The Day of Reflection: The Traditional Prayer for the Living and the Dead

The end-of-life charity Marie Curie, has proposed that today be a day of reflection. It is the first anniversary of the beginning of lockdown last year. (I remember the date, because I moved to Lewisham the following day, when the regulations took effect.)

Marie Curie’s summary is as follows,

"Join Marie Curie for this moment of reflection, as guests share their thoughts, words and songs. Together, we’ll honour loved ones who have died and reflect on the challenges we have overcome. During this session we’ll pause to observe the national minute of silence at 12 noon."

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has supported this initiative, emphasising that we should make it a day of prayer. They suggest joining in with the minute of silence at midday, and taking some time in the day to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.

Where I live, there is the joy of hearing the Angelus bell at 12noon and 6pm, so my minute of prayer will be taken up with the Angelus. I do not have the Blessed Sacrament reserved, but this evening I will be saying Mass at St Patrick’s, Soho Square and will be able to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament before and after Mass.

I am glad that Marie Curie speaks of deaths “whatever the cause.” One of my relatives died of Covid, and several priests from my diocese, so their souls will be in my prayers. However, I also know people who have died of other causes and sometimes the lockdown has played a part because of treatment being delayed, or because of a catastrophic failure of mental health contributing to suicide.

Among those living, I do pray for those who have suffered bereavement from Covid, as well as for those who are suffering because their small, struggling business is in desperate trouble, those who do not have the psychological resources to live on their own without the social interaction they are accustomed to, those who are in care homes and have been deprived of visit from their family and loved ones. Both Covid itself and the lockdown have caused misery.

Really, we need a prayer for all the living and the dead. And don’t you know, the Church has one in her collection of traditional prayers. In older books setting out the order for the liturgy each day, it is often referred to simply as “Omnipotens”.

In old missals pre-1955, there was usually a tab marking the page of prayers assigned according to the seasons of Advent, Christmastide, and Lent. These were said after the Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion of the day. For Lent the prayers were to implore the suffrage of the Saints (A cunctis), and for the living and the dead (Omnipotens).

I think the prayer Omnipotens is good for today and indeed for any time you want to pray for everyone who has suffered from the events of the past year. Here is the text with my translation:

Pro vivis et defunctis

Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui vivórum domináris simul et mortuórum, omniúmque miseréris, quos tuos fide et opere futúros esse prænóscis: te súpplices exorámus; ut, pro quibus effúndere preces decrévimus, quosque vel præsens sǽculum adhuc in carne rétinet, vel futúrum jam exútos córpore suscépit, intercedéntibus ómnibus Sanctis tuis, pietátis tuæ cleméntia ómnium delictórum suórum véniam consequántur. Per Dóminum…

For the living and the dead

Almighty everlasting God, who rule over the living and the dead and have mercy on all whom You foreknow shall be Yours by faith and works, we humbly entreat You, that they for whom we have determined to pour out our prayers, and whom either this word still detains in the flesh, or the world to come has already received, having put off the body, may, through the prayers of all your saints, by the kindness of your compassion, obtain the forgiveness of all their sins. Through Our Lord…


PICTURE CREDIT: Wikimedia. The Angelus. (1857-1859) Jean-François Millet. Musée d'Orsay Public Domain.

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