oneself)
  • Matthew 25:1-13 (virgin with lamps)
  • Luke 12:25-40 (do not worry, and be watchful)
  • Luke 21:34-36 (be careful about sudden death)
  • Luke 23:39-46 (“Jesus, remember me” and the death of the Lord)

The first two readings are most suitable. With death a near thing for a person, some of the warning gospels might be accurate, but perhaps not the best under some circumstances. A look through the offerings for funerals might be a consideration.

The Lectionary Psalm is the same as the one for Good Friday: Psalm 31. The verses chosen are 2+6, 8bc-9, 15-16, 17+25. The second “stanza” is a substitute for 12-13, which fits better with the Lord’s Passion. With this selection of verses, we have an individual lament with a brief expression of hope at the end:

In you, LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me;
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, LORD, God of truth.

(O)nce you have seen my misery,
and gotten to know the distress of my soul.
You will not abandon me into enemy hands,
but will set my feet in a free and open space.

But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My destiny is in your hands;
rescue me from my enemies,
from the hands of my pursuers.

Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your mercy.
Be strong and take heart,
all who hope in the LORD.

Mass propers would not be out of place at a funeral liturgy:

Entrance Antiphon Psalm 23:4

Though I should walk in the valley of the shadow of death, no evil will I fear, for you are with me, Lord, my God. Your crook and your staff have given me comfort.

Communion Antiphon Romans 14:7-8

No one lives for himself, and no one dies for himself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

Or: Luke 21:36

Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.

For the Romans text, I’ve suggested elsewhere Romans 8:14-19 or Hebrews 12:22-24, 28-29 would work as a larger text in which to place this antiphon. The Luke text is also a portion of one of those Lectionary readings above. If a Psalm is thought best for Communion, one of the Psalms of trust: 4, 91, 131, or 134. 

Some years ago, we blogged on Masses And Prayers For Various Needs And Occasions. In the GIRM, sections 368-378 cover the universal regulations on their use. You can check our brief comments here and here and here. The USCCB’s unannotated text on the matter is here.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to VNO 47: For The Grace Of A Happy Death

  1. Liam says:

    Perhaps in a Catholic hospital, it might be a weekly votive for those patients who are at the point of death.

    Outside the boundaries of this particular intention as a votive Mass intention, it occurs to me to encourage those who compose general intercessions not only to include intentions for the sick and the dead, but also those who are at the threshold of death (whether known – by illness or losing the the will to continue living – or not (sudden death)), who merit special prayers of the Body of Christ to accompany their passage from this world. Among the cast of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (, St Catherine of Alexandria is invoked against a sudden and unprovided-for death (unprovided-for meaning without the benefit of the sacraments if they are needed)

  2. Devin Rice says:

    One does not need to be near death to pray for the grace of happy death, so this votive mass can be used in the course of a regular week day mass.

    To address the concern that those near death may benefit from the mass formularies but not able to have a mass celebrated, the LOTH allows for votive offices based on the mass formularies so a deacon or the laity could lead such a service to. I would imagine that a service of Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside could also be done as votive service with the same principals. If that is not permissible by the rubrics, then a paraliturgical service could be used as well based on the above texts.

    • Todd says:

      Yes. Most any VNO can be used to replace a regular weekday Mass, but very few clergy make the choice for any reason. As for a Word and Communion service, those are governed less by rubrics and more by what a bishop will permit in parishes. But the other options are several: a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word, any of the Hours, but primarily Lauds or Vespers, readings and prayers during Eucharistic adoration.

      The main obstacle is a lack of imagination with the given possibilities in the liturgy.

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