Boston’s Wake

In your charity, please pray for the victims in Boston and for their loved ones.

As some prepare for wakes, this is a wake up call for a country and for families and individuals.

One of the most important petitions we Catholics have traditionally prayed is:

A subitanea et improvisa morte… From a sudden and unprovided death, spare us O Lord.”

A sudden death can be a blessing.

A sudden and unprovided death is a horrifying prospect.

What is an “unprovided death”? One by which you die – and you will die – without the Last Rites from the priest or a chance to repent of unconfessed sins even with a perfect act of contrition.

You want to have your temporal affairs in order.  How much more should we have our spiritual affairs in order?  You don’t know the place or the hour.

LUKE 12:20!

There are many good prayers which we could use to ask God to help us to a good death.

Here is a traditional prayer which once was enriched with an indulgence.


Hear us, O God of our salvation! and issue not the decree for the completion of our days before Thou forgivest us our sins; and because penance avails not in hell, and there is no room there for amendment, therefore do we humbly pray and beseech Thee here on earth, that, giving us time to pray for pardon, Thou wouldst grant us also forgiveness of our sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Take away, merciful Lord, all errors from Thy faithful people, avert from them the sudden destruction of the wasting pestilence; that those whose wanderings Thou dost justly chastise, Thou wouldst vouchsafe in Thy tender pity to cherish when corrected. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Antiphon: Sin no longer, O my soul! Think upon the sudden change from sin to endless woe. There, in hell, penance is not accepted, and tears profit not. Turn, then, whilst thou hast time; cry out and say: Have mercy upon me, O my God!

Antiphon: In the midst of life we are in death: whom, then, O Lord, shall we seek to be our helper, save Thee, O Lord! although Thou art indeed angry with us because of sins? O Holy Lord, holy and strong, holy and merciful Saviour! deliver us not ever to a bitter death.

V. – Lest, overtaken by the day of death, we seek time for penance, and be not able to find it.

R. – Hearken! O Lord! and have mercy on us; for we have sinned against Thee.

We beseech Thee, Almighty God, receive in Thy fatherly pity Thy people flying to Thee from Thine anger; that they who fear to be chastised by the rod of Thy Majesty in the suddenness of death, may be made worthy to rejoice in Thy gracious pardon. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

We beseech Thee, Almighty God, graciously to incline Thine ear to the assembly of Thy Church, and let Thy mercy prevent Thine anger in our behalf; for if Thou shouldst mark iniquities, no creature shall be able to stand before Thee: but in that marvellous charity, through which Thou didst create us, pardon us sinners, and destroy not the work of Thine own hands by sudden death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God! in Whose sight every heart trembles and every conscience is awed; show forth Thy mercy upon us Thy suppliants, that we, who trust not in the excellence of our own merit, may never know Thy judgments in the suddenness of our death, but may receive Thy pardon. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Most merciful Lord Jesus! by Thine agony and bloody sweat, and by Thy death, deliver me, I beseech Thee, from a sudden and unprovided death. O most gentle Lord Jesus! by Thy cruel and ignominious scourging and crowning with thorns, by Thy cross and most bitter Passion, and by Thy goodness, I humbly pray Thee, let me not die unprepared and pass from this life without the Holy Sacraments. Jesus, my best Beloved, my Lord! by all Thy labours and sorrows, by Thy precious Blood, and by Thy most holy Wounds, and by those last words spoken on the cross by Thee: “Deus meus, Deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me?? – “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” and again: “Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum,” – “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” most ardently I pray Thee, save me from a sudden death. Thy hands, O Redeemer! have wholly made and formed me: ah! suffer not death to take me unawares; give me, I beseech Thee, time for penance; vouchsafe that I may pass from this life happily in Thy grace, that I may love Thee with my whole heart, and praise and bless Thee forever and ever.


Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be To The Father…

My dear people… dear readers… GO TO CONFESSION.

Parents of small children… teach your children their Faith and make sure they are making good confessions and good Communions.  Give them a good example.

