Although the Catholic church has denounced most of the folk traditions which sanctify death, there is a long standing tradition within Catholicism that includes prayers for a holy death. While most of these prayers keep the process of dying firmly outside of saintly personhood, this is not always the case. The much beloved Francis of Assisi gave a sisterly providence to mortality in his famed Canticle to the Sun:

“Laudato si mi Signore, per sora nostra Morte corporale,
da la quale nullu homo uiuente pò skappare:
guai a quelli ke morrano ne le peccata mortali;
beati quelli ke trouarà ne le Tue sanctissime uoluntati,
ka la morte secunda no ‘l farrà male.”


“Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.”

When we compare this with the passionate words of La Madrina Vargas, who tends the largest Santa Muerte devotional icon in the world in Tultilan, it seems rather than an infernal faith we find a more focused attention to the power of Santisima Muerte, the Most Holy Death, of which Francis speaks:

“”Madre mía, mi Santa Muerte, yo como el más humilde de tus hijos, te pido, te ruego, me permitas llegar ante tí en la hora y el momento indicado, SIN DOLOR, SIN TEMOR Y CON FE.”

(My Mother, my Santa Muerte, I come to you as the humblest of your children, I pray, I pray thee, permit me to come to you in the hour and the moment you intend, without pain, without fear, and with faith.)

If one is to take offense at this beatific personification of death, it would serve to look again at something like the Prayer at the Moment of Death: Encouragement to Go Forth, which includes the statement:

“God of power and mercy, you have made death itself the gateway to eternal life.”

As was noted in the first section of the Espacio Critico 1 piece there is a link between popular religious iconography dealing with a direct representation of Holy Death, and the solidification of traditions surrounding the efficacy, and persona of that event, aided as always by the concerns of the market:

“La adoración a la “Santa Muerte” como la conocemos actualmente comienza en la década de los cincuentas en la Ciudad de México a través de estampas con la imagen de la “Santa” que se comercializaban en el mercado de Sonora del centro de la capital.”

The following selection of prayers related to Holy Death provides further insight into the diverse source stream of inspiration that has flowered with La Nina Blanca’s growing devotion. Included is a prayer titled Prayer for God’s Freedom, which, if one extrapolates from the Biblical source material being cited, is every bit as practically oriented and direct as prayers offered to Santa Muerte. Without the veil of narrative encryption, we see in Santa Muerte the practical potency that is intended in orthodox devotion.

(Prayers originally published at Prayers for a Happy, Holy Death

Prayer for a Happy Death

Father, You made us in Your own image and Your Son accepted death for our salvation. Help us to keep watch in prayer at all times. May we be free from sin when we leave this world and rejoice in peace with You for ever. Amen.

Prayer to St. Joseph for a Happy Death

O Glorious St. Joseph, behold I choose thee today for my special patron in life and at the hour of my death. Preserve and increase in me the spirit of prayer and fervor in the service of God. Remove far from me every kind of sin; obtain for me that my death may not come upon me unawares, but that I may have time to confess my sins sacramentally and to bewail them with a most perfect understanding and a most sincere and perfect contrition, in order that I may breathe forth my soul into the hands of Jesus and Mary. Amen

Prayer to St. Joseph for a Happy Death

O blessed Joseph, who yielded up thy last breath in the arms of Jesus and Mary, obtain for me this grace, O holy Joseph, that I may breathe forth my soul in praise, saying in spirit, if I am unable to do so in words: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give Thee my heart and my soul.” Amen.

Prayer for a Good Death

O Jesus, while I adore Your dying breath, I beg You to receive mine. Since I do not know whether I shall have command of my senses when I depart from this world, I offer You even now my last agony and all the sorrows of my passing. I give my soul into Your hands for You are my Father and my Savior. Grant that the last beat of my heart may be an act of perfect love for You. Amen.

Prayer for a Holy Death

O Christ, let me confess Your name with my last breath. In Your great mercy receive me and do not disappoint me in my hope. Open the gates of life for me, and let the prince of darkness have no power over me. Protect me by Your kindness, shield me with Your might, and lead me by Your right hand to the place of refreshment, the tabernacle You have prepared for Your servants and for those who revere You. Amen.

Prayer Toward the End of Your Life

Lord, be merciful now that my life is approaching its end, and the evening awaits me. There is not enough time for me to cleanse myself of my sins, for they are so many. Heal me while I am still on earth, and I shall truly be healthy. In Your mercy, move me to repent so that I shall not be ashamed when I encounter You in heaven. Amen.

Prayer at the Moment of Death:
Encouragement to Go Forth

In the name of God the almighty Father Who created you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who suffered for you, in the name of the Holy Spirit, Who was poured out upon you, go forth, faithful Christian. May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God with Zion, with Mary the virgin Mother of God, with Joseph, and all the angels and saints. Amen.

God of power and mercy, you have made death itself the gateway to eternal life. Look with love on our dying brother/sister, and make him/her one with Your Son in His suffering and death, that, sealed with the blood of Christ, he/she may come before you free from sin. Amen.

Prayer for Forgiveness and Peace

My brother (sister) in faith, I entrust you to God Who created you. May you return to the One Who formed you from the dust of this earth. May Mary, the angels, and all the saints come to meet you as you go forth from this life. May Christ Who was crucified for you bring you freedom and peace. May Christ, the Son of God, Who died for you take you into His kingdom. May Christ, the Good Shepherd, give you a place within His flock. May He forgive your sins and keep you among His people. May you see your Redeemer face to face and enjoy the sight of God forever. Amen.

Prayer for God’s Freedom

Accept your servant, Lord, into the place of salvation
for which he/she hopes. 

