To Pray for the Living and the Dead
Behind the scene ...
It was the custom in Catherine McAuley’s time, on the first Sunday of each month, for the Sisters to devote some time to praying for a happy death. Writing from Birr to Mary Cecilia Marmion at Baggot Street on January 15, 1841, Catherine indicated that “we had our usual morning exercises – 30 days prayer, Lecture, Office for the dead – all before Mass ... “(Sullivan, 2004, p. 346). As people of faith we believe in the power of prayer, of praying for the living and for those who have died. We believe “that the life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord ...“(Letter of St Paul to the Romans 14 vs. 7-8).
Our prayer takes many forms, formal or informal, spontaneous or planned, alone or with others. The Limerick Manuscript records the words of Catherine McAuley’s favourite prayer, the ‘Suscipe’, which she wrote not long before she died. It has become a significant prayer for Sisters of Mercy and the wider Mercy family (Sullivan, 1995, pp. 188-189). The version below uses contemporary language:
My God, I am yours for all eternity.
Teach me to cast my whole self
into the arms of your Providence
with the most lively, unlimited confidence in your compassionate, tender pity.
Grant, O most merciful Redeemer,
that whatever you ordain or permit may always be acceptable to me.
Take from my heart all painful anxiety;
suffer nothing to afflict me but sin,
nothing to delight me, but the hope of coming to the possession of You
my God, in your own everlasting kingdom.
Sullivan, M. C. [Ed] (2004) The Correspondence of Catherine McAuley 1818-1841 Dublin: Four Courts Press.