Fathers, please… go to confession and hear confessions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Four Last Things, GO TO CONFESSION, Our Catholic Identity, TEOTWAWKI and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Lin says:

    Thank you, Father, for the prayer above. I received an interesting email tonight from a deacon in our parish. I wanted to pass it on to you, but your web site won’t let. Please advise.

  2. frjim4321 says:

    What a sad, sad day.

  3. NickD says:

    Having my death be unprovided sacramentally is my only concern about death

  4. RafkasRoad says:

    Prayers for those who have lost their lives, those who will be permanently maimed due to this act of disgraceful violence, prayers for the familys of those who have been killed or injured, and prayers for the first responders plus law enforcement who have to clean up the mess and see that justice is done. This Is personally confronting and sobering re whether I would actually be ready if my number was called this day…

    Thank you, Father, may God continue to prosper and bless your amazing ministry.

    Aussie Marounite.
    St. Maroun, pray for them, and pray for us.

  5. Catholictothecore says:

    Have been praying for the victims of this horrific incident in Boston today. Bring them comfort and solace, Lord. Amen. Thank you for the above prayer, Fr. Z.

  6. Matt R says:

    Prayers for the repose of the souls of the deceased, the injured, the families, 1st responders and civil authorities, and our holy priests (undoubtedly on call tonight).
    Yes, indeed, our spiritual affairs might be in order. That comes before anything else. I would like to add that it is high time for me to get re-cert’d in 1st Aid and CPR, and put together a family emergency kit, and probably one for the cars too. Everyone who can should do the first, and everyone should definitely do the second.

  7. Lucas Whittaker says:

    Unrelated to the Boston Marathon bombing but related to an unprovided death: One of the greatest tragedies of the tyranny of relativism is that many people reach the end of their lives without ever knowing God or seeing the form of the beautiful in living a noble life, a moral life. To paraphrase something that Pope Benedict wrote: The necessary condition for authentic participation in community, and also authentic freedom, is steadfast adherence to the law of God, which orders human affairs rightly by organizing them as realities that come from God and are meant to return to God. Without making the crucial connection of life as gift that demands recompense we lead a “leaden life”. The secularisation of the law in our day leads directly to the loss of true freedom and the abolition of man as God created him, which then leads to the pervasive ugliness that we witness in the tragic deaths of good people today.

    Man only receives the form of beauty and therefore truth by looking toward God so habitually that he is consumed with anticipation for the life of heaven when we will know a peace that surpasses all understanding–a peace that is painfully missing for those who are close to the bombing that happened on the finish line of the Bostom Marathon. To those who are thus close or who might even have lost loved ones I would like to say that although you have been robbed through the means of a senseless anarchy, God has not abandoned you: Lean on your faith as you grieve.

  8. Jason Keener says:

    Also, please pray every day to St. Joseph, Patron of a Happy Death, that you and your loved ones will obtain the grace of dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary. St. Joseph, ora pro nobis. And, yes, Lord, please deliver all of us from a sudden and unprovided death.

  9. skl says:

    My prayers are certainly with the victims; but, and herein lines one of the more challenging aspects of the Gospel, we are also to pray for our enemies, to pray for the perpetrators (cf. Mt 5:44); this occured to me almost ex nihilo today, and I acted on it – my prayer life of late has been much improved (much attributable, I think, to my finally being duly disposed to recieve the Sacraments after being recieved into the Church, coming from a Protestant background), and I feel similar inspirations more and more often, especially ones that seem difficult … so I feel this is something I am being called to do.

    I found what seems like an appropriate prayer on an Orthodox site today:

    Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst command us to love our enemies, and those who defame and injure us, and to pray for them and forgive them; Who Thyself didst pray for Thine enemies, who crucified thee: grant us, we pray, the spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness, that we may heartily forgive every injury and be reconciled with our enemies. Grant us to overcome the malevolence and offences of people with Christian meekness and true love of our neighbor. We further beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins; and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith and sincere conversion. And help us repay evil with goodness, and to remain safe from the temptations of the devil and from all the perils which threaten us, in the form of visible and invisible enemies. Amen.

    From here.

