Ask a Franciscan

Praying for a ‘Happy Death’

Is it all right to ask God to give someone a happy death? Early this year, we knew that an older woman in a nursing home would not get any better. Her daughter would bring her to Sunday services. She looked just terrible. A couple days later, we got the call that she had died.

Yes, that is a perfectly legitimate prayer when death is coming slowly, but certainly. In fact, St. Joseph has been called the “patron for a happy death,” on the supposition that he died at home, surrounded by Mary and Jesus, before Jesus began his public ministry. This event is not recorded in any of the Gospels in the Bible.

The Roman Missal includes a Mass “For the Grace of a Happy Death.” One prayer asks God that we “may go forth from this world in peace and trust, and by your gift be made sharers in [Christ’s] resurrection.” The prayers are in the first person plural but are appropriate for an individual.

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