Free your servant, Lord, from every pain and suffering.
R. Amen.
Free your servant, Lord, as You freed Abraham from his enemies.
R. Amen.
Free your servant, Lord, as You freed Noah from the flood.
R. Amen.
Free your servant, Lord, as You freed Job from his sufferings.

Free your servant, Lord, as You freed Moses
from the hand of the Pharoah.
R. Amen.
Free your servant, Lord, as You freed Daniel from the den of lions.
R. Amen.
Free your servant, Lord, as You freed the three young men
from the burning fire.
R. Amen.
Free your servant, Lord, as You freed Susanna from false witness.
R. Amen.
Free your servant, Lord, as You freed David
from the attacks of Saul and Goliath.
R. Amen.
Free your servant, Lord, as You freed Peter and Paul from prison.
R. Amen.
Free your servant, Lord, through Jesus our Savior,
Who suffered death for us and gave us eternal life.
R. Amen.

Prayer for Happiness in Remembering Death

O Lord, grant those who have died the joy of Your Presence, and us who are living the happiness of knowing this.

Offering of the Last Hour

O Mary, my good Mother, after Jesus you are my hope and consolation. By your protection make me persevere in my firm determination to offend God no more and to prefer a thousand deaths to the deliberate commission of one mortal sin! Obtain for me the grace of final perseverance, and grant that I may remember to ask for it during the time of temptation and at the hour of death. You are the refuge of sinners and our perennial help. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for me.

O Mother of Jesus, I offer you the last day, last hour, and last moment of my life, and everything that shall take place in me at that last moment–in honor of the last moment, hour and day of your life, and of all that occurred in you on that day. If it pleases you, unite me with all the holy and divine dispositions of your maternal heart and your pure soul. Grant that, by your merits and prayers, my last thoughts, words, acts, and breaths may be consecrated to the honor of the last thoughts, words, acts, and breaths both of your Son and of yourself. Grant that I may die loving Him with His holy love; that I may be utterly consumed and sacrificed to His glory; that my life may end with a last act of most pure love of Him. Amen.

Act of Resignation

O Lord, my God, from this moment do I accept from Your Hands, with a quiet and trusting heart, whatsoever death You shall choose to send me, with its pains and griefs. Amen.

~~ Prayer by Pope Pius X; taken from “Prayers for Today,” published by Leaflet Missal Co.

Prayer for a Holy Death

O my Lord and Saviour, support me in my last hour by the strong arms of Your Sacraments and by the power of Your consolations. Let the absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me. Let Your own Body and Blood be my food and drink; and let my Mother, Mary, breathe on me and my angel whisper peace to me.

May the glorious saints and my own patrons smile upon me that, in them all and through them all, I may receive the gift of perseverance, and die as I desire to live in Your Church, in Your service, and in Your love. Amen.

~~ Prayer by Cardinal Newman; taken from “Prayers for Today,” published by Leaflet Missal Co.

Prayer for a Happy Death

O God, Who has willed all men to die, but has concealed from all the hour of their death, grant that I may pass my days in the practice of holiness and justice, and that I may deserve to leave this world in the peace of a good conscience, and in the embrace of Your love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

~~ from “Prayers for Today,” published by Leaflet Missal Co.

Prayer for a Happy Death

My Lord, Jesus Christ, for that bitter suffering on the cross which You endured when Your blessed Soul separated from Your holy Body, have pity on my sinful souls when it must leave this body and enter into eternity.

St. Joseph, patron of a happy death, grant that my soul may breathe its last in peace with God.

Prayer for a Happy Death

O God, great and omnipotent judge of the living and the dead, we are to appear before You after this short life to render an account of our works. Give us the grace to prepare for our last hour by a devout and holy life, and protect us against a sudden and unprovided death. Let us remember our frailty and mortality, that we may always live in the ways of Your commandments. Teach us to watch and pray (Luke 21, 36), that when Your summons comes for our departure from this world, we may go forth to meet You, experience a merciful judgment, and rejoice in everlasting happiness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer to Saint Joseph for a Happy Death

O Blessed Joseph, you gave your last breath in the loving embrace of Jesus and Mary. When the seal of death shall close my life, come with Jesus and Mary to aid me. Obtain for me this solace for that hour – to die with their holy arms around me. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I commend my soul, living and dying, into your sacred arms. Amen.

To the Mother of the Faithful Departed for a Happy Death

O Mary, for that sorrowful pain you experienced on Calvary when you saw Jesus expire on the cross, grant me a happy death; so that, loving Jesus and you, on earth, I may come to love you eternally in heaven. Amen.

Plenary Indulgence at the Hour of Death

My Lord God, even now resignedly and willingly, I accept at Thy hand, with all its anxieties, pains, and sufferings, whatever kind of death it shall please Thee to be mine. Amen.

(By a decree of the Congregation of Indulgences of 9 March 1904, His Holiness Pope Pius X, has granted a plenary indulgence at the moment of death to all the faithful who, on any day they may choose, will receive the sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist and make this act for the love of God.)

Prayer to Be Joined with Christ in Death

O Lord, Your sorrowing Mother stood by Your Cross; help us in our sorrows to share Your sufferings. Like the seed buried in the ground, You have produced the harvest of eternal life for us; make us always dead to sin and alive to God. Shepherd of all, in death You remained hidden from the world; teach us to love our hidden spiritual life with You and the Father. In Your role as the new Adam, You went down among the dead to release all the just there since the beginning; grant that all who are dead in sin may hear Your Voice and rise to new life. Son of the living God, You have allowed us through baptism to be buried with You; grant that we may also rise with You in baptism and walk in newness of life. Amen.

5 thoughts on “Orthodox Prayers for a Holy Death

    1. The post is using the term Orthodox to define these prayers as opposed to heterodox – rather than the Orthodox Church which is what I think you mean by them not being Orthodox.


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