  10. CharlesG says:

    “Having my death be unprovided sacramentally is my only concern about death”

    Periodically breathing an act of contrition is not a bad idea. I do before I get on a plane. Anyways, prayers for these people in Boston.

  11. Marcello says:

    Anyone who doubts that the Evil One prowls the earth seeking the ruin of souls need only reflect on the sad events of earlier today.

    Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. […]

  12. Potato2 says:

    Prayers for the people hurt. Prayers for our country. Prayers for the World.

  13. Pingback: The Boston Bombing - Understanding Evil - A Heart for GOD

  14. StWinefride says:

    Nick D: Having my death be unprovided sacramentally is my only concern about death

    The “Apostolic Pardon” is a Plenary Indulgence granted by the Church for those who are in danger of death and cannot be assisted by a Priest. Deo Gratias!!

    This is from the Enchiridion of Indulgences:

    28. The Moment of Death (In articulo mortis)

    To the faithful in danger of death, who cannot be assisted by a priest to bring them the Sacraments and impart the Apostolic Blessing with its plenary indulgence (see can. 468, 2 of Code of Canon Law), Holy Mother Church nevertheless grants a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they are properly disposed and have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime. The use of a Crucifix or a Cross to gain this indulgence is praiseworthy.

    The condition: provided they have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their
    lifetime supplies in such cases for the three usual conditions required for the gaining of a
    plenary indulgence.

    The plenary indulgence at the point of death can be acquired by the faithful, even if they have already obtained another plenary indulgence on the same day”.

  15. robtbrown says:

    Coming soon to a TV near you. Dick Cheney saying, “I told you so, didn’t I.”

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  17. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “A sudden and unprovided death is a horrifying prospect.”

    Exactly, and another reason to pray the Ave Maria frequently, with it’s final request that Mary be there when we die.

  18. Blog Goliard says:

    That’s a fine, meaty prayer…thanks for posting it, Father.

    On a tangential note, there is a tiny but persistent question rattling around in my brain about the spot in the prayer above where it says “Prayer”. More typically, in printed devotions I see “Oremus”/”Let us pray” in that general spot. Sometimes it lies in a clear break between two related but distinct bits of prayer (as when it appears after the Salve Regina at the end of the Rosary); other times it seems more an interruption in what otherwise seems a continuous motion of prayer.

    This has always confused me–why does it appear then? Haven’t we already been praying? Was everything that came before just the warm-up, with what following being the actual prayer qua prayer? Obviously there’s something I’m not getting.

    (And should one consciously omit such an “Oremus” when praying alone?)

  19. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    Of course we will keep them in our prays, but does anyone know where to send money. Those that lived will have hospital bills. Many will need replacement limps and months of physical therapy.

  20. Angie Mcs says:

    Thank you, Father, for this beautiful prayer. Although I always carry my Act of Contrition card with me ( I do know it by heart but at stressful moments words are not always easily forthcoming), I will copy this and keep it with me as well.

    You have often reminded us that our moment could come at any time and thus we should always be prepared as best we can, and especially to go to confession. We must constantly try to live our lives as Christ directed us. We cannot be reminded of this often enough, not only for our own good, because following His words makes us better people and treat others better, something which is sorely needed in our world. Yesterday’s tragedy in Boston is just one example of what can happen when we stray from God’s guidelines.

    Considering all the pain and suffering that people go through with various illness, I pray for a sudden death, for myself and my loved ones. But I pray even more for the possibility of joining Our Lord one day. Thank you again for giving us more assistance and awareness towards that end.

  21. Pingback: Preserve Us, Lord, from an Unprovided Death | Top US News Today

  22. jhayes says:

    Here’s the program for the interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross this morning. I think it is sensitive in not framing the service with both a welcome and a closing blessing by Cardinal O’Malley, as if all the the other religious leaders on the program were invited guests at his service.

    Intead, the welcome and opening prayer is by Liz Walker, a woman who was a news anchor on a local TV station before becoming a Presbyterian minister. Cardinal O’Malley appears at the end, bracketing President Obama.

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