As Dominic lay on his deathbed surrounded by his sorrowful brethren, he consoled them saying, “Do not weep. I will be of more use to you in Heaven.” Dominic’s words offered deep hope, extending beyond his death to the death of each member of the Order.
The central Dominican trust in the Blessed Mother’s protection that supported a sister during her life also embraces her in death. When a sister enters her last hours, the community gathers at her bedside to chant the Salve. A series of prayers follows that commends the departing soul to the intercession of the saints and the mercy of God. From this time until the moment of death, one or more members of the community remain at the sister’s bedside in prayer.
The period between a sister’s death and burial represents a sacred time for the entire Community, a time of gratitude for the witness of her life and her perseverance. During the time of the wake prior to the Funeral Mass, sisters take turns throughout the day and night keeping vigil in prayer. Just before the Funeral Mass and before the closing of the coffin, the Prioress General places the deceased sister’s scapular over her head, as the sister herself did when making the prostration at her profession of vows, a symbol of the death to self and to the world and the embracing of life in Christ.
At the end of Mass, the community processes to the cemetery on the convent grounds while chanting the Libera, an ancient prayer for the dead. This same prayer is chanted each evening for eight days following a sister’s death. In addition, the Rosary is recited for the repose of her soul and thirty Masses are offered. Each year on the anniversary of her death, the sister is remembered at Mass.
Throughout the year, all the faithful departed are remembered in prayers and devotions. The De Profundis (Psalm 129) is recited daily for the deceased sisters, deceased parents of the sisters, and deceased benefactors of the Order. Compline is offered nightly for “those who have asked for our prayers and for our deceased sisters.” Each Tuesday and Friday, we pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for the holy souls in purgatory, and the community Mass intention every Monday is for deceased members and benefactors.
During November, the month traditionally devoted to prayers for the dead, the entire Rosary is prayed for the souls in purgatory. In addition to the Church’s observance of All Souls Day, the community commemorates all the deceased of the Order on November 7, the Feast of All Dominican Souls. The Libera and special prayers are said on these days as well as on two other anniversaries: deceased parents are remembered on February 7, and deceased friends and benefactors are remembered on September 5.
Union with our Sisters who have died in Christ is not broken. We gain strength from the sharing of spiritual benefits. Aware of the bond linking the whole Mystical Body of Christ, we cultivate with great piety the memory of the dead. (Constitutions of the Congregation)