Katie Fitzgerald shares four ways to pray for deceased friends and relatives with young children.
My late dad, who passed away in 2018, was very dedicated to praying for the souls of all of his deceased relatives and friends. Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, he would remind me of people to pray for, and also emphasize how much he wanted me to pray for him when he died. When I became a mom, I knew this was a practice I wanted to pass on to my own children. My oldest is now ten, and I have a decade’s worth of suggestions for how best to pray for the dead with young kids.
As we enter November, the month the church dedicates to the souls in Purgatory, here are my top four tips:
Pray on birthdays and other important occasions.
My kids love to make homemade birthday cards to mail to their living relatives in other states. Since we already have the habit of celebrating birthdays, when members of the family pass away, we stop making cards and instead make sure to pray for those people on their birthdays, as well as on other dates we celebrated when they were alive, such as wedding anniversaries, and on the dates of their deaths.
I mark these dates in a Google calendar so it’s easy to remember them each year and to incorporate extra prayers for each soul on his or her special days. We also include deceased non-Catholic friends and family, as well as people in our family that my kids have never met, i.e. grandparents and great-grandparents who died well before they were born.
Name an intention for each decade of the Rosary.
We homeschool, and during the school year, we typically try to pray a Rosary after breakfast. I have five kids, so each child chooses the intention for one decade. During November, I ask them to choose someone who has died. This has led to an interesting list of prayer intentions, which includes not just people in our family tree, but deceased children’s authors such as Eric Carle and Tomie dePaola, and segments of the population, such as all those who died in car accidents, or everyone who passed away in Brazil this week. Coming up with daily intentions really helps my kids reflect on who may need their prayers, and I’m always inspired by their choices.
Pray the Litany for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.
There are many versions of this litany online, even some with video and audio components, but the one we prefer was posted at TheCatholicCrusade.com. This comprehensive list of prayer intentions includes everyone from the rich and the mighty and the popes and the bishops to those who died of various illnesses and those with no one to pray for them.
For young children, this litany provides an easy way to pray for the dead without having to think of an intention on the spot. (The simple refrain, “My Jesus mercy,” is easy for even toddlers to repeat.) For children at the age of reason and beyond, it also serves as an examination of conscience, as the litany includes groups of people who committed specific sins and causes us to pause and think about the consequences of those behaviors.
Perpetual Mass enrollment.
This last suggestion is something I do myself that I hope will set an example for my kids in the future. When someone dies (or sometimes well after the fact, when it happens to occur to me), I like to enroll our beloved dead in perpetual Mass associations. There are many out there, including the Seraphic Mass Association (my dad’s favorite), Missionaries of the Holy Family, Society of the Little Flower, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, and dozens of others. These groups include your prayer intentions in their daily Masses throughout the year, ensuring that your deceased relative or friend never goes without prayers.
Our prayers are the best way to show our continued love and affection for those who have gone before us in death, and no child is too young to join in. I pray these suggestions will deepen your family’s dedication to the poor souls in Purgatory and help you invite your children to pray more regularly for the dead.
Copyright 2023 Katie Fitzgerald
Images: (top, bottom) Canva; (center) iStockPhoto.com, licensed for use by Holy Cross Family Ministries
About the Author
Katie Fitzgerald is a former children's librarian turned stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. She and her librarian husband live in Maryland with their five children, the youngest of whom are boy/girl twins. She has published two textbooks for librarians, and she writes about homeschooling, books and the reading life from a Catholic perspective at ReadAtHomeMom.com and on Instagram @read.at.home.mom.