[Editor's note: As death draws near, obviously the dying person, and those with him, should pray. When my father came near death, my mother lead him in the Lord's Prayer, while holding his hand. The prayers that follow may have been used by priests before the Second Vatican Council. Their tone indicates some fear of death and judgment. It would be better if people who have received the sacraments, or at least have fervently repented, had more confidence in God's mercy. Recall the Gospel of John where Jesus says: "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one." John 10:27-30. Short prayers are often valuable. My personal favorite is "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner." The following is reproduced to give you further material and background on Church practice. It can be used by lay people, especially if you are not experienced in prayer.]
When the soul is about to depart from the body. then more than ever ought they who are present pray earnestly around the dying person's bed and if he he unable to speak, the HOLY NAME OF JESUS should constantly invoked, and such words as the following again and again repeated...
INTO Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. O Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit. Holy Mary, pray for me. O Mary, mother of grace, mother of mercy, ...protect me from the enemy, and receive me at the hour of death. St. Joseph, pray for me. St. Joseph, in company with the Blessed Virgin, Your spouse, open to me the [source] of divine mercy.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony [or in my last moment].
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I sleep and rest in peace in your holy company.
When the soul has departed the following Responsory should be said:
COME to his (her) assistance, Saints of God, come forth to meet him ( her) , Angels of the Lord: Receiving his ( her) soul: Offering it in the sight of the Most High.
V. May Christ receive you, who has called you, and may the Angels bear you into Abraham's bosom. [Luke 16:23.]
R. Receive his ( her) soul.
V. Eternal rest grant unto him (her) , O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him ( her)
R. Offering it in the sight of the Most High.
V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Our Father...
V. And lead us not into temptation.
R. But deliver us from evil.
V. Eternal rest grant unto him (her) O Lord,
R. And let perpetual light shine upon him (her).
V. From the gate of hell.
R. Deliver his (her) soul, O Lord.
V. May he (she) rest in peace.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto to you.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with Your spirit.
Let us pray.
To you, O Lord, do we commend the soul of Your servant N., that being dead to the world he (she) may live unto you; and whatsoever sins he (she) has committed through the frailty of his (her) mortal nature, may You , in Your most merciful goodness, forgive and wash away. Through Christ our Lord.
Then the following prayer for these present may be added:
GRANT, O Lord! that, while we here lament the departure of Your servant, we may ever remember that we are most certainly to follow him (her). Give us grace to prepare for that last hour, by a good life, that we may not be surprised by a sudden death; but be ever watching when You shall call, that so ...we may enter into eternal glory.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Meanwhile, if the custom of the place. calls for it let the Passing Bell be rung, reminding all who hear it to pray for the departed soul. The body is then decently laid out, and a light placed before it. A small Crucifix is put in the hands of the deceased, upon his breast, or the bands are themselves placed crosswise, while the body is sprinkled with holy water.
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